Friday, April 29, 2022

Maine DOT work to ramp up in Windham over summer and into 2023

The $1.5 million replacement of Varney's Bridge over the
Pleasant River on William Knight Road in Windham has
been scheduled by the Maine Department of Transportation
to be performed in 2023, instead of this summer, as it was
originally proposed. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE
By Ed Pierce

Unlike last year when bridge work on Route 115 created a significant impact upon motorists and traffic in Windham, the summer months of 2022 are going to see fewer Maine DOT projects in the community, but that will change again heading into 2023.

Only two Maine DOT projects planned for this summer in Windham according to Maine DOT’s Three-Year Work Plan, but both should affect commutes into the town.

The first project that Maine DOT is undertaking this summer in Windham is the installation of adaptive traffic lights in North Windham stretching from the Route 115 intersection north along Route 302 to Trails End Road. The cost of this project is $1.45 million and the new upgraded traffic lights are expected to alleviate congestion along the Route 302 corridor by adjusting the timing of red, yellow and green lights to accommodate changing traffic patterns and equitably distributing moving vehicles through the area.

The second project affecting Windham motorists will be the preliminary design engineering work for the construction of a bike and pedestrian trail/path on the Mountain Division Line from Bridge Street in Route 202 crossing in Windham. This is a $450,000 project. 

Projects in Windham by Maine DOT will increase substantially in 2023 and 2024.

Some of those projects include:

** Installation of backplates with yellow reflective safety strips and supplemental signal heads along Route 302 from Portland to Windham at a cost of $395,000. 

** Highway construction and rehabilitation for Route 302 starting 0.45 of a mile west of Outpost Drive extending west 0.14 of a mile and including the Route 202 roundabout. The cost of this initiative is $585,000.

** Repaving Route 302 starting at the Route 202 roundabout and extending north 2.85 miles.

** Replacement of Varney’s Bridge over the Pleasant River on William Knight Road at a cost of $1.5 million.    

** Bridge deck replacement for Loveitt Bridge over the Pleasant River some 0.13 of a mile north of Laskey Road at a cost of $1 million.

** Construction of a new pedestrian sidewalk on the west side of Route 302 in North Windham running from Shaw’s Access Drive about 0.48 of a mile north to Amato Drive at a cost of $3.1 million.

** Highway and safety improvements at a cost of $156,000 to be made at the intersection of Route 302 and Albion Road.

In updating the state’s Three-Year Work Plan earlier this year, Maine DOT Commissioner Bruce A. Van Note said the value of these types of projects helps ensure the safety, economic opportunity, and quality of life for residents.

“In 2021, Gov. Janet Mills proposed, and the Maine Legislature approved, two General Fund initiatives that provided nearly $106 million to Maine DOT,” Van Note said. “This unprecedented level of General Fund support saved Maine DOT’s capital transportation program by offsetting a state Highway Fund revenue hole caused by the reductions in fuel tax revenue from the pandemic and high construction cost inflation.” 

He said that during last year’s statewide election, more than 70 percent of voters approved a $100 million transportation bond, providing much-needed state match for federal and other funds to support Maine DOT’s capital programs.

According to Van Note, maintenance and operation of Maine’s extensive highway and bridge system accounts for a large portion of Maine DOT’s overall work activities.

“This work is essential to the movement of people and goods and to the health of the Maine economy. It is also an essential and cost-effective means of protecting the state highway and bridge system,” Van Note said. “From year to year, and within CY2022, actual expenditures for this work will depend on the constantly changing condition of the transportation system and, importantly, on weather. For those reasons, overall expenditures for routine maintenance and operation of the highway and bridge system are shown in the Three-Year Work Plan as approximate, annual budget figures.”

He said that highway and bridge maintenance and operations work accounts for $535 million in this 2022-2024 Work Plan, while three-year annual averages for major maintenance and operations work statewide include:

** $10.3 million in bridge and structural maintenance.

** $5.2 million in bridge and other infrastructure inspections and inventory.

** $15.5 million in custodial maintenance.

** $22.4 million in drainage maintenance.

** $6.6 million in operational and safety maintenance.

** $9.9 million in surface and base maintenance.

** $46.4 million in winter maintenance. <

Raymond Waterways Protective Association prepares for busy summer season

A Raymond Waterways Protective Association diver hands
up a 'bug bag,' a hand-held net bag used for milfoil mitigation
in areas of local lakes where conditions are not suitable for
using a suction hose for removal. SUBMITTED PHOTO
By Andrew Wing

It goes without saying how important clean water is. Our cherished way of life depends on clean water as healthy ecosystems provide wildlife habitat, and places to fish, paddle, surf and swim. Not only does our cherished way of life depend on clean water, but our economy depends on it as well. From manufacturing, farming, tourism, recreation, energy production, to other economic sectors, we need clean water to function and flourish and when it comes to the community of Raymond, the Raymond Waterways Protective Association has kept our water clean for about 50 years.

The Raymond Waterways Protective Association started in the early 1970s by Ernest Bickford and Ernest Knight, to monitor and preserve the lake water quality of all Raymond lakes. Since the beginning of RWPA’s testing, all of Raymond’s lakes have been placed in the above average quality in the entire state of Maine.

Those bodies of water include Crescent Lake, Notched Pond, Panther Pond, Raymond Pond, Sebago Lake and Thomas Pond.

The waterways association has continued to grow slowly, and with the specter of invasive species looming over our lakes, it has expanded their obligations even further by including voluntary boat inspections and plant surveys. 

But no matter what exactly they’re doing, association members say that they’re always focused on their mission, and that is to protect and improve the water quality of Raymond’s lakes, ponds, rivers and streams and to foster watershed stewardship.

At the end of the day, everyone benefits from keeping our waters inviting to residents and visitors alike, and this summer, Peggy Jensen, President of the RWPA, plans to continue doing that even better.

“We at RWPA will continue to be working all our usual programs from Courtesy Boat Inspections, Diver Assisted Suction Harvesting (DASH), and continuing to support the individual lake associations with quality monitoring and educational programming,” said Jensen. “Since our DASH crew has nearly cleaned out all of the invasive variable milfoil, this summer will reassess this program and possibly move to a different approach in the future.”

One of the main things RWPA combats on a yearly basis is milfoil. Raymond waters specifically are home to a variety of milfoil and there’s no denying that they’re a huge threat to our waters.

They have no natural controls here, they grow rampantly, and the invasive plants crowd out the native plants that support healthy waters. However, Peggy Jensen and her RWPA team have a multi-step attack on invasive aquatic species as invasive milfoil is not the only threat.

“All the smaller lakes and ponds have volunteers who are trained to identify the 11, soon to be 12, invasive aquatic plants that threaten our waters,” said Jensen. “We have spent about 14 years finding and removing invasive variable milfoil in Raymond’s waters, with most of it being done by a dive crew as all our divers are trained and certified for SCUBA work and for the specialized work of removing invasive plants.”

Another problem they face annually in the warmer months deals with the inspection of boats. The RWPA do not do safety checks on boats, but rather they employ Courtesy Boat Inspectors who inspect boats entering and leaving the launch ramps in Raymond, and these CBIs do two very important tasks.

“They educate boaters about the dangers of invasive species including organisms we can’t always see, and they remove all plant material that they find on a boat, a trailer, and all fishing gear,” said Jensen. “There is a large group of highly trained volunteers who provide emergency survey services to any lake that has a new infestation or a suspected one. Raymond is lucky to have some of these super surveyors right here in town.”

The RWPA noticed a huge increase in boating activity last summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic, yet at the end of 2021, they found they had a very successful season and they are up to the task of repeating their success this summer.

“At the end of the 2021 season, the final survey showed that we had ‘cleaned’ numerous waterways,” said Jensen. “However, so long as there is any invasive variable milfoil in the Sebago Lakes, we will have to remain vigilant and continue surveying.” <

Friday, April 22, 2022

Lasagna Love spreads kindness throughout community

Amanda Wertanen of Windham makes a lasagna from scratch
for donation to a local family. Wertanen is one of a handful of
volunteer chefs making meals for the Lasagna Love
organization, a group dedicated to spreading love and
kindness in the community. SUBMITTED PHOTO  
By Andrew Wing

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to so many terrible things from loss of life to worldwide lockdowns, to global disruption, and it's been hard on everybody. Despite that, some good things have come out of it, and one of those things is Lasagna Love. 

A global nonprofit organization, Lasagna Love was born out of the pandemic and aims to positively impact communities by connecting neighbors with neighbors through homemade meal deliveries. It seeks to eliminate the stigma associated with asking for help when it’s needed most and their mission is a simple one -- to feed families, spread kindness, and strengthen communities.

Lasagna Love was started by a mother from California as she connected home cooks who wanted to make dinner with others who needed a little help during the trying times. Now just two years later, Lasagna Love is serving three countries, providing about 3,500 meals a week to those in need thanks to over 20,000 volunteers, and it’s even making an impact in our communities in Windham and Raymond.

A big reason why Lasagna Love has been able to make an impact in this community is Jennifer Merrill. She has been a Windham resident all her life and she started volunteering for Lasagna Love some 18 months ago.

“I heard about the opportunity during the pandemic, and it sounded like a good way to provide a much needed service while still staying safe because there was little to no face to face contact with recipients,” said Merrill. “I enjoy cooking and it sounded like an easy way to make a difference in the local area, and since I have been on the receiving end of a meal delivery before, I know how helpful it truly is for many reasons.”

Several months before becoming the regional leader for southern Maine, Merrill was cooking a lasagna every week or so. She was chosen as regional leader because she has lived here her whole life and she knew the area well, and as regional leader, she’s grown the base of the organization by adding both more volunteers and recipients. 

The Town of Windham currently has seven chefs that are making lasagnas for the organization, and they’re always eager to add more to the list as there are typically about thirty deliveries each week for the southern Maine region, with one to four of those deliveries being in Windham. While this organization was created to help mainly those in need, Merrill views it as being mutually beneficial.

“Lasagna Love helps both chefs and recipients,” said Merrill. “Chefs are blessed to be able to give, and recipients are blessed with a home cooked lasagna made and delivered with kindness, from the heart.”

Also, Merrill encourages anyone who’s interested in cooking to sign up to cook monthly, bi-weekly, weekly, or even just once to try it out. Similarly, she encourages anyone who could use a hand to request a lasagna.

“Everyone needs a break some time,” said Merrill. “Please don’t feel like someone else needs it more than you, everyone is worthy of this act of kindness. Requests come in for just about any reason, and there is no judgment.”

One person that took Merrill’s advice and joined was Kelly Grant Smith of Windham. Smith joined last fall after seeing a segment about Lasagna Love on the Today Show on television. And while she doesn’t consider herself a “chef,” Smith has been very happy with her decision to join and help those in need.

“I’ve loved to cook my whole life, and while I don’t have a recipe for lasagna, I just make it like my mom did,” said Smith. “During the pandemic, like so many others, I experimented more. I dug out my bread machine, perfected my bagels, and made a lot more comfort food, so you could say Lasagna Love came at a perfect time.”

There’s no denying that Lasagna Love has touched many lives since its inception, but in the past month, it has significantly touched someone in our community, and that was Cathy Dodge of Windham. A friend of Cathy’s suggested Lasagna Love to her after her mom passed away, and although it was hard for her to accept help, she did and was able to have a night of not having to stress over the mundane task of making dinner.

“My mother told me long ago that you are being a blessing to someone else by letting them bless you with help, and that stuck with me,” said Dodge. “I love that Lasagna Love is there for anyone. You do not need to be in sickness, distress, or financial difficulties, anyone for any reason can request a meal once a month.”

To request a meal or for more information about becoming a Lasagna Love chef, visit <

Windham’s Odyssey of the Mind team wins first place in State Tournament

Windham's Odyssey of the Mind team won first place in the
Maine State Tournament at Noble High School in North
Berwick earlier this month. Team members include Alex
Fuller, Fiona Knott, Rylee Prescott, Tori Leavitt, and Liam
By Masha Yurkevich

There isn’t much that can be hidden in small and inclusive communities like Windham and Raymond. From our sports teams to the best pizza place in town, information travels quickly. Yet what many people in the community may not know about is Windham High School’s first place victory in Odyssey of the Mind (OM) competition.

On March 26, OM students Alex Fuller (Junior), Tori Leavitt (Junior), Rylee Prescott (Junior), Liam Yates (Junior) and Fiona Knott from Windham, (Junior who attends a private school) went to Noble High School in North Berwick to participate in the OM Problem and Division at the state tournament. Many of the students have been participating in the OM program for eight or nine years since they attended Windham Primary School.

“Odyssey of the Mind is a competition in which teams from schools all over the state prepare a project based off of given prompts, and present it to judges,” said Prescott “This year, the Windham team chose ‘classics,’ in which we created a play based off of a lesser-known historical figure.”

The problem they selected this year required them to choose a lesser-known historical figure to be featured in an original musical production. They chose Peter Francisco, a Portuguese-born American soldier who fought in the American Revolutionary War. The team needed to compose and integrate three original songs to go with the storytelling of Peter Francisco's life. Along with original prop design, theatrical effects and choreography, all work was created and constructed by the five team members without adult assistance. 

Though the students are amazing, they would not have been able to get where they are today if it wouldn’t have been for their team coach, Dan Knott.

“This is my ninth year as a coach for my daughter, Fiona,” Knott said. “The students on this current team have joined at various points over the course of those nine years.” 

Over the years, he’s watched these team members create and problem-solve, and every year he’s been proud of what they've accomplished. This year, these talented kids have outdone themselves and earned some well-deserved recognition from the judges at the state tournament.

Since the ideas and solutions come from their imagination, Knott’s role has always been to help them find their way to make it a realized product.

“Now, the team brings a level of focus and maturity where I can take a step back and watch them bring about the reality they seek,” said Knott. “These kids will do amazing things.” 

Prescott said the camaraderie of the group appeals to her.

I am part of Odyssey of the Mind because the idea of working with friends to solve problems sounded fun,” she said. “So far, I am very glad that I joined, as the team building, problems and friendships have been so worth it.”

After winning the state tournament, the team’s next step will be to compete in the OM Worlds competition next month in Iowa.

In Odyssey of the Mind Worlds, you compete not only against other winners from your own state, but with people from all over the world, hence the name,” said Prescott. “Worlds will provide a ton of experience with other people and is a great opportunity to take.”

If Windham’s OM raises enough money to compete in the world finals, they will be traveling to Ames, Iowa where Iowa State University is hosting the 2022 Odyssey of the Mind World Finals. They will depart on Tuesday, May 24 to attend the event from May 25 through May 28.  

“Our team has to pay for the airfare, shuttles and prop shipping as well as the room and board on campus,” said Knott. “All told, our target cost for the team and chaperones will be close to $10,000.”

The Windham High School OM team will be doing a number of fundraisers such as bottle drives to raise money to fund the trip. Donations will gladly be accepted.

To donate, Windham High School has set up an account to accept donations for the team. Send check or money to: Windham High School, Attention Odyssey of the Mind, 406 Gray Rd, Windham, ME 04062. There is also a GoFundMe at the following link

For more information about Windham’s OM program, contact Coach Dan Knott at <

Friday, April 15, 2022

Foreign exchange students participate in Civic Education Week in D.C.

Windham High School foreign exchange students
Ledion 'Ledi' Hoti of Kosovo, left, and Nour Humaid
of Palestine were participants in the Civic Education
Week workshop in Washington, D.C. from March 28
By Lorraine Glowczak

Ledion Hoti from Kosovo and Nour Humaid of Palestine are two of eight exchange students at Windham High School and are both seniors who will graduate with the Class of 2022 in June. They were recently selected among many exchange students from across the U.S. to participate in the Civic Education Week workshop held in Washington, D.C. from March 28 to April 1.

Hoti and Humaid are a part of the YES (Youth Exchange and Study) program of which Greenheart Exchange acts as the local host. Hoti explained the competitive selection process to attend CEW, a workshop sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs (BECA).

“Every year all students in the [YES] program are given the chance to apply to the workshop in Washington D.C.,” Hoti said. “Applicants have to write an essay about a socio-economic problem in our country and talk about how we would fix it. Nour and I each wrote an essay, submitted it, and were lucky enough to be two of the winners from across the entire U.S. who were invited to spend a week in D.C. and attend the leadership-focused workshops.”

Humaid explained that problems discussed during the week included women empowerment, proving that women are capable of doing many things and should be equal to men, providing examples of successful women and their impact on society. 

“We also discussed the problem of plastic bags that we use back in my home and how we should encourage people not to use them,” Humaid said. “Suggested solutions included offering other options like paper bags or recycling these plastic bags instead of just burning them.”


The week’s event included attending seminars, meeting employees from BECA, engaging in projects, as well as meeting congressional staff. Seminars included media literacy, leadership skills and the importance of youth exchange programs.

Humaid and Hoti, who have been in Windham since last August, shared their experiences living in the Sebago Lakes Region area.

“I have learned many things about Maine, like the weather; if you don’t like the weather, just wait, and it will change,” Humaid said. “I also got to try Maine’s seafood which is one of the best foods I have ever tried. The people in Maine are so nice, and they keep greeting each other all the time.” 

Humaid said that he chose to become an exchange student to learn about the United States culture, to see how people live their lives, to make friendships and to improve his English language skills.

Hoti said that the idea of spending a year in the U.S. seemed like a fantastic opportunity for him. 

“I considered the benefits that I would gain here academically to be much bigger than if I stayed home,” Hoti said. “Moreover, I’d have to say that the thought of spending one year in a somewhat independent way in a totally foreign country I had never visited before excited me. I always saw this chance as an opportunity to grow as a person and prepare for my future years of study.”

Since his arrival, Hoti has found that Mainers are some of the politest people he’s ever met.

“The folks in Windham welcomed me right away and gave me a sense of feeling that I somehow belonged here all along, which definitely made the settling in process more comfortable for me. I found out that I had already been similar to Mainers in lots of ways. I like the forest, I like lakes, I enjoy outdoor activities, and most importantly obviously, I’ve always worn flannels. When it comes to food, I’ve tried lobster which I thoroughly enjoyed. I’ve tried smores and Needhams, and I’ve pretty much liked everything.”

Although both students enjoy their time in Maine, they also miss a few things from their home countries.

“One thing I’ve surely missed from home is simply speaking Albanian regularly,” Hoti said. “The people back home are kind, patriotic and overall friendly. You can easily make friends and start conversations with pretty much everybody. I’d say that in a lot of ways we’re similar to the U.S. That comes as a result of always having had very close relations diplomatically, and we’re one of, if not the most westernized country of the region. When I think about food, I think about my mom’s cooking, pite, fli, pasul, words that I’m sure hold no meaning to anybody here, but certainly take me back home. I’ve been lucky enough to find pite which I found out is known as spanakopita here in America, and I’ve actually made pasul (a white beans stew) for my host family.” 

Humaid said that Palestine is one of the most beautiful places in the world.

“It has great weather during the winter,” Humaid said. “People in my country are so nice. Usually, neighbors and family members come and visit each other on a regular basis. Palestine has almost totally different food from here; we eat a lot of rice compared to the amount of rice we eat in Maine, and we use a lot of ketchup.”

Upon graduation from WHS, both students aspire to continue their education either here in the U.S. or in Europe, Humaid in Computer Science and Hoti to study Business and Economics. Once completed, they plan to return to their home countries.

“I intend to eventually go back home and fulfill the fundamental aim of exchange programs, which is to apply everything you’ve learned abroad,” Hoti said.

To learn more about the local foreign exchange program or become a host family for the 2022-23 school year, contact Kathy Hansen, Regional Director of Greenheart Exchange at <

Organizers grateful for public support of Cinderella Project event

Compassion Cloud Collective partners, from left, Brooke 
Likens of Stone Donut Design, Halie Landry of Ritual Maine,
Robyn Weyeneth of Cosmic Complexions, Kristy Verdel of
Moon Lady Plants, Hannah McFarland of The Compassion
Cloud Collective, and Kasandra Thach of K Sweeets gather
at the Oscars Watch Party fundraiser at Smitty's Cinema in
Windham on March 27. The event collected more than four
gowns and prom attire for Windham students to wear to 
prom this year if needed. SUBMITTED PHOTO 
By Ed Pierce

Hannah McFarland believes that through her actions, she can be an agent of change leading to a better community. And if the first event hosted by her new nonprofit organization is any indication of how much of an impact it is making in Windham, she’s on the right track.

McFarland, a 2016 Windham High School graduate, has created the Compassion Cloud Collective, a nonprofit which conceived and staged a special fundraiser “Oscars Viewing Party” at Smitty’s Cinema on March 27 in Windham to assist The Cinderella Project of Maine in collecting new and gently used prom attire for teens to make sure every student will have an opportunity to attend their high school prom without the added stress of cost. In all more than four dozen gowns, four suits and a tuxedo along with several shoe and jewelry donations were donated to Windham High as a result of the event.

The Compassion Cloud Collective is a multi-mission, nonprofit organization owned and operated by female business owners who seek to find the silver lining in all of life's storms by using the strengths of each of their partners. 

“I think this event went amazing considering it was our first event as a group and we kind of found our footing of what we liked and what we want to do better as we continue,” McFarland said. “The number of dresses, suits, jewelry and even tuxedos that we were able to pass on to Windham High School makes me emotional just thinking about and I am proud of the work my team did for this event.”

Businesses who helped the Compassion Cloud Collective at the event were Modern Woodmen of America, Cosmic Complexions, Ritual Maine, Moon Lady Plants, Stone Donut Design, K Sweets, Macs By Seyya, and Smitty's Cinema Windham.

Kristy Verdel, the owner of Moon Lady Plants said that the event shows inclusivity.

“A sense of community is extremely important to every Compassion Cloud Collective member,” she said.

Brooke Likens, the owner of Stone Donut Design said she was pleased to participate for such a worthy cause.

“It was nice to be able to take the time and talk to those we did meet,” she said. “I feel like it gave us the opportunity to present ourselves fully and create rapport with the community.”

Likens said awareness about income-privilege should be the big take-away from events like this.

“Prom is such a large event in the high school experience, and costs are out of control and not all families can afford the big-ticket items,” she said. “I love that this event made the necessities available for those who weren’t able to do this on their own. Teens shouldn’t be made to feel less by missing out on something so big in their childhood and the heart behind this type of event is huge.”

Verdel agrees.

“I want people to take away that every voice matters,” Verdel said. “It’s so cliché but it’s true that each individual makes a difference. We all come from different areas and different backgrounds, yet we all have the same heart.”

According to McFarland, the Compassion Cloud Collective is deeply grateful to everyone who helped make the event successful.

“We’re incredibly thankful for who helped me make this happen for Windham. Each of my partners of the CCC and for all those that came and donated extremely sentimental and treasured dresses for our cause, thank you,” she said. “Lastly, I’m so thankful for my longtime precious employer, Smitty’s Cinema, for being so incredibly accommodating to me and my partners. Smitty’s bent over backwards to help in every way they could and even donated to our cause. Smitty’s Cinema is where I first was a part of a prom dress drive featuring the Oscar’s, back in 2017 as the assistant director of marketing and sales, so to have their support now means everything.”

She says it was necessary for the Compassion Cloud Collective’s first fundraiser to be in Windham.

“It was important to me for the first event of my own nonprofit be in the town that watched me grow into the person I am today,” McFarland said. “What I want people to take away from this event is that community is everything and the impact you can have on it is so much stronger as a collective. That’s what the CCC is all about. Though we have our own unique lives, schedules and focus, we find time to come together to better the things we have in common.”

The intention of the event was to help Windham High School students attend prom by providing them free and fabulous prom gowns while at the same time promoting positive self-esteem and community volunteerism among the teens and McFarland said that was what was achieved through the “Oscars Watch Party” event.

“My hope is that it starts a wave that people will follow in their own communities and that the CCC can lead by example and possibly collaborate with other non-profits and businesses, in the future,” she said. <

Friday, April 8, 2022

PowerServe lights the way for community engagement and service

The creator of the 302 Rotary light display is PowerServe,
a local community volunteer group that is dedicated to
serving the Windham community. Here the Rotary is
displayed in hues honoring the Ukrainian national colors.
By Masha Yurkevich

Many may have noticed the lights honoring Ukraine that shine brightly around the rotary on Routes 202 and 302. There have been some inquiries on social media platforms wondering who the responsible party is for the illumination of Christmas lights that now display the national colors of Ukraine.

The initiator of this often talked about illumination is PowerServe, a local community volunteer group that gathers annually to help serve the Windham community. PowerServe started in 2016 when Shane Donnelly, a Windham High School (WHS) student, passed away unexpectedly at the age of 16. Windham resident Kristine Delano, Chair of YoungLife Sebago whose daughters attended WHS at the time, witnessed the sense of loss happening to the students and knew something needed to be done. 

“Seeing firsthand the amazing job that YoungLife leaders did in mentoring teens in the Sebago area, Delano wanted to build a legacy of service in our community to build encouragement and connectivity,” Sam Patton, Day Director and Sponsor Coordinator of PowerServe said. “She, her family and other YoungLife leaders recruited a small group of volunteers to organize a day that would help our community, be fun, and enable all generations to work together.” 

The organization provides services such as paint sheds, build trail bridges, pick up trash, restore historic graves, plant memorials and much more. 

WHS Juniors, Maddie Hancock and Grace Paiement are both volunteers for PowerServe and act as the school liaisons with the organization to continue the PowerServe tradition. Hancock first got involved with her family and then got reinvolved when the event was advertised through National Honors Society, which is when Paiement also got involved. From there, both Hancock and Paiement talked with Patton Day and got involved in the planning process.

Last year, due to COVID-19, PowerServe was not able to gather in its usual large numbers of volunteers. Fortunately, they still found a way to help the community by creating the light display to be enjoyed during the evening hours.  

This year, PowerServe will continue its kind acts.

“The committee has been meeting once a week to plan events for this Memorial Day,” Hancock. “We are planning to do around five projects for the community and about another five projects for someone in the community in need.” 

Their next community service project is planned for Memorial Day. Hancock said that their project coming up has a goal of getting 120 volunteers of which all will get a PowerServe t-shirt with a barbeque after the projects are completed.

The volunteers will be separated into smaller groups of six to ten volunteers who be assigned a specific project. Each project usually takes between two to four hours. Upon completion of the project, the Donnelly family honors their son’s life by providing the barbeque meal and offering an opportunity for volunteers to share their experiences about the day. 

“These memories last for years and we keep coming back for more,” said Patton. “This is a day where friends and family can serve and invest in the town together. They can help their neighbors together and meet others. Some connections are still going years later and have continued to support one another.”

Their next big event will be on Memorial Day, May 30th, 2022. To sign and volunteer, please visit their website at

If you know a person in the community who is in need, you can also nominate them through the same website.  

Briefly, YoungLife is a Christian organization whose focus is to make sure that middle and high school students have positive role models in their lives. As stated on their website, YoungLife leaders make sure people feel a sense of belonging and encourage teens as they navigate life as an adolescent. 

PowerServe is sponsored by a loyal set of businesses which include, but are not limited to, YoungLife Sebago, Gorham Savings Bank, Lowes, Shaw Earthworks, Windham Rental, Bob's Screen printing, Hannaford, Island Cove Builders, Benson Farms and more. If you would like to sponsor PowerServe, you may do so on their website, <

Manchester School student wins prestigious OMER's Award

Fifth-grade student Harlie Menard received the OMER's Award
for her exceptional leadership abilities to reassure and cheer her
team members when they needed support, which earned her the
nickname 'OM Mother.' Team members help her celebrate her
award, from left are Sophia Albano, Mia Albano, Emma Poirer,
Devon Yates, Harlie Menard, Dr. Kyle Rhoads, Troy
Otterstein and Finnagen Niman. COURTESY PHOTO  
By Lorraine Glowczak

It was a whirlwind of excitement for Manchester Elementary School when fifth-grade student Harlie Menard was awarded the esteemed OMER’s Award on Saturday, March 26, in a regional Odyssey of the Mind (OM) tournament at Noble High School in Berwick.

Menard began participating in OM six years ago when she was a student at Windham Primary School.

“We are very proud of Harlie for this award and her many years of involvement in Odyssey of the Mind,” said Linda Berry, Windham Primary School’s Gifted and Talented Teacher and Menard’s OM Coach. “She has been a leader on her team at Windham Primary and Manchester Schools and is a great example of how Odyssey of the Mind helps students grow and learn in a fun, engaging, collaborative environment. Our OM teams were successful as a whole and it is great to have such a leader in Harlie.” 

OM is a creative problem-solving program involving students from kindergarten through college. Team members work together to solve a predefined long-term problem and present their solution to the problem at a competition. According to its website, participation in OM teaches students how to develop and use their natural creativity to become problem-solvers. OM’s mascot is a raccoon named OMER.

OMER's Award recognizes those individuals, coaches, team members, parents, officials and others who, during a tournament, serve as exemplary examples or role models through their actions or words. This award is also bestowed on team members who exhibit exceptional skill and talents.

Menard gained this highly coveted award due to her exceptional ability to reassure her team members when they felt unsure of themselves.

“When the team was off task, Harlie got them back on track, earning her the nickname ‘OM Mother’, said Jason Wheeler, Association Director of Maine OM. “I’ve had the pleasure of watching Harlie grow up in Odyssey of the Mind and while yes she is talented, the confidence she has developed through Odyssey is special.”

Menard shared one of the reasons why she enjoys participating in OM.

“My favorite parts of being a part of Odyssey of the Mind are teamwork, creativity and meeting new people.”

Windham Primary School began participating in OM 10 years ago when Dr. Kyle Rhoads, WPS principal, wanted to offer the experience to students. Berry began to coordinate the program at that point.

“We have more students participating every year,” Berry said in a previous interview. “This year we had roughly 40 students participating in the program.”

Fulfilling the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), Common Core, and 21st Century Skills Initiatives, OM fosters critical and creative thinking in what the website states as an environment where there is no right or wrong, no grades, no standardized tests. Instead, students are introduced to creative problem-solving in tangible ways.

“Odyssey of the Mind aligns directly with the current district Strategic Plan, specifically around innovative practices and creative problem solving,” Rhoads said in a previous interview. “Importantly, our students learn lifelong skills and have loads of fun!”

The team of students and coaches, who begin to meet in late/fall early winter, select which of the five long-term problems they wish to solve.

“The specific problem changes every year, although there is always one in each of five categories: Vehicle, Technical/Performance, Classics, Structure and Theatrical,” Berry explained.

All coaches are volunteers and contribute to the students' success and their participation in OM.

“We truly need community support to operate successful teams,” Rhoads explained. “Teams are coached by volunteers and at times need to do some fundraising to buy supplies for their problem.”

In the past, OM students and volunteers raised funds to purchase the needed supplies and travel. But as the common theme these recent years, fundraising was put on hold.

“Due to the pandemic, we have not fundraised for two years but anticipate starting again in the Fall of 2022,” Berry said. “In 2020 the competition was canceled, in 2021 the tournament was a virtual event, but this year it was great to have it back in person. The fundraising events that we sponsor are a wonderful way for OM families to get to know other team families and come together to support our participation in the program.”

Berry stated that the OM students have been resilient for the last two years. With the uncertainty at times during the past two years, students and families have continued to problem solve logistical as well as program problems with great success.

“Our participation continues to grow each year, and we look forward to finding out what the long term problems are for 2023.”

Menard is also looking forward to next year and wants to share her excitement with others.

“I want others to know that not only is Odyssey of the Mind a great place to meet new friends but it is a place where you can be yourself and have an endless open mind to creativity.”<

Friday, April 1, 2022

Windham volunteer steps up to assist Ukrainian refugees in Poland

Renee Darrow of Windham will travel to Poland
this month to serve as a volunteer for World
Central Kitchen, an organization that is
preparing meals for Ukrainian refugees 
displaced by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
She will work in the kitchen and assist in
refugee food distribution there.
By Ed Pierce

Watching the invasion of Ukraine unfold and the displacement and suffering of millions of refugees, Renee Darrow of Windham felt she was faced with a choice. She could choose to be affected by the world or she could choose to affect the world. Darrow decided to make a difference and will fly to Poland later this month to volunteer for World Central Kitchen, an organization assisting in the feeding of Ukrainian refugees.

World Central Kitchen responds to natural disasters, man-made crises and humanitarian emergencies around the world and is a team of food first responders, mobilizing with the urgency of now to get meals to the people who need them most. As a volunteer, Darrow will be working in the kitchen and helping directly with refugee meal distribution in Poland.

“I have no direct connection to Ukraine. My husband’s forebears escaped the pogroms in Ukraine over 100 years ago, he believes they were from Odesa,” Darrow said. “The family members that didn’t flee were almost entirely wiped out by pogroms and then the Nazis. Maybe his family received help from strangers on their way to safety; maybe I can be that stranger to others 120-ish years later.”

She said she felt horrified and helpless as Syria was bombed by the Russians and again when Russia invaded Crimea.

“When Russia invaded Ukraine, something in me just snapped and I decided that feeling bad and doing nothing was no longer tenable,” Darrow said. “I had to do something constructive, to put my idle hands to use.”

According to Darrow, she has traveled to Europe before but never to Poland.

“My husband and I were in Italy and Portugal earlier this year,” she said. “Poland is my destination simply because that is where World Central Kitchen said to go.”

A former information technology recruiter, Darrow moved to Windham three years ago with her husband, who is supportive of her efforts to do something to help the refugees.

“When I told him I wanted to go, his immediate response was ‘“when do you want to leave?’ Of course, he doesn’t want me to enter Ukraine for fear for my safety, but I have no plans to enter Ukraine,” Darrow said. “My extended family have expressed support. My friends are kind of curious as to why I would go, but supportive.”

Her departure date is uncertain at this point, but Darrow said she hopes to be on her way to Poland by mid-April.

“My plan is to go for two weeks, spending the entire time volunteering,” she said. “I have no idea what to say to someone who is a refugee other than ‘I came to help because I had to, because you matter.’”

As of this week, Poland has taken in more than 2.3 million refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine and more than 4 million Ukrainians have fled the country in total since the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24.

The World Central Kitchen volunteers organized and arrived in Europe in late February and have been distributing more than 2.9 million meals every day at more than 1,000 locations in six different countries, including Poland where Darrow will work. It is also delivering food and meals to cities and towns inside of Ukraine to help those Ukrainians who have not left and are unable to find sustenance and clean water.

Along with volunteering her time, Darrow said that she wants to bring as many medical supplies with her to Poland as possible.

“I want to take medical supplies because I heard Poland is running low,” she said. Today, I found a list of desired humanitarian supplies on a 

Ukrainian government website and I plan to acquire gauze bandages and (I think) Tylenol. If anyone can get me wholesale prices for gauze bandages or Tylenol, or would like to donate those products, that would be great.”

Donation items can be brought to The Windham Eagle, 588 Roosevelt Trail, Windham, by April 8 to be given to Darrow. 

She does not consider herself heroic by any means but she’s just a caring person who is doing what can she to help.

“I think it’s simply a matter of demonstrating humanity to victims of the savagely inhumane. I can’t stop psychopathic bullies, but I can show up and help their victims who have lost everything,” Darrow said. “Doesn’t everyone wish they could stop the Russians? Of course, but that’s not in our power. It’s in my power to help feed the victims of Russia’s war, so I will do that.”

Her husband told her that one of his friends told him that he thought her trip to Poland was extreme, but she scoffs at that notion.

“I think it’s extreme to do nothing, to not go when I have the means, the time, the energy,” she said. “Doing nothing seems inhumane, a sin of omission.” <

St. Ann’s Episcopal Church springs forward with renewed optimism and sanctuary updates

St. Ann's Episcopal Church updated its 48-year-old sanctuary
with many vital renovations, giving the worship service 
space a much-needed lift. Member donations and volunteers
helped to make ther renewed sanctuary a success.
By Lorraine Glowczak

Parishioners at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, 40 Windham Center Road in Windham, experienced a restored sense of enthusiasm as they worshipped on Sunday, March 27 in a refreshed and updated 48-year-old sanctuary. The reasons for the renovations were often vital, especially in terms of the windows.

“The old windows let in so much air that you didn’t want to sit by them on a windy Christmas Eve service, or your candles would literally blow out,” Kim Wallace, parishioner and a member of the Renovation Committee, said.

Dan Wheeler, the chair of the Renovation Committee, said the Vestry started talking about the updates on the sanctuary in 2019. 

“But then – the pandemic brought it to a halt,” he said. “Eventually, we decided that COVID wouldn't stop us from proceeding forward, and we began the fundraising efforts in May 2021. We decided we would have faith and hope to make these changes happen despite the pandemic.”

By September 2021, the congregation had raised $51,000 through 56 personal donations while, at the same time, maintaining donations from the congregation for normal operating expenses.

“Obviously, our members had the resiliency to keep the vision of a renewed space alive,” said Church Rector, the Rev. Tim Higgins.

In October, contractors installed new Andersen Windows with new trim in the sanctuary and narthex. Soon after, other repairs and updates were completed that include: new doors and trim in the sanctuary, updated light fixtures, a fresh coat of paint in the narthex, sanctuary and alter, a new closet in the narthex, new carpet tiles in the narthex and altar as well as an updated indoor chapel – a space for personal prayer, meditation and the healing team. The indoor chapel will include a stone mosaic – custom made in Beirut, Lebanon.

During the renovations, one of the significant challenges included the high demand for contractors – and thus the lack of availability to complete projects. As a result, many contractors offered quotes that, according to Wheeler, were astronomically high.

“One painting contractor gave us a quote of $30,000 to paint our small sanctuary,” he said.

But not all contractors took advantage of the pandemic. 

“I wish to give a big thank you to Randy Perkins of Perks Peak Construction,” Wheeler said. “He was phenomenal. Not only did he charge us fairly, but he also made sure everything was done promptly and helped to oversee some of the other jobs. He made my job so much easier.”

Wheeler also stated that Pure Clean Company was a lifesaver after some major construction left the floors in ankle-deep dust. 

“The owners, Kayla and Cory Beaulieu restored the floors into pristine condition – better than it has been in ages,” he said.

Higgins added that the volunteer involvement has been extraordinary, stating he is humbled by their level of dedication to the church. He also said that he appreciated Wheeler’s leadership.

“Without Dan, this project would not have happened,” Higgins said. “It does take a team, and with Dan’s vision, persistence and resilience, he was a force that made renovations happen.”

But most importantly, Higgins was careful to recognize the most significant hand in the renovation efforts.

“This project was wrapped in prayer,” he said. “God has had his hands in this project from the get-go, including the fundraising, securing the windows in a timely fashion, the contractor, the professional cleaners and the volunteer efforts. God wants St. Ann’s to be around for a very long time and this is proven true again with this most recent renovation, thanks be to God.” <