Showing posts with label Kindness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kindness. Show all posts

Friday, March 29, 2024

Retired Raymond Town manager proud of devoted service to community

By Ed Pierce

Don Willard wants to set the record straight regarding the rumors circulating about his departure as Raymond’s Town Manager.

Don Willard served as the Raymond Town
Manager for more than 23 years until his
retirement on Jan. 2. A party in his honor
will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday,
April 7 at the Boy Scouts of America's
Messer center at Camp Hinds in Raymond
and the public is invited to attend.
Willard says he’s not dying of a terminal illness or was fired from his position, the simple truth is that he spent some time last fall recovering from an illness and then decided to retire after 23 years of working for the Town of Raymond. His retirement became official Jan. 2 and from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 7, the public is invited to a special party at the Boy Scouts of America’s Messer Center at Camp Hinds in Raymond to say goodbye and wish Willard and his family well in retirement.

“Living and working in Raymond has been a great experience and a wonderful place for my wife Megan and I to raise our son Holden,” Willard said. “I always thought, and often expressed my belief that the Town of Raymond has the capacity to achieve any and all desired goals.”

He said that with a new comprehensive plan on the horizon, a new universe of possibilities will be envisioned and ultimately approved by the voters in Raymond.

“I am certain this will include a continued commitment to environmental protection, as well as a range of quality-of-life issues,” Willard said. “In that regard, I am looking forward to staying actively involved in the community to help realize a new way forward and to see the town reach its full potential.”

Originally from Scarborough, Willard graduated from high school there and spent his first year of college at the University of Maine at Portland-Gorham before transferring to the University of Maine at Orono. He launched his career in municipal government as a paid intern in Scarborough, and then as an intern in Cape Elizabeth in 1981 while still an undergraduate in college.

After earning a college degree in Public Management, Willard served as a congressional intern in Washington, D.C. before being chosen as first Town Manager of the Town of Dixfield in 1983. Then in 1986, he became Town Manager of Rockport, a position he held until December 2000 when he joined the Town of Raymond as Town Manager.

“I have been quite fortunate to work with great elected officials in the past,” Willard said. “The early 2000s were a high watermark for community improvement. The town received an Economic Development Infrastructure Community Development Block Grant to extend the Portland Water District waterline from Windham to Raymond. In so doing, Raymond became the first new member town in 50 years.”

He said that achievement was a result of transformative and visionary elected leadership.

“Selectmen Betty McDermott, Ada Brown, and Christine McClellan also envisioned and supported the Route 302 improvement project, the new public safety building, and the town’s first major road rebuilding program which transformed the appearance of the town's main business area while improving both pedestrian and motor vehicle safety,” Willard said.

According to Willard, he will miss working for the town and says that he always sought to make myself visible and accessible to the townspeople.

“I made my cell phone publicly available and took calls 24/7 and 365 days a year over my tenure,” he said. “One time, I answered a citizen phone inquiry from the back of an ambulance, after a serious personal injury, while being treated on the way to the emergency room. I think people appreciated the fact that they could reach out and share their concerns with me at any time. I was committed to resolving issues and concerns efficiently and comprehensively, so they didn’t become problems for the Board of Selectmen.”

Being a town manager can be a difficult job, but Willard said what he liked best about it was that no two days were ever the same.

“Although the challenges were sometimes unpredictable, one commonality was that I always felt a great sense of satisfaction, making a difference in the communities that I served,” he said. “Having a job like that makes for a pretty good life. The town received extremely high citizen satisfaction ratings across the range of municipal services, while maintaining one of the lowest property tax rates in the region.”

Many employees for the Town of Raymond stayed in their jobs for years as Willard says he sought to create and maintain a positive work environment for his fellow employees, resulting in a sense of esprit de corps and extraordinarily low turnover.

“It was a pleasure to mentor and see many younger employees realize their career dreams,” Willard said “Treating those in need with respect and kindness, while providing guidance and support was a big part of the job and something I particularly enjoyed. If you approach the job of town manager with a dedication to service, commitment to upholding the law and standing for ethical behavior, that is really everything. You can never go wrong by doing the right thing. While I am proud of all the accomplishments over my 40-year career, none of them would have been possible without the support and assistance of others. If Raymond has been successful over my time here, it is because we have always had engaged and committed local government officials and a team of dedicated hardworking staff members.”

As in life, not everything went his way as Town Manager though.

“My greatest disappointment was the failure to achieve a modern and adequately sized municipal office,” Willard said. “Hopefully, when the middle school is vacated and turned over to the town, that goal, which was the top one when I was hired 24 years ago, will finally be realized.”<

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 <

Friday, January 29, 2021

Local dog groomer relates story of kindness on Kelly Clarkson Show

Lavish Dog Day Spa owner Caitlyn Brundage, left, appeared
with Kelly Perry and her son, Carter, on the Jan. 21 edition of
the Kelly Clarkson Show on television and was interviewed by
host Kelly Clarkson about an act of kindness that the dog
grooming business performed for Carter last summer. An
employee of Lavish Dog Day Spa found Carter's lost 'Stuffy
Puppy' named 'Cheese Puff' and gave him a bath and comb-out
before contacting the family to return it to them.
By Ed Pierce

A genuine act of kindness has garnered national attention for the owner of Lavish Dog Day Spa in Standish and Raymond and led to her appearance on the Kelly Clarkson television program last week.

Caitlyn Brundage was contacted by a producer of “The Kelly Clarkson Show” back in October about a lost stuffed puppy that a member of her staff, Bri Long, found last summer outside the business in Standish. They gave the lost stuffed animal a spa treatment before it was returned to its owner, a 7-year-old named Carter.

Carter's grandmother, Karin Hopkins Dickson, had posted a message on Facebook in the Standish Maine Community Page pleading for members to be on the lookout for Carter’s lost “Stuffy Puppy” he calls “Cheese Puff” that was last seen near a local restaurant and a barbershop in Standish.

“Cheese Puff” is a small brown stuffed dog with green and blue droopy ears, a blue nose and a prominent green eye. As it turned out, the restaurant and area where “Cheese Puff” was lost is adjacent to the Lavish Dog Day Spa and was where Long discovered Carter’s stuffed animal.

Once rescued by Lavish Dog Day Spa, the “Stuffy Puppy” was pampered by staff members as if it were a real canine complete with a bubble bath, a luxurious combing and then had a light blue bow tied around his neck. Brundage notified Carter’s mother, Kelly Perry, that “Cheese Puff” had been found and was ready to be reunited with Carter.

Once word of the act of kindness shown to “Cheese Puff” and Carter’s family by Lavish Dog Day Spa got out, members of the media thought it was a great story to tell their audiences. The story was filmed for different television segments that aired on News Center Maine, CBS This Morning and CNN.

The news also reached the desks of “The Kelly Clarkson Show” producers early last fall and they inquired if the dog groomers would be interested in doing another segment for their daytime program.

To be considered for an appearance on The Kelly Clarkson Show, Brundage did a preliminary Zoom interview with Kelly Clarkson’s producers and agreed to be on the program with Carter and his mother.

“We filmed on Jan. 13 and it aired on Jan. 21,” Brundage said. “It was a Skype call from my house.”

She was not paid for being on the show but said that the segment they were featured on partnered with a company gifting $1,000, so she received $500 and the boy and his mother also received $500.

“I was pretty nervous since it is airing nationally, but I handled it well I think,” Brundage said. “I did get to practice with a producer beforehand which was very helpful. Everyone I dealt with during the experience was fantastic to work with.”

According to Brundage, who started her local dog grooming business in Windham before moving it to Standish and then acquired a second location in Raymond taking over when Julie Chouinard of Dog-Gone Grooming retired in December, she is pleased that her family living out of state did get to watch her appearance on “The Kelly Clarkson Show” when it aired nationally.

“I will obviously remember talking with Kelly Clarkson,” Brundage said. “And it was great to talk with Carter and his mom Kelly as well.”

She says appearing on the Kelly Clarkson Show was a wonderful experience and her advice for those about to appear on television coast to coast is rather simple.

“Just try to relax and enjoy the experience,” Brundage said. “It is easier said than done for sure, though.”

Brundage said that she hopes that the Lavish Dog Day Spa’s rescue of “Cheese Puff” also inspires others to be kind to others.

“I just love how something so simple and fun that we did is turning into such an inspirational story,” she said. <

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Windham community steps up to ‘pay it forward’

Ashley Waters of Windham, left, 
learned in December that two
anonymous individuals had paid
more than $1,000 for physical
therapy for her son, Zeke, who
has cerebral palsy.
By Daniel Gray

Some days, there are wonderful strangers who make our day just a little easier. There's someone there to help lend a couple dollars if you're a few short at the checkout, or the person in front of you paid for your morning coffee at the drive-through. 


These acts of kindness are often referred to as “paying it forward” and come in many shapes and sizes. Over the holiday season, a number of examples of amazing community members who were “paying it forward” came to light locally.


A classic example of “paying it forward” is always at Dunkin Donuts in Windham where some people in line at the drive-through pay for the person behind them. One instance of this happened to Kathy Plamann and her husband, Keith, of Windham.


He has been going through chemotherapy for a couple months and the only thing he can keep down because of his treatments is Dunkin's vanilla chai drinks. They were in line at the drive-through and were pleasantly surprised when they found out the person in front of them had already paid for his drink. 


Kathy Plamann said that she was so touched by this kind gesture that she then paid for the person behind her as well, even though the cost was $4 extra dollars. 

"My hope for all of us, with the tough times we are all going through, is to keep the Christmas Spirit going year-round,” she said. “These have been unprecedented times, we need to keep looking out for ways to bless people, which I already see in this community and surrounding towns."

Earlier in December, the Windham Flower Shop run by Rhonda Davis had a small challenge for the community in which if you purchased a tree, you then also bought one for another family.

Davis said she was surprised when their store suddenly got an influx of businesses and customers alike buying trees for families, and it all started with Nick Beaulieu, one of Davis' friends. 

Beaulieu runs the motorcycle shop Forever Two Wheels right next door to Patmans Redemption. He
had stopped by the flower shop and bought two trees, one for himself and one for a random family who needed one.

He then posted on Facebook to challenge the community into doing the same. His friends shared the post and it got traction quickly after that. 

By the middle of December, the flower shop had sold out of trees and gave out 65 trees to families free of charge. 

Beaulieu said that he enjoys “paying it forward” to people in any way he can, whether it be buying a couple’s dinner, or just simply buying a family's tree.

He said he didn't expect his small challenge to take off so well, but he has other tricks up his sleeve planned for next year that will help local business and families in Windham during the holidays.

Another small blessing in disguise in December was when Ashley Waters of Windham found that two anonymous women had paid for physical therapy appointments for her son, Zeke, who has cerebral palsy. 

She said that the family has had so many medical bills this year and the physical therapy that their son needs was very costly.


Waters says it got to a point where Zeke didn't get to go to physical therapy at all since the family was behind on payments. 

However, two anonymous people paid more than $1,000 for appointments for Zeke and his mother couldn't be happier that he's getting the help he needs. 

For the community, Waters just wants to remind everyone that despite the tough times today with the pandemic, there's always hope and love right around the corner where you least expect it. 

"There are still good people out there no matter how much negativity, anger, and divisiveness there seems to be right now,” Waters said. “We can all still come together as a community. At the end of the day we are all human beings and we all thrive from spreading love and feeling love from others no matter how big or small it may be."

People here just always stick up for one another and help each other when needed. Our community truly is a place of caring, amazing people despite the roughness of this year. For 2021, let's strive to keep that closeness and to continue to lend a helping hand to those who need it. <

Friday, February 5, 2016

Kindness Week at Manchester School ends with a celebration and a dash of color - By Michelle Libby

Last Friday over 400 students at Manchester School in Windham celebrated kindness at an assembly featuring skits, speeches and the introduction of a color run to take place in the spring. 

“The best part was last year fourth grade students approached Mrs. Weatherbee to start an anti-bullying club,” said principal Danielle Donnini. The team worked to create the name Team Kindness and met at lunch recess to plan activities. The group consists of approximately 30 fourth and fifth graders. 

 “It has evolved from September into today,” said guidance counselor Jessica Weatherbee. “One little idea can turn into something this huge,” she told the audience of fourth and fifth graders. 

On Friday, some of the team put on kindness skits showing how to be nice to someone who gets tripped or drops their books. 

The whole week was dedicated to doing something to help others. “They want to expand kindness throughout the whole school,” said Weatherbee. “We want to create a culture of kindness in the building.”
The whole school, led by the chorus, sang a kindness song about “reach out your kind-hearted hand.” All of it part of The Great Kindness Challenge, an online program that encourages schools to devote one week to performing as many acts of kindness as possible, choosing from a 50 item checklist. The items vary from smile at 25 people to walk a dog or cat. 
The school also held a door contest on way to show kindness. Many of the classrooms had interactive doors that had quotes and special touches to show and give suggestions on ways to be kind. One door was made to look like an iPhone with apps for kindness, for example Kindness Watchers (Weight Watchers), Teamwork, KindFlix (Netflix), FriendBook and InstaKind. 

Student Adrianna Libby said her favorite app was Stand up. “It’s about standing up for yourself.”
Donnini declared that everyone won the contest because it’s all about kindness and everyone wins when it comes to kindness. 

Donnini quoted Ellen DeGeneres, “I just think that kindness is something we should all have…We need more of that out there.” 

“This week reminded us just a little bit about how we want to be,” said Weatherbee. During the week the students were asked to bring in a food item for the Windham Food Pantry for the privilege of breaking dress code and wearing a hat in school. With a two day notice the school rallied and brought in 283 items to donate. 

The also held themed dress up days like “tied together with kindness” where kids wore curly ribbon and bow or neck ties, “crazy for kindness” where they wore mismatched clothes and the “dreaming of kindness” where the students wore pajamas. 

The students made iMovie videos about what kindness means to them and they continued talk about “creating a chain reaction,” which they learned about in Rachel’s Challenge. 

The Kindness Team has been meeting twice a month and according to Weatherbee, “the students are teaching and guiding me” about what they want to accomplish. 

“I’ve seen so much kindness and I know this is going to continue,” said vice principal Kristal Vargo-Ward. 

Weatherbee also announced that Mrs. Carle’s class will be organizing a color run as their Community Day project. Manchester hosts a community day every year to celebrate each class doing a year-long project to benefit something in the community. The color run will be a one or two mile, untimed race. Weatherbee, Vargo-Ward and gifted and talented teacher Jennifer Breton volunteered to demonstrate how the color run would work, with students tossing a colored chalk-like substance on their white shirts creating a colorful art piece. The color run is scheduled for April 10th.