Showing posts with label outdoors. Show all posts
Showing posts with label outdoors. Show all posts

Friday, April 5, 2024

PowerServe volunteers gearing up for 2024 Windham projects

By Ed Pierce and Masha Yurkevich

Author Mitch Albom once wrote that love is how you stay alive, even after you’re gone. In the case of Windham High School student Shane Donnelly, his death has led to an outpouring of community service projects accomplished in his memory through an organization called PowerServe.

Shane Donnelly was 16 and a 
sophomore at Windham High School
when he tragically died in 2015. To
honor his memory, the organization
PowerServe was created to assist
people in need in Windham with
home repairs and other community
projects. This year's PowerServe
event will be April 27 and 
volunteers are needed to lend a hand.
Shane Donnelly was just 16 and a sophomore at WHS when he passed away unexpectedly in May 2015. He cared deeply about his community and to show their love for him, his family joined Young Life students and Kristine Delano in organizing the first PowerServe in 2016, a one-day event where volunteers serve Windham area organizations and individuals who need assistance by performing various tasks from painting, yard work, and repairs. The first PowerServe event was only supposed to be a one-time occurrence but following an enormous volunteer response, it became an annual event growing to include hundreds of volunteers and dozens of projects each year.

“The purpose of the event is to come together and support and serve others. We had our largest turnout last year with over 300 hundred volunteers that supported 17 projects throughout the community,” said Bob Donnelly, Shane’s father. “The event this year will start at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, April 27 at the Windham Historical Society.”

He said the Power Serve team is always looking for more volunteers but more importantly, needs projects that they can work on for others in need.

“If you know of a person or group that is in need of help with a project, we clean trails, plant memorials, paint sheds, pick up trash, clean gutters, rake leaves, remove old structures, and repair decks,” Donnelly said. “We want to provide joy and bring smiles to those in need in our community. We want to help people from all walks of life and hope to make a difference so join us for this great event and nominate a project that we can help someone in the Windham area. Thank you so much for your support in growing this event.”

Kim Donnelly is Shane’s mother and serves as Volunteer Coordinator and Co-Director of the PowerServe event.

“My son Shane Donnelly was a student, athlete, kind young man and loving son. When he passed away unexpectedly at the age of 16, it was not only a shock to our family, but to the community and students at school,” she said. “Nothing can fill the void from Shane’s passing. However, being able to materially see the impact that this event has had on the students, individuals and our larger community does help to feel that he left his mark on this world. Having past classmates of Shane’s and current students come back to Windham to support one another and our neighbors is so heartwarming.”

She said PowerServe is such a gift and tribute to Shane’s memory.

“Shane loved the peace and beauty of the outdoors,” his mother said. “The projects that we do mean that our volunteers are working outside together to do good. It’s wonderful to see these students volunteer alongside local business teams, church members, teachers, friends, and families. It truly shows that Windham residences support one another.”

This year’s event will start at the Windham Historical Society gardens in Windham Center. Each volunteer will receive a PowerServe t-shirt and by 1 p.m. the projects wrap up and all volunteers are treated to a barbecue lunch at the Windham Historical Society.

“This is an opportunity to talk about the wonderful people you have supported as most love to come out and talk with the volunteers,” Kim Donnely said. “It gives you an amazing feeling of giving back to the community and those around us. You will also meet some wonderful people in your community who are volunteering alongside you.”

PowereServe Committee Member Anne Daigle said that she’s known the Donnelly Family for over 30 years and personally knew Shane.

“I felt compelled to do this in hopes that it would help to heal the family as well as the community,” Daigle said.

Past projects accomplished by volunteers involved cleaning up storm damage at Dundee Park, spring cleanups, painting softball dugouts, performing repairs on decks and steps and stacking firewood.

“Giving back and helping others is the heart of any community and having the students and other members of the community work together I believe gives us all a little hope that this coming generation is amazing,” Daigle said. “We help continually, and we are happy to help anyone in need.”

To sign up to volunteer for this year’s PowerServe event or to nominate a project to be worked on, visit or send an email to <

Friday, September 2, 2022

Grant supports outdoor learning at Windham Middle School

Windham Middle School students work on building raised
gardens for planting seeds last spring at the school. WMS is
the recipient of a $1,500 grant from the Maine
Environmental Education Association for continuing to create
new ways to help students appreciate outdoor activities.
By Ed Pierce 

A new grant is helping students at Windham Middle School to learn more about the natural world, fostering independence and promoting spending more time outside.

WMS is one of 160 in the state to receive funding from the Maine Environmental Education Association, helping to create more outdoor learning opportunities statewide. MEEA has distributed $200,000 for the initiative and WMS has received a grant of $1,500 for teachers to reimagine classrooms outside.

The grant benefits WMS educators by supporting a project to create a new garden/greenhouse at the school. Statewide, MEEA grants were awarded to schools for projects including outdoor recreation, science exploration, art outdoors, curriculum and professional development, snowshoes, gardening and birding.

The grant applicants were selected on the basis of innovative ways to engage students in the outdoors and reported on the wide range of positive impacts to their students, from increased school attendance to academic learning outcomes to improved mental and physical health.

“At MEEA, we are so grateful for the amazing educators who have worked so hard this year to get their students outside learning. Research shows that outdoor learning has hugely positive mental and physical health benefits, and also academic benefits for youth,” said MEEA’s Executive Director Olivia Griset. “We also know that not all youth have access to the outdoors, which is an environmental justice issue. These teachers and projects happening in public schools across the state are helping to ensure that our youth have positive experiences gaining a deeper connection to nature in their local community.” 

Griset said that teachers and school administrators across Maine are stretching to fill the gap between school funding and their students’ needs and these grants are highly valuable.

“Often with limited resources, teachers are accomplishing incredible projects, engaging a variety of students, and bringing outdoor learning to new extents across the state. The impact of these projects supports thousands of students across the state," she said. "Supporting teachers and schools in the pursuit of outdoor learning is a critical piece of MEEA’s mission as the organization strives to enhance and amplify the efforts of individuals and organizations that are building environmental awareness, fostering appreciation and understanding of the environment, and taking action towards creating equitable and resilient communities.”

Using the MEEA grant, materials were purchased to create raised beds, soil, starter trays, and seeds for a school garden at WMS School.

School administrators say that WMS students took a lead role in nearly every step of the process, marking the first time that designing and building raised beds, including researching the design, planting the seeds, and using power tools were incorporated in an outdoor classroom there.

“I used to be afraid to go outside because of hornets and ticks and bugs but building outside distracted me from my fear of bugs. It was exciting to use power tools, and I don’t even mind the bug bites I got,” WMS students said about the garden/greenhouse project. “The grant got their money’s worth because this garden will last for a long time. I’m looking forward to coming to school to use the gardens over the summer, and it’ll be a pretty nice home for the worms.” 

The beds that were created at WMS were offered for families to use over the summer, and several families living in apartments nearby responded positively to the offer. As a result, school officials says that this fall’s harvest will be able to feed WMS students during their snacks and lunches this fall.

According to Angela Mavrich of the MEEA, this is the first community garden for the families of students at Windham Middle School, and she said that first group of students using the garden now have all the necessary skills and knowledge to go from the vision to execution of raised beds.

“MEEA continues to seek impactful partnerships with local communities and organizations during this changing cultural and environmental climate, as the equity-centered environmental work that MEEA creates plays a key role in building an environmentally literate Maine; where all people can engage civically and understand the relationship between their wellbeing and that of their environment,” Mavrich said.

Griset said that MEEA expects the 2022-2023 school year will be as successful as last year’s program with a new round of grants to be awarded in November and anyone or an organization is encouraged to join the effort by donating to this fund. To do so, send an email to

“We are grateful to all the individuals who donated to make this project possible and to all the amazing teachers for their incredible work,” she said. <