Friday, October 28, 2022

WMS Chess Club promotes critical thinking skills

By Ed Pierce

The game of chess has many benefits for young minds and educators at Windham Middle School are tapping into its resurging popularity to help students to tackle the academic challenges ahead.

Windham Middle School Chess Club members Bryce
Rogers, left, and Cooper Fournelle, both sixth graders,
play a game of chess during a recent club meeting after
school in the WMS Library. The club meets once a week
under the direction of school librarian Sienna Tinsley.
The WMS Chess Club is being led this year by School Librarian Sienna Tinsley and each Wednesday after school club members gather to play against each other and share their mutual appreciation for the strategic game.

Studies have shown that chess improves concentration and memory for students while enhancing reading and math skills. It also fosters the development of logic, critical thinking among students and encourages creativity.

“I think kids like chess because it can be played at many levels. It isn't hard to learn the basics, but there is so much depth that they don't get bored of it,” Tinsley said. “I also think they like the fact that it is such a popular game throughout the world and through the years. When they learn chess, they can play or talk about it with other people in their lives and most will already have some familiarity with it.”

Student participation is free and the number of student participants in the Chess Club varies by the week, but Tinsley said WMS has set as few barriers as possible to allowing kids to attend and enjoy this strategic activity.

“I hope kids take away an understanding of being a good sport and respecting their opponent by trying their best, focusing on the match, and responding graciously whether they win or lose,” she said. “I also hope that kids will come away with a feeling of belonging and being an important part of a team, as well as skills in critical thinking and planning ahead.”

To assist WMS students in mastering basic strategies and learning to play the game the right way, the school library has copies of the book "How a King Plays: 64 Chess Tips from a Kid Champion" by Oliver Boydell readily available and also has eight or nine chess sets on hand for games each week. Chess boards and game pieces are provided to participants and usually after a short club meeting for announcements or to answer any questions that may arise, students begin play between 2 and 2:45 p.m. every Wednesday.

WMS seventh grader Malcolm Morey says that he was introduced to chess a few years ago by his father and he wanted to be a member of the Chess Club at school this year for several reasons.

“I like the complexity of this game,” Morey said. “I like how you have to use your brain a lot and learn what to do when an opponent makes a certain move.”

He says he’s made some new friends through participation in the club and it’s also helped him to become a better sportsman playing many different opponents each week.

Typically, WMS Chess Club players try to squeeze in as many games as possible during the time the club meets in the school library and play against opponents of different skills levels.

“I believe that the more games that you play, the better you’ll get,” Morey said.

Twins Madison and Matthew Cole are eighth graders who are now in their second year as members of the WMS Chess Club.

As a girl, Madison said she takes pride in playing and winning against boys, but mostly enjoys being a Chess Club member because it helps her meet new people in other grades at the school.

“It’s really interesting getting to know some of the other students in the club, make new friends and I’d say winning chess games also helps boost my confidence,” she said.

Her brother Matthew said he has a small chess set at home but likes playing in the club after school because he’s able to match up against more experienced players.

“It has helped me to solve problems and being a member of the Chess Club has really helped improve my game,” he said.

Tinsley said since the start of school this fall, more students are learning about the WMS Chess Club, and she welcomes any student who wishes to participate.

“I appreciate families' willingness to come pick their students up, so they can stay late for chess club,” Tinsley said. “If we have community members with particular expertise and interest in chess, I would love to welcome guest speakers, so the kids can hear more perspectives than just mine.”

WMS Principal Drew Patin says having students participate in chess is an ideal activity.

“Chess club allows our students to have fun and grow social skills while developing strategy and patience,” he said. “Students learn to lose and win with grace. It also gets students off technology, so it is a win all around.” <

Ghouls and goblins awaiting annual ‘Trunk or Treat’ in Windham

By Lorraine Glowczak

Don’t be frightened if between the witching hours of 5:30 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, you encounter more than 400 spookily dressed youngsters as they ascend upon the back parking lot of the Windham Mall in their family vehicle.

More than 30 spooky creatively decorated
trunks await trick-or-treaters during this
year's 'Trunk or Treat' event behind 
Hannaford in North Windham from 
5:30 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29.
Children must be registered to participate.
They are not there to wreak havoc, rather to partake in the sixth annual Windham Parks and Recreation’s Trunk or Treat Halloween-themed celebration. Windham Parks and Recreation Department has been hosting this highly anticipated annual alternative trick-or-treating event since October 2016 and the ghostly festivities have increased in participation since then.

“In 2016, we had only seven residents, two community organizations, and one local business ‘open their trunks’ to the participants on the basketball court behind the Windham Middle School,” Parks and Recreation Director Linda Brooks said. “This was done as just a small part of our much larger Halloween Adventure, which included games, prizes, refreshments, and a haunted house, along with our costume contest.”

Since the event has grown exponentially over the years, the Trunk or Treat location has moved to the parking lot behind the Windham Mall. This Saturday, over 30 organizations, businesses, and individuals/families will open their trunks for the eager onslaught of young ghouls and goblins.

One organization that has offered its ‘trunk’ for many years is the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce and Executive Director Robin Mullins said they love all aspects of being a part of this annual community event.

“All of it’s amazing - the Halloween music playing in the background, having fun with the children all dressed up in cute costumes, and even seeing the parents when they dress up too. It’s a fun community event, and we feel honored to be a part of it. It’s great to see the businesses, the nonprofits, and the community all working together.”

Families have also gotten into offering their own ‘trunk’ to provide treats for the evening, including Mychelle Koutalakis and her family.

“We have participated in the Trunk or Treat event for the past two years as Trunk or Treaters and have thoroughly enjoyed decorating our vehicle and handing out candy,” Koutalakis said. “When our kids were younger, we would take them to Trunk or Treat so they would have a safe, alternative place to trick or treat. It’s perfect for those who live outside of the center of town and have nowhere to go door to door. The kids loved it so much that now they are older, they want to participate by offering our trunk and providing theme-based decorations. Last year we had a ‘Pet Semetary’ theme. This year we are going to go with ‘Stranger Things.’”

Brooks is very grateful for families like Koutalakis and organizations like the Chamber of Commerce stepping up to assist.

“We simply couldn’t do this big event without their help and contributions,” she said. “The Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, the Windham Town Departments, and the Windham Mall have been fantastic partners in this as well as the families who offer their trunks every year.”

This increased involvement now requires pre-registration to allow for the safety and management of traffic flow. Although pre-registration for hosts for Saturday’s Halloween-themed trunk event has closed, registration for trick-or-treaters will remain open until 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28. There is also still time to participate in the Halloween Costume Contest, which closes at 4 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 4.

“Kids ages 18 and under are invited to join in the 2022 costume contest by submitting a photo of themselves for our judges,” Brooks said. “Our friends at the Windham Lions Club will act as judges, and the following criteria will be taken into consideration: Creativity, Effort, Originality, and Authenticity.”

To enter the contest, email a photo of your child in costume to parks& with the subject line “Costume Contest Entry.” In addition, include the child’s name, age, and address (must be a Windham resident), along with the costume description.

Brooks said that Windham Parks and Rec is already preparing for Halloween 2023.

“We are already discussing plans for next year and will likely return to a more traditional event with participants walking through the route, however, pre-registration will likely still be required in order to manage the crowds and minimize long waiting times. We are so grateful for the support provided by the Chamber as well as Jay Wise, owner of the Windham Mall,” she said.

Be sure to check next week’s newspaper edition to see which organization, business, and family won the best “trunks” of the year! All trunk winners will receive multiple prizes. <

Friday, October 21, 2022

Windham High School Quiz Team opens season with second-place trophy

By Lorraine Glowczak

The intellectual competitions for the trivia-loving Windham High School students begin again this year as they sailed through their second tournament at Plymouth Regional High School in New Hampshire on Saturday, October 15. The High School Quiz Team sparred against about 10 other New England high school teams that traveled from as far away as Syracuse, New York.

The Windham High School Quiz Team gathers with their
second-place trophy on the Gould Academy Campus. Front
from left are, Nolan McPhail, Greta Paulding, Kaitlyn Farrin,
and Alex Pooler (team manager). Middle from left, Juliar Demar,
Will Stuart, Delia Tomkus, Victoria Lin, Al Potter, John
Ziegler, and Nicole Densmore. Back is Ralph Leavitt. 
Although the team didn’t place in this tournament, the players faired very well at the Maine Quiz Bowl Alliance tournament at the beginning of the month at Gould Academy in Bethel. The WSQT finished second overall, placing first among Maine teams.

“Kaitlyn Farrin [Junior] finished eleventh in the tournament in scoring, Victoria Lin [Senior] finished eighth, and Greta Paulding [Senior] finished second,” co-advisor and WHS math teacher John Ziegler said.

Ziegler also stated that a newcomer to the team, sophomore Julia Demar, had a fantastic performance in her first tournament. He also shared the successful contributions of other team members.

“Julia finished15th in the tournament in scoring. Freshmen Nolan McPhail and Delia Tomkus also played well in their first tournament. Returning veterans Al Potter [Senior], Will Stuart [Junior], and Ralph Leavitt [Junior] provided both leadership and good answers as they rounded out the team. And, of course, it is great to have the support of our team manager, Alex Pooler [Junior], who is always there keeping score.”

The HSQT members prepare weekly for these highly competitive, albeit fun, tournaments. To become well-versed in various topics, they often meet and focus on specific categories until they can easily recall random facts.

“We meet for 1 1/2 hours after school on Mondays and for 30 minutes in the morning on Fridays,” co-advisor and WHS English teacher Nicole Densmore said. “We also meet during the summer for two hours or more every Friday. We focused our summer learning on US and World history, as well as opera and North American poets.”

There are many reasons why students join HSQT, and it doesn’t require an individual to know every trivial category or to be considered a genius. Instead, team members say what matters most is to enjoy learning about random facts, wanting to make new friends, and – most importantly - having fun.

“The HSQT is what I would describe as a beautiful chaos,” HSQT team member, Tomkus said. “Somehow, all of us, with our random bits of knowledge, manage to fill in each other's gaps and answer most of the questions. It's really fun, and I have learned a lot since I joined.”

Tomkus continued, sharing what she discovered from her first experience at the Gould Academy tournament.

“I learned that while you still try your hardest, you can also rely on the other team members. For my first tournament, I would say I did fairly well, and I answered a few random questions about music and mythology. Poetry and specific names and dates were probably the hardest for me, but my teammates answered quite a few of those questions.”

Even the advisors get in on the fun as they help guide and prepare the students to be the best they can be.

“What I love about being a High School Quiz Team advisor is getting the opportunity to interact with a fantastic group of students in a positive way,” Ziegler said. “As a teacher, some of your students are excited about learning, and others less so. As an HSQT advisor, all your students are excited about learning, or they wouldn't be there. For example, on our trip to Gould Academy, Greta and I quizzed the team members about US presidents. Nolan felt he didn't know his presidents well enough, so he went home and memorized the list of all the presidents from Washington to Biden. Only an HSQT student would do that.”

Densmore said she enjoys watching students learn new things about the world simply because they are curious, or the topic interests them.

“I really enjoy watching them joke, sing, and interact, whether we are on the road or in the classroom,” she said. “The students who participate are adorable and admirable because they give so much time to the trivia cause and take care of the team by building learning tools like Quizlets or Kahoots or making treats for each other’s birthdays. We are a close group.”

This close-knit group of wise and witty students not only prepare for the tournaments throughout the year but also participate in quiz bowl games with the hope of winning a spot once again on Maine Public Television’s Quiz Show. The HSQT finished in the top four among 15 other participating teams in last season’s Quiz Show, and they hope to participate again this year.

Although it is the team’s focus to display their intellectual prowess on public television, the real purpose of being an HSQT member is already in motion.

“We have become our own family of trusting and caring people who just happen also to love little-known facts and trivia,” Densmore said. “Being with these students is always fun and funny, and we enjoy each other's quirks and unique contributions.”<

Migratory birds exiting region for winter habitats

By Abby Wilson

In the last month, you may have noticed birds moving in groups or all together disappearing from the Lakes Region landscape.

Many migratory birds such as the Tree Swallow are
leaving the Lakes Region and Southern Maine this month
and headed south for the winter months. Many species
of migratory birds will return to Maine in the spring.
We all know what causes this. Migration is an annual event, surprising none of us each year. Animals all over the world move from one place to another to find better food or breeding resources. Many birds are exiting New England to seek favorable winter habitats. For some, this means heading south, toward warmer climates, windy offshore zones in open ocean waters are just the place that calls home.

Maine, and especially the Sebago Lake Region, is a spectacular place to view such migrations and many people spend hours searching for migrating birds in the sky, coastal habitat, and stopover sites (places where birds rest during tiresome migration). This is often a time to see birds that don’t live in Maine but that pass through from winter to summer habitats and vice versa.

“The songbirds we see migrating through Maine right now are coming down from the boreal forests to our north and will move into the southern United States, Caribbean, Mexico, Central America and some even to South America,” says Brad Woodward of Scarborough, an avid birder. “These birds are ultimately looking for better food sources since they have learned over generations that food can be scarce during North American winters.

He also says that the shorebirds on our coast are making astonishing journeys from their breeding grounds on the tundra above the Arctic Circle to wintering grounds as far as the tip of South America.

Some birds migrate thousands of miles each year. The animal with the longest migration in the world is the Arctic Tern which travels from pole to pole (Greenland to Antarctica) several times during its lifetime.

And birds need stopover sites to refuel during the journey.

According to Woodward, Maine is a vital stop for [birds] to feed and rest along the way.

“We will see them all in the spring in a more urgent movement north, needing to get to their breeding grounds in time to find mates, establish territories, nest and raise babies, all in the short summer season in the north before cold approaches and it's time to begin the cycle all over again,” he said.

In southern Maine in mid-October, one might see several songbirds including Gray Catbirds, Northern

Cardinal, Black-capped Chickadees, White-throated Sparrows, and Blue Jays. These birds are typically seen hopping among the understory or flitting from branch to branch in the canopies. Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers are often running up the trunks of trees and haphazardly pecking bark in search of insects. Train your eyes to search the skies as well, and you will notice other birds such as Crows, Canada Geese, and many birds of prey.

Many trained birders identify perhaps more than half of birds by ear, rather than by sight. It takes a lot of practice to notice that each call is distinguishable. Many people can identify the “cheeseburger” mating call of a chickadee, but it takes real skill to know that the Red-tailed hawk territory call coming from the canopy is actually a bluffing Blue Jay.

It is also important to remember that birds are not the only ones making a racket. Frogs, crickets, and chipmunks, all make noise for similar ways. Chipmunks alert others of an intruder, while insects and amphibians send out mating calls.

While walking along a woods trail, birders’ eyes and ears are keen to pick up characteristics that can help them separate one species from another. More often than not an avid birder can recognize an individual with confidence, but sometimes a birder can be taken aback by a rare species.

Some of us remember the Great Black Hawk that appeared in Maine a few years ago and eventually finalized its journey in Portland. Or perhaps the most recent spotting of a Eurasian species, the Stellar’s Sea Eagle, rings a bell. These two individuals are similar in that they are not native to the Eastern U.S. These birds are called vagrants and they appear far outside of their normal breeding, migrating, and feeding ranges for what is often a totally unknown reason.

Vagrants and native migrators visit stopover sites such as waterways, marshes, fields, and even backyards. It is important to keep these areas clean, clear, and safe. If you have a field near your house, or a water source, your property may be a stopover site. Make sure your large windows are not a collision risk by using reflective stickers and decals. If you have a house cat, keep it indoors. Birds face many perils during migration, and we can minimize some of these hazards and make their journey easier. <

Friday, October 14, 2022

Candidates make pitch for local votes

By Ed Pierce

Voting is the expression of a community’s commitment to their neighbors and to one another and here in Windham and Raymond, that allegiance will once again be demonstrated on Tuesday, Nov. 8 when area residents head to the polls to cast their ballots in state and local races.

Candidate signs for the upcoming election proliferate
on the median at the intersection of School Road and 
Route 202 in Windham. The general election across 
Maine will be held Tuesday, Nov. 8. 
One elected position to be determined is Maine Senate District 26 representing Windham and Raymond, where current the incumbent, Bill Diamond, a Democrat from Windham, is term-limited and his seat will be filled by either Gary Plummer of Windham, a Republican, or Tim Nangle of Windham, a Democrat.

Plummer is a lifelong resident of Windham and a retired teacher who has served on the Windham Town Council, the Cumberland County Commission, as a Maine State Representative and in the Maine State Senate. Nangle is a former Windham Town Councilor who works as a Help Desk Technician.

Three seats in the Maine House of Representatives will also be decided by voters in the election.

For Maine House District 86, representing Raymond, Casco, Frye Island, and part of Poland, two candidates are on the ballot. Jessica Fay of Raymond, a Democrat, is a florist and an incumbent seeking re-election in a newly renumbered district. Fay is opposed by Republican Greg Foster of Raymond, a forester and business owner.

In Windham, two candidates are vying to represent Windham in Maine House District 107, which has been renumbered but is the seat being vacated by current State Rep. Patrick Corey, who also is term-limited and cannot seek re-election this election cycle. Newcomer Michael Hall of Windham, a Republican, is a project manager and supervisor for a biotechnology company and a small business owner who is opposed by former State Representative Jane Pringle of Windham, a Democrat. Pringle is a retired primary care physician and physician educator who served in the Maine Legislature from 2012 to 2014.

Two candidates are competing for the right to represent Windham in the newly renumbered Maine House District 106. Democrat Mark Bryant has represented this district in the past but also is term-limited for this election. Barbara Bagshaw of Windham, a Republican and an art educator and nanny, is opposed by Democrat Dana Reed of Windham, a retired U.S. Navy chaplain and a music educator.

Campaigning for election to a five-year term as a Portland Water District Trustee representing Windham and Raymond is Louise Douglas of Windham. Douglas was first elected to the Portland Water District board in 2017 and has served as the Portland Water District’s Trustees chair for the past two years.

Several RSU 14 Board of Directors seats are on the ballot in November.

Voters will choose two individuals to serve in three-year positions on the RSU 14 Board of Directors representing Windham from a field of three candidates.

Incumbent Marge Govoni of Windham, who is retired, is the former RSU 14 board chair and is seeking re-election. Govoni has served on the RSU 14 Board of Directors since 2008 and is a member of the Windham Planning Board and one of the founders of the Windham Community Garden.

Former board member Christina Small of Windham also is a candidate for the RSU 14 Board. She was first appointed to a seat on the board in 2020 to fill a vacancy and served through 2021. She is the noon monitor at Windham Primary School.

First-time candidate Caitlynn Downs of Windham is also running for one of the available RSU 14 Board of Directors seats. Downs is an office manager for State Farm Insurance and has volunteered as a Big Sister with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Organization for more than 10 years and was honored as the organization’s “Match of the Year” in 2019.

All three candidates on the ballot for Windham Town Council are unopposed.

John Henry of Windham is running for an At-Large position for town council for a three-year term. He is a civil engineer and formerly served as a member of the Windham Planning Board in 2007.

Current Windham Town Council Chair Jarrod Maxfield is unopposed for re-election to represent the town’s North District for a three-year term. Maxfield is a business owner who has served as a town councilor since 2016.
Nicholas Kalogerakis is unopposed for re-election to a three-year term on the council representing the South District. He is a businessman who has served on the town council since 2019. He’s also served on the town’s Long Range Planning Committee, the Windham Economic Committee, and the Windham Planning Board. <

Editor’s note: Please see candidate profiles and Q&A in this edition for State Senate and Maine House candidates from Windham and Raymond. Next week’s newspaper will include candidate profiles for RSU 14’s Board of Directors and the Windham Town Council.

Medical Loan Closet assists community with medical equipment in tough times

By Masha Yurkevich

A medical emergency - we’ve all been there. A slip on the ice resulting in a broken leg, taking the laundry downstairs, and missing the last step; it’s happened to the majority of us. Oftentimes, it’s the elderly that get hit by this the hardest and they often have a hard time getting the needed and proper equipment to help them with their injuries. Since 1940, the Medical Loan Closet has been helping the Windham Raymond community along with surrounding towns by loaning out durable medical equipment to help mostly with mobility.

Since 1940 the Medical Loan Closet has been helping the
Windham and Raymond community along with the 
surrounding towns by loaning out durable medical
equipment to help mostly with mobility. It is at 221
Windham Center Road next to the Windham Public
Library. FILE PHOTO 
The Windham Medical Loan Closet is at 221 Windham Center Road, next to the Windham Public Library. Its idea was established by superintendent of schools at that time Frederick Alkens, and Windham school nurse Beverly Allen in the mid-1940s when they saw a need for loaning out medical equipment to those recuperating at home from various medical conditions who might not be able to afford purchasing it. Town doctors Sidney Branson and Robert Burns soon joined along with other volunteers.

At that time, the organization was known as the Windham Health Council. Their work first began with the schools, weighing and measuring children and in the 1950s, the Windham Health Council organized a Well Baby Clinic, which operated until about the later 1960s. About that time, Mrs. Allen and council volunteers led a move to make fluoride treatment available to all children of Windham. Then, in the 1970s, Windham Health Council was very active and influential in recruiting the town’s first dentist.

But perhaps the most enduring contribution of Windham Health Council is the Medical Loan Closet. It was launched by Helen Alkens when she saw the struggle of getting medical equipment to those recuperating at home from various medical conditions. From its humble beginning with just a hospital bed and a few children’s books, the medical closet has grown much bigger. It now falls under the Town Manager’s Office and has a small budget.

Lynda Murphy, Director of the Windham Medical Loan Closet, has just taken over after being led by Kristi MacKinnon for well over 10 years. Murphy has been volunteering at the loan closet for about five years.

“There are about nine current volunteers and Kristi and a few of our current members may have been volunteering for close to twenty years if not over that,” says Murphy. “Like many of us, we really aren’t sure when we may have started. I started volunteering because I had borrowed equipment for a family member and thought I would like to be a part of it.”

The Windham Medical Loan Closet serves the community and surrounding towns by loaning out durable medical equipment to help mostly with mobility. They do not have any electrically motivated equipment. They have mostly walkers, knee scooters, wheelchairs, shower chairs, commodes, bed rails, and some assortment of donated briefs and other medical items.

“We do not necessarily limit our service to just Windham/Raymond at all,” says Murphy. “Clients need only call 207-894-5999 and leave their message for what they need, and a volunteer calls them back. We try to limit the time of use to three months but there are exceptions made.”

Volunteers answer messages from Monday through Sunday and meet clients when they are available. The loan closet evaluates the client’s need for equipment, sets up a time and meets at the loan closet when convenient for both. There are no specific times that the closet is open to pick up or drop off equipment.

“We expect messages to always be left so volunteers can arrange a meeting,” said Murphy. “Currently, we find a great need for equipment and are likely to return many calls in a day. By the end of a week, we may well have met the needs of over 25 clients, though each week can be quite different.”

Volunteers do various other duties keeping up the loan closet, such as cleaning equipment and meeting clients. While Murphy says that she refers to herself as the director, she says that the loan closet only runs by all of the input of the volunteers and by helping each other.

“We have two meetings a year to fill out a schedule and volunteer a week every eight weeks as it works out currently,” says Murphy. “We fill in for each other and work around all of our schedules. We are always looking for helpers and volunteers and are glad to work around individual schedules.”

For Murphy, she believes that the purpose of the Medical Loan Closet has not changed much from when everything was first formed in the 1940s.

“We serve the needs of the community of Windham and surrounding areas by loaning some medical equipment, so they do not have to incur making that expense,” says Murphy. “We operate with the assistance of the town of Windham and our volunteers, sometimes receive donations of equipment and monetary donations from individuals and purchase some newer equipment. Our goal remains the same: helping those who have a need for our services. God bless those with a vision to serve in some small way, and that is what we do at the Windham Medical Loan Closet.”

As volunteers, they are all very committed to keeping the original purpose of this organization moving forward. It started with one person seeing a need and has continued forward with hundreds of people keeping it going.

To obtain equipment from the Medical Loan Closet, call 207-894-5999 and leave a message for what you are looking for and a volunteer will call back and follow up. <

Friday, October 7, 2022

Parking facility aims to revitalize South Windham

By Ed Pierce

Even Joni Mitchell would be proud of this accomplishment, a new 50-space parking lot has been completed in South Windham and is intended to serve as the cornerstone to revitalizing the area.

A new 50-space parking lot has opened neat the South
Windham Fire Station and the Cumberland County Soil
and Water Conservation District building in South Windham.
The project was a partnership between the county and the town
and is intended to help foster the revitalization of
South Windham, SUBMITTED PHOTO  
Mitchell, who wrote the song “Big Yellow Taxi” which describes paving paradise to put up a parking lot, probably hasn’t visited the Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District’s new parking lot at 35 Main St. in South Windham, but it’s a thing of beauty. The lot was a collaborative effort between Cumberland County, the Soil and Water Conservation District and the Town of Windham.

The town approached the Soil and Water Conservation District several years ago with the idea that a multi-use parking lot could benefit all interests in South Windham. The old parking lot has been transformed this fall into parking for tenants of the Soil and Water Conservation District building, for hikers using nearby trails, for nearby businesses and for the town, which shares a driveway with the district for the South Windham Fire Station.

“Back when we first looked at this, we originally looked entrance issues in that area,” Windham Town Manager Barry Tibbetts said. “We thought we could work a partnership short-term, to fix the entrance problems and repave the driveway for parking but it turned out to be so much more.”

The town applied for a Community Development Block Grant through Cumberland County in 2020 for the parking lot and then went back a second time for additional funding. Eventually, Cumberland County contributed $205,295 to the project for surfaces and materials and the rest is history.

“The county was gracious in seeing the value of doing this,” Tibbetts said. “It benefits all of Cumberland County.”

As a result of the improved entrance and the redesigned parking lot, soon a new restaurant and brew house will be able to set up shop in the old South Windham Fire Station on Main Street. Hikers will be able to park safely and securely in the lot, and new tenants of the Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District will be able to park there too.

Gorrill Palmer served as engineers for the project and Aceto Earthworks spent 3 ½ weeks working on the lot.

Kristin Styles, Community Development Director for Cumberland County, said every member of the county’s municipal oversight committee voted yes on approving the CDBG grant for the project.

“This will lead to the revitalization of South Windham,” Styles said.

All the partners involved in the project for the shared parking lot gathered Friday, Sept. 30 outside the Soil and Water Conservation Building to cut a ribbon marking the official opening of the lot for the public.

Chris Brewer, Soil and Water Conservation District manager, said he was amazed at how nicely the project came together and what it means for the community.

“We don’t mind sharing this parking lot and the improvement from what is was to what it is now is dramatic,” Brewer said. “We didn’t mind the construction and are really happy with the end result.”

Tibbetts said this new parking lot is an accomplishment that all residents of Windham can be proud of.

“It has substantial long term benefits and we’re pleased at how this all has turned out,” he said. “We owe a lot of thanks to the multitudes of people who worked on this project, and we certainly appreciate all of the efforts to help from county government.”

Also on hand for the ribbon cutting were Larry Eliason, president of the Windham Economic Development Corporation, and Carol Ann Doucette of Locations Real Estate Group in Falmouth, who coordinated the dedication ceremony. <


Students aspire to be members of talented and community-adored Windham Chamber Singers

By Lorraine Glowczak

Within two hours after tickets officially went on sale this past Monday, Oct. 3, the American Family Holiday Concert sold more than 1,000 tickets. This popular annual holiday tradition, locally referred to as AmFam, is performed every year by the Windham Chamber Singers (WCS) and draws in audiences from all over the state and beyond. This highly motivated group of vocalists will again provide two performances at 2 and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3, at the Windham High School (WHS) auditorium. Kim Block will host the event, and special guest performers will include Susie Pepper, Daniel Strange, and Ashley Liberty.

The Windham Chamber Singers will once again perform
their popular American Family Holiday Concert on
Saturday, Dec. 3 and tickets are now on sale for that event.
The WCS are known for winning the Prize of Vienna at the 25th International Youth and Musical Festival in Austria in 1996, as well as being highlighted on national and public television and having performed at major venues, including Carnegie Hall and the White House. As a result, the singers have not only inspired adults with their musical finesse but have motivated youth to be a member of a group known for more than just their ability to harmonize. Many of the current WCS have long waited for the opportunity to perform, along with famous musicians such as Noel Paul Stookey (of Peter, Paul, and Mary) and Dougie MacLean, and to perform once again to sold-out performances of AmFam. A few students share why they dreamed of being a part of such an inspiring group of individuals.

WHS Sophomore Bella Bragdon is a second-year member of the WCS. She had yearned to be a member since she was 7 years old when she was in Windham Primary School (WPS) and was a member of former WPS music teacher Nancy Cash-Cobb’s chorus.

“When the WCS came to sing with us, I knew I wanted to be a part of their group,” she said. “Throughout my childhood, I heard stories about the WCS tour, AmFam, day-to-day rehearsals, and how much fun it is. So, when I signed up to audition in the spring of my eighth-grade year, I wanted to be a part of something normal. The pandemic had taken so much away, and I didn’t want it to take away this too. I was struggling with my mental health and just wanted to have a safe place, free of judgment where I could be myself.”

When Bragdon got the opportunity to audition, she said she was very nervous and didn’t think she would make it. But Bragdon is very happy to have been selected.

Senior Sophie Koutalakis, WCS’ Wardrobe Manager for this season, has been a member of all four high school years. She knew she wanted to try out for the group when she was a student at Windham Middle School (WMS) and saw their performance at a WMS assembly.

“Auditioning had been in the back of my mind at the start of middle school when I was a student there but seeing the Chamber Singers perform ‘Ready for The Storm’ by Dougie MacLean solidified my decision,” Koutalakis said. “I was absolutely blown away, and I knew I wanted to be a part of the group ever since.”

In addition to watching that first performance, there were many other reasons why she longed to be a part of this musical ensemble.

“I am passionate about music, and I knew that being a part of the Windham Chamber Singers would help me work on my music skills while being surrounded by a group of talented, like-minded peers,” she said. “I loved the performance opportunities that come with being a Windham Chamber Singer, and two of my role models were former members. Janelle LoScuito, who I take voice lessons from and is a Chamber Singer alumnus, along with Tony-nominated Robyn Hurder, who I look up to a lot.”
Annaelle Kirezi is a WHS senior, and it is her first year as a WCS member. She was impressed with the WCS skills as performers and knew she wanted the chance to be a part of the energy they exude on the stage.

“The one thing I have discovered is that I am fully myself with this group,” Kirezi said. “I enjoy singing so many good songs with fellow chamber singers, and I especially love when Dr. Nickerson [Director] introduces a piece of music that we all know and like. It’s really fun to see the excitement on

the faces of others, and that makes the experience even more meaningful to me.”

Entering its 35th year, WCS Director Dr. Richard Nickerson, who founded the current group in 1988, shares Kierezi’s excitement.

“It is so inspiring to work with these amazing students and share in their enthusiasm,” he said. “As we get ready for AmFam, we are committed to enjoy the process of preparation as much as the performances. Every layer provides a unique opportunity for learning.”

The WCS will go on their spring tour throughout New England from April 12 to 16, 2023. Not only is it the experience of performance in and travel to other locations that students enjoy, but it is the life-long bonds that are created among its members.

“Being in the Windham Chamber Singers means having a group of people I trust, people who will always encourage one another,” Koutalakis said. “I have so many fun memories from being in this group, but my favorite one so far is when we performed for the Providence Bruins. Not only did I perform in front of a huge crowd, but we got to watch the game afterward, and it was so fun seeing all my friends get so involved with the game. Tour as a whole is such a fun time because we were able to sing in new places as well as solidify our bond.”

Bragdon agreed and said, “I’m thankful every day that I was selected to be among such an amazing group of people. I will be forever grateful.”

For more information or to purchase tickets for the WCS’ American Family Holiday Concert, go to their website at

“But hurry, the tickets are running out fast,” Nickerson said. <