Saturday, August 3, 2013

Legally Blonde, the musical Review By Michelle Libby

Windham Center Stage Theater (WCST) has a hit on their hands with Legally Blonde, the musical, directed by Rob Juergens and staring many of Windham’s local talent.

“It’s not a princess show,” said Juergens, who hoped that parents realized that the show is rated PG for a little language and some themes that might be inappropriate for young children.

That being said, the audience of close to 100 on Sunday afternoon was impressed with the show, which had something for everyone. One woman from Livermore Falls brought her daughter and granddaughters from Tennessee to see the play.

Catchy tunes and witty dialogue rolled off the tongues of the actors. The story opens with sorority president Elle Woods, played by Janelle LoSciuto, expecting to get engaged to her boyfriend, Warner, played by Dillon Bates, who in turn dumps her because she’s not serious enough. He’s heading off to Harvard Law to make something of himself.

Elle follows him there, getting in with her creative application. She is befriended by Emmett, played by Tony Ennis, who helps her with her studies and stands by while Elle pines for Warner. Warner has a new girl friend, Vivienne, played by Shelbi Wassick, who is as vindictive as they come.

The cast was filled in with other stand out performances by Beth Gaudet, who was one of my favorite actors in the show, playing Paulette the hairdresser. Her singing was spot on and her acting and accent created many laughs over the course of the two hour, 40 minute show.

My favorite part, as well as for the woman sitting next to me, was the UPS man, played by Peter Perzel. Though he wasn’t on stage for much of the show, when he was there he had the crowd laughing and impressed with his comedic timing. One older woman called him “walking porn.” 

The live band did a great job with the tremendous amount of musical accompaniment. They were able to set the mood and help with the energy of the show. Although, the band was a bit loud at times, covering some of the singing and making it hard to understand some of the lyrics.

LoSciuto (Elle) and Ennis (Emmett) did most of the hard lifting of the show and did it with style and abilities that made the audience root for them to succeed.

Other actors switched between parts, but did so in a way that I wasn’t sure if they were the same person on not – A sign of good actors.

Another highlight was the court scene with Nikos, the pool boy, played by Andrew Shepard. Latin-accented, fashion forward, gay Nikos with his boyfriend played by Brad Meader, had everyone laughing out loud with their song, Gay or European.

It was an enjoyable show with good acting and lots of laughs. The catchy songs stay with you long after the musical is over. Kudos to the behind the scenes crew from props to lighting and costumes, it all helped to sell the show.

Tickets are still available for this weekend, August 2, 3 and 4, which is also the closing weekend for Legally Blonde.   Tickets are on sale at the door or online at For more information, email The show takes place at the Windham Town Hall at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 4 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $10 for seniors and students and $12 for adults.

Legally Blonde is what community theater is all about. Go see neighbors and friends perform in this fun show.

High school students learn survival skills throught science By Elizabeth Richards

Twenty-one high school juniors and seniors from New England and New York are learning the science of survival this week at Saint Joseph’s College. They are participants in the first Science Island Extreme summer program, which culminates in a mock shipwreck and rescue simulation on Little Chebeague Island in Casco Bay.

    The program was developed after Lynn Brown, dean of enrollment at St. Joseph’s, heard about a course, Science Island, that high school teacher Russel Taylor was teaching. Taylor was inspired by Dr. Jonathan Hare, a British physicist and television presenter, after watching Hare shoot his voice across an island on a light beam on an episode of the BBC’s Rough Science. When he couldn’t replicate the experiment, Taylor emailed Hare to ask how he had done it. Hare responded, and a friendship began. Together, they developed the curriculum for Science Island.  When Taylor teaches the course, Dr. Hare visits his classroom from England via Skype. This summer, Hare has joined the staff of Science Island Extreme.

    After Brown approached Taylor, a committee was formed, and after a year and a half of organizing and planning, Science Island Extreme was launched. Brown said that the program was developed for several purposes. “We wanted to develop another recruiting strategy, as well as generate some summer revenue, and utilize the wonderful campus we have here,” she said.

    Taylor, who is the co-director of the camp, said there was originally some pressure to have the program last summer, but it was quickly determined that that wouldn’t be possible. “We wanted a quality product, we wanted something that was really good, and to do that takes a lot of time,” he said.

     Taylor said the committee didn’t want this to be just another survival camp. “We wanted to focus on science and STEM (Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology) and put a real twist in the survival,” he said. In order to do that well, they had to find a faculty which included experts in their fields, who could also teach. Taylor brought together a team of highly skilled instructors who fit that bill.

    Maureen LaSalle, director of Alfond Center, events & wellness for Saint Joseph’s College, is the camp’s co-director, and the organizational guru for the program. Her role was to work out scheduling and all the details essential to planning this kind of program, including making sure parents felt comfortable dropping off their kids for a week, and making sure campers knew the expectations, as well as where to be and when. 

    Putting the camp together was a true team effort according to Taylor and LaSalle. “Without the really strong teamwork that took place, it would not have come together so well,” said LaSalle. “We all sort of ran with our own expertise in putting the camp together. It really was a partnership,” she said. 

    Students had to go through an application process similar to what applying to college would be like, said LaSalle, because along with the hands-on learning experiences, they are earning three college credits for their participation. Additionally, there is some SAT prep work built into their schedule for the week.

     Taylor said that he knew they would need to “ramp up” the Science Island course to make it a successful camp experience.  “Kids don’t want just a science camp, they want to do something cool,” he said. “We wanted them to use all their knowledge at the end on something really big. A lot of camps you learn it and then you go home, but you never apply it.”

    That is not the case with this program. On Friday, the participants will be taken by barge to Little Chebeague Island, split into two teams for a friendly competition, and put through a series of challenges which will force them to use the skills they have learned. They will attempt to get a message to the Coast Guard, who along with the Portland Fire Department, have agreed to conduct a rescue training exercise that day. “It will be a thrilling ending because you get to use all this stuff, you have a competition, you have all these challenges, plus you get the real rescue, what the feeling would be. It’s the closest you could come to actually being shipwrecked and learning those skills with the most competent professional people you could find,” said Taylor.

    In preparation for their big adventure, participants will rotate through four one-hour classes daily that will teach them the skills they will need to get through the challenges presented to them on the island. They are working in labs and classrooms, as well as outdoors on the campus.

    On Tuesday morning, the second day of camp, students were dispersed throughout the campus. One group was gathered on the campus green. Dr. Hare was leading the group through the light beam experiment that had first inspired Taylor to seek him out. He will also work with students on skills such as Morse code and radio communications, among other things, throughout the week.

The second group was working with Nancy Cripe and Steve Engstrom, who are teaching skills in water purification, botany and foraging for food. The first day was spent learning what the students already knew about different plants, and then getting out and collecting edible plants, said Cripe. On Tuesday, they were working with “critters from the sea,” such as periwinkles, mussels and clams, learning how these creatures live, as well as how to safely prepare them to eat. Thursday, said Cripe, they will learn how to make water potable, and Thursday will be spent preparing them for their island adventure.

A third group gathered at the edge of the woods, where a rope strung between two trees served as an outdoor classroom. Instructor Wade Ward led the students through information essential to rope rescues.  In addition to rope rescue skills, Ward will teach orienteering and navigation as well.

A steady squeaking sound came from the final group, located in the woods behind the campus, as students tried to start a fire with friction using a bow. The group was focused and engaged, adjusting the length of their bows or their technique after suggestions and encouragement from instructor Mike Mutchie. In this session, students were going to learn other methods of fire starting as well. On Monday, Mutchie had taught shelter building, and the evidence of this class was scattered throughout the wooded area.  Mutchie will also teach wilderness first aid skills to the students throughout the week.

LaSalle said that camp is going very well. During the camp session, she is on hand to make sure students are safe, where they need to be, and entertained with some evening presentations, though they don’t want to add too much into the already full schedule. “We’re not trying to fill the camp with a lot of extra things because the academic piece is challenging. It’s exhausting, because these instructors have them all day long,” she said. “The curriculum is pretty intense. They’re learning a lot in a short period of time,” she added.

Participant Brianna Russell from Falmouth, said she found out about the program from a pamphlet at school, and was drawn to the hands-on experience it offered. She’s looking forward to the island experience on Friday, but said “I think it’s really important that we learn the skills too. I’m glad we’re learning the skills.” On this second morning of camp, she said she was having a lot of fun. Adam Josselyn, a student from Oxford, agreed. “It’s the most fun I’ve had in a while,” he said.

The goal for the program is to have it grow, and continue to take place at Saint Joseph’s year after year. “We want it to be something that Saint Joseph’s can look at and say this is something very unique, very high quality that will attract a student that’s really interested in survival and science. I think that we’ve succeeded on a small scale the first time through,” said Taylor.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Jesse Jordan and his dog By Michelle Libby

Jesse Jordan has been in a wheelchair for almost 10 years. For eight of those years he has had the help from his constant companion Wini, a golden retriever who has helped Jesse grow up and become independent while living with muscular dystrophy.

The service dog helps Jordan pick up items, turn on lights, open doors, get the phone, open the refrigerator and other things that Jordan can’t do for himself. “Wini can’t do much of this anymore,” said Jordan. About the middle of last year Jordan noticed that when he asked Wini to do something she would hesitate and look around to see if anyone else might do the task.

Wini’s hips began giving her trouble a few years ago and she wasn’t able to do everything he needed, Jordan said.

The decision was made to let Wini retire and find another service dog. Service dogs are not inexpensive. It costs about $25,000 to raise a dog until they are trained according to Jesse’s grandmother, Jude Elliott. Jordan and his family have to raise $9,500 to pay for a new dog. To date they have raised approximately $4,000 through various fundraisers like ice cream socials, Facebook, car washes and Clinks bags. .

“It’s worth it for what the dog can do,” said Elliott.

“I do like to be as independent as I can,” Jordan said.

Usually it takes a long time to find the right match between owner and dog, but luckily a match was found for Jesse quickly. Radar, a 16-month-old yellow Labrador retriever, is in Massachusetts finishing his training at one of several prisons in New England that train service dogs.

“We have been told that Radar has been trained by a woman at a medium security prison in Massachusetts, who we will have the opportunity to meet while we are down there training. I think it is a great experience for both the puppy raiser as well as Jesse,” said Jesse’s mom, Tina Gagnon.
The family will go to Massachusetts to NEADS, the National Education for Assistance Dogs Services, where they will train with Radar for two weeks. During that time he will be trained specifically for Jordan’s needs, said Elliott.

The training consists of learning commands, going to crowds and going to the food court of a mall and dropping food on the ground and Jordan has to make Radar not eat it.

“I’m pretty excited. I think it’s going to be cool,” said Jordan.

Having a male dog was recommended, according to Elliott. “Wini will watch to make sure he’s doing what he’s supposed to be doing and that he’s doing it right,” she said. Radar should be home in Standish with Jordan by mid-August.

“It will be weird to have a new dog with Wini around,” said Jordan.

Jordan has an aide who works with him five days a week. Ben Anderson is like a second member of the family, said Jordan.

Jordan is attending college having just completed his first year in a drafting and design program. He also runs his own decal business making stickers for cars and printing them off on his printer. Jordan also spends time playing Xbox and fishing and working with his van, which he just had painted. 

Wini’s retirement job is as a welcome dog at Jesse’s step-father’s Black Bear Auto Care shop. “She’s the greeter,” said Elliott. Wini is part of the family and will stay with them, even after Radar arrives.
“I want to say I am determined to be independent. I want to say thank you for helping me to raise money to get a service dog,” said Jordan.

Unsupervised skatepark vandalized By Michelle Libby

As July 1, 2013, the Windham skatepark no longer was supervised. The Windham Town Council voted to no longer pay to have someone on site and allow the teens who use the park to police themselves.

This past week, the DARE concessions trailer was broken into and $300 was stolen, and in another incident the storage shed was also broken into and two skateboards, bought with a PEP grant, were taken.

Over the weekend, more damage was done to the park including damage to signs, ramps, a basketball hoop and trash was left all over the area, according to town manager Tony Plante during his report to the Windham Town Council Tuesday night.

“I’d say this is really discouraging and disappointing to see how little respect somebody has for community assets,” said Plante.

The no bikes sign was torn down and the no music sign was bent in half to hide the words. “The activity I’ve seen at the park (since July 1) has mostly been bikes,” Plante said. Donated bike ramps that were stored on the outskirts of the park were brought into the park.

“The park is designed for skateboards, it was not designed for bikes,” Plante said. “Very early on we learned bikes and boards don’t mix, so we limited it to skateboards and skates.”

In addition to the litter and vandalism, whoever was doing the damage also turned on the lights by breaking into the electrical panel inside the shed.
Plante said that the town is having the electrical service disconnected and the concession trailer has been removed from the site.
“We are doing what we can to oversee it and clean it up. This is still a work in progress,” said Plante.

“Obviously we thought it would police itself,” said councilor David Nadeau. Councilor Tom Gleason spent many hours taking notes of who used the skatepark. He said that many who used the park were in their mid-20s and were from Portland.

“I had a feeling this was going to happen,” said councilor Dennis Welch.
“The council made a leap of faith and trusted that people would be respectful,” said Plante. “If they are from Windham, they should be deeply ashamed of themselves.”

“If you don’t respect it, it won’t be there,” said councilor Scott Hayman.
According to police, the matter is still under investigation and they could not comment.

Kaile's Korner heads to television By Michelle Libby

Beginning in September Kaile Warren will be the host of his own TV series, Kaile’s Korner, onWPXT and WPME. Kaile’s Korner, the same name as his column in The Windham Eagle, will be a half-hour home improvement show, according to president of the stations Tom MacArthur.

The show will air multiple times through the week on both stations.
Warren is a nationally recognized home improvement guru having worked at the CBS Early Show for 10 years and made appearances on HGTV and wrote for Parade Magazine.

“I want to start a dialogue about people working in the construction trade. I want parents to look at it as a destination for their children, not something they fall into,” said Warren.

MacArthur hopes to make the show interactive using texting and email to help people with their home improvement problems.

“We are always keeping in mind the universal appeal to all people,” said MacArthur. “The show will be entertaining, informational and educational in nature. Kaile has the personality everyone can relate, understand and learn from and go out and do it after the show,” he said. “He’s a professional. You want him as a friend and you definitely want him as a next door neighbor to
help with home projects.”

Warren sees his audience being do-it-yourselfers and enthusiasts and college-educated females between 25 and 55 years old.

“What I’m looking to do is bring my passion back after four years of being dormant and bring it to this TV series. I’m ready to get to work and deliver something the viewers can get behind here in Maine and I’m glad to be from Windham,” Warren said.

“I hope to be a leading voice and a leading force in the industry,” he added.
The set is still in the design phase, according to MacArthur. “We’re not sure how elaborate or minimalistic it will be,” he said. What he does know is that there will be a camera that will be able to take pictures from above the table Warren will be working on. There will be a Kaile’s Korner sign and many different camera angles.

“I’m really excited about the way it will be shot,” said Warren.

The show will be produced by Dan Seaver and show times are scheduled to change, but to start the show may run Sundays at noon and Saturdays at 7 p.m. The original plan is to shoot 22 shows, Warren said.

“That’s a testament to how much we think about Kaile and what he can bring to a station like ours,” said MacArthur.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

3 on 3 basketball funraiser shoots and scores By Michelle Libby

Thirty-three teams turned out to compete and raised $2,560, which will be split between the Windham Primary School Playground Fund and the Dan Giguere Family Fund in the first annual Sonic Co-ed 3 on 3 Basketball Tournament. The tournament was sponsored by Windham Youth Basketball and Windham Millwork.

“You’re never quite sure how it goes when you invite a bunch of people to your party,” said Patrick Moody, president of Windham Youth Basketball. “It was a lot of fun.”

The tournament was named after teacher, father and Windham athlete Dan Giguere, whose nickname in high school was Sonic for how fast he was. Giguere died in February after a car accident in Florida. The number twelve on the logo was Dan’s number when he played.

Crusher from the Red Claws came to cheer teams on and concessions were run by Michelle Jordan who heads the playground fundraising committee. Rob Donato of Sebago Sports helped managed brackets, which helped when teams who weren’t signed up came to play, said Moody.

A year ago, we, at Windham Youth Basketball, started discussing a 3 on 3 tournament. This year we made it happen. “Make it happen” was one of Dan’s favorite sayings, Moody said.

“We give to the community with the playground, but we help to support his family too,” Moody said.
The tournament from “here on out will be held annually looking to support local programs and charities,” said Moody.

Jordan told Moody that when they “purchase the basketball hoops for the court that will be built at the primary school for the playground, she is planning on having them donated in Windham Youth Basketball’s name.”

“Next year it’s going to be bigger and better,” said Moody.

Thanks go out to supporting sponsors Bob the Screenprinter, Poland Spring Water, Walmart, Award Champs, Mad Mike’s Custom Detail, Maine Red Claws and Everlast Hardscapes. Windham Little also helped with the porta-potties. “It was a real community deal,” Moody said.

Windham family hosts Taiwanese students By Elizabeth Richards

Imagine welcoming a group of 10 international students ages 8 to 16 and a couple of their parents into your home for an entire month. Imagine coordinating schedules for these children to attend educational camp programs, visit tourist sites, and experience life in a small American community. For the Bennett family of Windham, this is reality, as they host a group of Taiwanese children and parents in their home for the month of July.

Nathaniel and Nini Bennett met in Taiwan when Nathaniel was teaching there. The experiences that Nathaniel shared about growing up in Windham were the inspiration for hosting groups in their home, said Nini. “My husband came from here. He had a good experience when he grew up and he shared his experience with us. We would like to share his town with all the Taiwanese kids,” she said.

The group is connected to a small English school the Bennetts operate in Nini’s native Taiwan. Nathaniel said the children are either students at the school or friends of students. They invite students from their school to spend a month with them, and use that time to introduce them to Windham and to Maine, letting them experience the American education system, food and way of life, said Nini.

“We can teach them over there, but there’s only so far we can go,” said Nathaniel. “They have to come over here and interact with the other kids, they really have to.”

There’s a lot of pressure in school in Taiwain, Nathaniel said. While their test based system works well for some students, for others it does not, but they could do well here in the US. “We’re trying to introduce them to another choice,” he said. Though there is an adjustment period for the kids when they first arrive, Nathaniel said they love it. “They see a new way,” he said.


This isn’t the first summer the Bennetts have opened up their home. Nathaniel said they’ve been bringing groups from Taiwan to Windham since they returned here to live. They want to introduce an international element into the community, which can be difficult, said Nathaniel. “We want to mesh with the community somehow,” he added.

Nini agreed. “What we would like to do is we would like to develop Windham,” she said. “We see many opportunities.” For example, she said, they would like to have long term educational opportunities in the community for Taiwanese students, rather than just a month in summer. The summer is an opportunity for them to try it, she said. Nathaniel added that they have already hosted students for longer time periods, and these students studied at Windham Christian Academy and Cheverus High School.

This group arrived in early July, and will stay with the Bennetts until July 30. The first five days the group was in town was a whirlwind of activity, with visits to Aquaboggin, Portland Headlight and Cliff Island, among other activities.

After those first days, the students settled into their summer programs. Two students left for Amherst, Massachusetts to participate in the Great Books program at Amherst College. Seven others are participating in the summer program at Waynflete, and another student has spent time in art programs at both the University of Southern Maine and the Maine College of Art. Another Taiwanese couple is staying with their son for 45 days in an apartment over the Bennett’s garage, and taking him to the same program at Waynflete.
When asked what their goals are in bringing the groups to Windham, Nathaniel said, “We just want to introduce them to the community, and we hope the community can be open to it. Our goal is to have the community embrace other cultures and be open to that.”

Diane Leavitt strategizes her way cross country By Michelle Libby

Pulmonary arterial hypertension. Two years ago, those words were spoken to Windham High School teacher Diane Leavitt. She went on oxygen right away and has had to have a portable oxygen concentrator with her all of the time since then.

That hasn’t stopped her from living her life. Leavitt has taken a road trip this summer with her middle son, Christopher. However, it’s not just any road trip. She has a mission.

Leavitt had breathing problems prior to her diagnosis, she wasn’t sure why she was walking slower and unable to do the things she wanted to do like kayak and canoe. Now she has trouble breathing when she walks into school and when she talks animatedly. “They still don’t know what’s causing it,” said Leavitt.
“I take a break getting into school outside the office, which is about halfway to my room. I get to see a lot of the kids because I’m going slow. I see a lot of good that comes out of people,” Leavitt said.

Leavitt is an educator at heart. She also likes to travel, but what’s a woman who carries oxygen around supposed to do? In Leavitt’s case, she packs her bags, Christopher, and heads on a cross country trip to document her journey and to discuss life with people she meets along the way.

“Each year I get progressively worse. Next year I might not be able to travel. I don’t expect much. I just experience it,” she said.

As a little girl she would walk around the neighborhood in Cambridge and introduce herself to the neighbors. “Finding out about other people, that’s what the traveling is all about,” she said. This trip has brought her back to that time in her life when she introduces herself to people and talks to them.

Now she uses her camera to document the stories about people with and without disabilities from all over the country. She hopes that this film will help people who get a diagnosis like hers to learn about and manage what they might go through.

“I just think about the early stage and how scary it was. Doctors specializing in this can recommend (the documentary) to their newly diagnosed patients,” Leavitt said.

Her new philosophy is “random acts of longer random but a way of life. This attitude is a magnet for kindness in return. This states a lot about the project and what we can do for each other.” She has learned about the kindness of others and how people sympathize with her. They want to know where she got her oxygen machine, which she calls R2D2 after seeing a Star Wars display, or they want to help her in general.

“I’m really visible. A lot of people are dealing with things that aren’t visible,” she said. “Find that positiveness and stick with it.”

“Part of my learning was educating my family and friends. Here I am an educator. I’m on oxygen and some people are way worse. I’m still active. It’s better to keep moving, keep doing,” she said.

“I force myself to keep going physically. People have to do what they have to do,” she said. She knows one student that has cancer and when she hears a perfectly healthy teen say that her life sucks and he can’t take it, Leavitt looks at her student and can’t believe it what she’s hearing. “I want to give a message to high school kids. You’ve got to figure out a way around it. Learn to strategize,” Leavitt said.

Medically, there was no prognosis given for her condition, but when she Googled it…”It’s very disturbing,” she said. However, her doctor told her that there are no rules.

The trip cross country is not part of a bucket list. She doesn’t want to call it that. “I understand my limitations and strategize accordingly,” she said.

Many people told her that she couldn’t make this trip. Physically, they said she couldn’t do it. “They’ll try to rob you or take advantage of you.” She didn’t believe her friends. She was determined.

t the end of day one she said, “I can’t physically do this…without Christopher. People are going to help me out. It’s a trip instead of an ordeal,” Leavitt said.

Their destination is Calfornia, San Francisco and the Redwood Forest. She also got in touch with a group that’s meeting in Sacramento like the support group she belongs to here in Maine. They invited her to stop by and she hopes to get interviews with some of the members.
They left Las Vegas on Wednesday, heading for the west coast. They plan to return to Maine around August 8.

Leavitt is best known for her work with the business simulation classes, but she is also the community service coordinator and coordinator for the allied arts at Windham High School.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Solar project at East Windham Fire Station moves forward by Elizabeth Richards

Within the next few months the East Windham Fire Station will have a very different look. The town council voted in late June to move forward with a project that will install an array of solar panels on the roof of the station. Curt Bartram, an energy engineer and member of the town’s Energy Advisory Committee said, “Solar energy systems do work in the State of Maine, and this is going to be a good example of how they can benefit towns, and people in the towns.”

Another committee member, Rocky Ackroyd, spoke in favor of the initiative at the June 25 town council meeting. “It is a perfect pilot project for the community to move into the solar world,” he said.

The project is a joint venture between the Town of Windham, and Portland-based ReVision Energy, which approached the committee with the concept of doing a solar project using none of the town’s money, said Bartram. The company purchases the system at its estimated cost of $117,000, and will own and operate the system for the first six years. Windham will purchase the energy generated at a discounted cost of one cent below Windham’s indexed market rate during this six-year time frame, after which the town will have the option to purchase the system for $35,000. The panels will create as much energy as is used by the East Windham Fire Station and the North Windham Fire Station combined, said Ben Smith, assistant town planner in Windham.

“Part of what makes this work for both the town and ReVision is that there are solar energy credits available to the company whereby they sell discounted electricity to the town, and then after six years the town has the option to purchase the solar panel and all the equipment that goes with it at a very discounted rate,” said Smith. While the final contract is still being reviewed, and there is no construction schedule in place yet, Smith said that the panels will be installed before winter.

The goal is to have the town take ownership after the six years, he said. “That’s certainly where the town would see the greatest energy savings dollar wise, but having that six year time period to basically evaluate the system, see how much it’s actually going to generate, will inform that decision when the time comes,” he said. There is a projected savings of approximately $100,000 over 30 years, said Smith, and an estimated $5,500 annual savings once the town owns the system.

While cost savings may be the reason the energy committee could get the proposal on the council agenda, the energy committee was also interested in energy projects that the town can do from a model standpoint, said Smith. “The benefit of generating electricity that’s not fossil fuel based is certainly one of the objectives that the energy committee was looking at,” he said.

“The committee thought it was an excellent way to promote alternative energy sources and to save energy for the town at the same time,” said Bertram. “We’re trying to promote alternative energy, trying to reduce energy consumption within the town, and trying to promote the concept of alternative energies to the folks that live in Windham – that’s really our goal,” he added.

In his comment at the council meeting, Ackroyd said that while there is potential for several years of “free” energy if the town purchases the panels. That’s not what it’s all about. “It’s not the free energy. It’s the modeling of conservation and that the town is willing to do this, which is a great incentive for other people to see the need for us to start looking at alternatives to our traditional fuels that we use for electricity,” he said.

An initial meeting in April left the council with some questions around installation, snow removal, financing and payback that were answered satisfactorily by the time the council voted on the project on June 25, according to Smith. The council voted 6-1 in favor of the project.

Community Garden fills a blooming need by Michelle Libby

Two women stood in the middle of the Windham Community Garden. “I heard on the weather channel there’s late blight in New Jersery. I called Blue Seal to see about some copper.”
“We should get on that,” the other woman said. When gardeners get together they talk about the weather and the crops. It’s no different at the Windham Community Garden where there are 75 beds on Route 202.

The Windham Community Garden is run by a 10 person committee. Each committee member is in charge of overseeing the food pantry beds and making sure that someone around one of those beds is watching out for those crops.

The gardens are all organic. Gardeners are not allowed to use pesticides or harsh chemicals per the organization’s bylaws. They do care about getting rid of the pests. They use surf and turf compost from Benson’s Farm, lime to regulate the soil, Neem Oil and Surround crop protectant.

“There is a misconception,” said committee member Marge Govoni. “We live in Maine, why do we need a community garden? We have a lot of trees. Trees and woods are not compatible with growing, they provide a lot of shade. Gardens need sun.”

What is grown at the community garden is everything and anything. Tomatoes, carrots, beans, peas, cucumbers, garlic, corn, zucchini, squash, broccoli, flowers and more. Fourteen of the total beds grow crops for the Windham food pantry. Last year the garden donated over 2,100 pounds of produce including tomatoes, carrots, string beans, peas, cucumbers and two types of squash. Last year they planted winter squash for the food pantry, but a farm nearby also grew and donated winter squash, so they chose something else this year, said Govoni.

The land the garden is on is town-owned. “If the town required it back, we would give it back at anytime,” Govoni said. From an aerial view the garden is all beds except for the middle. There is a hill where the gardeners have built some rock sculptures, although they tried using it, it is all ledge and nothing could grow there.

After the first year, 2010, with no water at the garden, Fire Chief Charlie Hammond gave permission to have a water line hooked into the fire department and now there are 12 spigots for easy access to water. 

The group holds regular educational sessions led by cooperative extension on pest control and other topics important to the success of their gardens.

This year, the community garden board had to return to the town council to get permission to expand the garden. There is usually a waiting list for beds in the garden. However, due to people moving or lack of ability to care for the garden there isn’t one. The process for getting a plot of land begins in the middle of the winter, said Govoni. An application must be filled out and submitted and applicants must agree to abide by the rules and bylaws. “We supply all the tools,” Govoni said.

The group does charge for a bed, but they also offer two fundraisers each year, a fall harvest supper and a chili challenge in February. They also have been awarded a grant for a new “group house”, which is a cross between a green house and a hoop house for winter plants and extending the growing season.

The garden is looking for more members to be on the committee and is always looking for volunteers who need community service hours. “We want people who care and who have a passion, one, for gardening and two, for helping folks. We make a commitment for our gardeners to be successful. We ask that they be healthy and can work,” said Govoni. “And taking care of this garden is work.”
For more information on the Windham Community Garden, visit 

Local nonprofit offers cancer support by Elizabeth Richards

On the last Monday of each month the Windham Cancer Support Group meets at the Windham Public Library, welcoming anyone dealing with cancer to ask questions, find information or simply vent. The nonprofit organization was formed seven years ago when two women determined that there was a need for a local support group. Now, the group has a core membership of 10 to 12 people.

Kim Murray and Rachel Phinney have been involved in the group since the very early days. They had known each other before their cancer diagnoses, and were diagnosed around the same time. The group helped them become stronger in their journey, said Murray. Phinney has only missed one meeting in seven years.

Murray stressed the importance of having a local group available. During cancer treatments, she said, the Cancer Community Center (CCC) in South Portland is just too far to travel. “I never made it there, but I was able to get to this group, which was really nice,” she said.

Bob Beane joined the group five years ago, after receiving a diagnosis of aggressive prostate cancer and a prognosis of three months. He recalled walking in to the meeting the first night, seeing a group of about 14 women, and wondering what he was doing there. Now, however, he feels differently. The group includes a few men now, and they would love to add more. “This is home. It’s local. As long as we keep the door open, there are people in this community, this surrounding area, this lake region area that we hope will hear about us and come in,” said Beane. “If we can come in and tell our stories and give somebody else hope, then that’s what it’s all about.”

Even though her treatment is complete, Murray said it’s nice to see what they give back by sharing their experiences with others. “We get just as much from them, and it makes us feel good to be able to give back because it was there when we needed it,” she said.

Phinney added, “We laugh, we cry, we try to make it very light, so people will come.” The toughest aspect, she said, is getting the word out there so that people know the group exists. “We’re there in Windham for people anytime they want to contact us. We have an open door policy, and everything is confidential,” she said.

Murray added that the members of the group rely on each other. “This is our network now, this is our community – it has made me feel a part of the community in a way that supports me, but also in a way that we can give back,” she said When a cancer diagnosis comes, she said, sometimes people have no idea what to say or do. Because the people in the group have been through it, they know how much something like a gas or Hannaford gift card can mean. And the connections they’ve made matter as well. “I can’t stress enough the friendships and the bonds that we have now,” she said.

“This group is a family. We’re always there talking to each other,” added Beane. “If somebody’s got a problem there’s three or four people standing there saying ‘what can we do to help?’ That’s what it’s all about.”

The group also offers education and resources, such as speakers at every other meeting, with topics ranging from reflexology and Reiki to nutrition and laughter yoga. The education piece is important, said Beane. “For those of us who have been diagnosed and are dealing with this stuff, about 80 percent of our knowledge of this disease, what it does, and what it’s doing to us comes from support groups. It does not come from the medical community. I have learned volumes of information about my type of cancer from support groups,” he said.

The Windham Cancer Support Group supports caregivers as well, with special meetings and the opportunity to connect with other caregivers. The group participates in American Cancer Society (ACS) events, such as Relay for Life and Making Strides, and helps connect members to resources available through the ACS and the CCC.

The group is also involved in fundraising, both holding their own and participating in local fundraisers to support individuals. With these funds, and funds donated to the group, they are able to provide some support as needed, as well as supporting a couple of local families affected by cancer around the holidays.

The Windham Cancer Support Group meets on the last Monday of each month. In December, they hold a social event instead of the meeting. The support group is active throughout the summer as well. “The cancer society stresses that cancer doesn’t sleep,” said Phinney. “We try to make it as accessible as we can if somebody really needs to talk.” The next meeting will be held on Monday, July 29, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Monday, July 8, 2013

100 years of collaboration celebrated by South Windham Fire Company by Elizabeth Richards

One-hundred years of community collaboration was marked on Tuesday, June 25, as former and current members of the South Windham Fire Department came together to celebrate 100 years of continuous operation. The company, founded in 1913 as the South Windham Fire Department, was the first fire company in Windham.

The South Windham Fire Company, as it is called today, is unique in that it is a joint company that serves both the towns of Gorham and Windham, according to a press release issued by the company. Community members, who are on call respond from their homes to staff the company. They have always been staffed with people from both sides of the river, says Ernest L. Nichols, former deputy chief of the Windham Fire Department. Nichols spent the winter of 2004 doing a history of the station, compiling enough history to fill three newspapers, he joked.

The collaboration between the two towns has created a unique situation, which Nichols said has drawn comment at times. He recounted a story of a time when someone said to him “I thought you were a Windham fireman?”  When he replied that he was, the man responded that the truck he was on said Gorham. Nichols stated that he was a Gorham fireman, too. He said, “That might sound funny, but it’s true in South Windham.” 

The costs are shared between the two communities. Nichols said that the payroll and workman’s comp are paid by the community that the call comes from. Other costs, including maintenance and upkeep of the building, training, and protective gear are shared by the two towns.   In 2003, the communities split the cost of Tower 3, a 2001 Emergency One 95-foot aerial platform quint truck, with a price tag of $700,000. Without the collaboration, this piece of specialized equipment might have been out of reach. The South Windham Fire Company building has also houses trucks from both Gorham and Windham.

Nichols said that consolidation is often talked about as a way to share costs and realize savings. The South Windham Fire Company has done just that for the past 100 years. “It’s different, but it does work,” he said. “When I was coming up through the ranks, I was just as much a captain in Gorham as I was in Windham. They recognized both,” he said.

The celebration, held at the Robie School at Little Falls, was put together by members of the company, and was an excellent event, according to Nichols. The evening featured a meal and program with Deputy Chief Poitras as the MC, and several speakers, including Nichols. He described attendance as a “very good crowd,” including former and current members of the company. Members in attendance were given t-shirts with an old company photo on the back and the 100-year emblem on the front, as well as a coin which had pictures of past trucks on one side, and pictures of current trucks on the other. He added that Gorham Chief Robert Lefebvre spoke about how many people who belonged to the company had gone on further in the fire business. “We have quite a line of them,” said Nichols, citing that both Chief Hammond and Chief Lefebvre are members of the South Windham Fire Company.

The evening was a great tribute to community collaboration and service. The press release expressed the sentiment best, stating, “South Windham Fire Company is a true model of communities working together to provide the best service possible to the communities. South Windham Fire Company is looking forward to another 100 years of joint community service.”

Relay for life makes changes, still a sucessful event by Michelle Libby

With the weather forecast looking like thunderstorms in Windham Saturday
night, co-chairs for the Relay for Life, Janet Copp and Becky Driscoll, had to make the difficult decision to move the relay inside Windham High School and cut the time from 12 hours to 8 hours.

Despite the changes, spirits were high and members of the 36 teams in attendance walked, set up displays to educate the participants and most importantly raised money for the American Cancer Society. One team created a Mardi Gras themed table with a ping pong game to see who could get a ball into a cup of one of the bras stuck on a wall.

The event raised over $65,000. Relay team Kim & Butch’s Crusaders raised over $10,000 by themselves before, and the night of, the relay.

“Each of us has a unique reason for being here, but we all have something in common. We want to put an end to cancer,” Copp told the crowd of over 200. “But we are also celebrating all the lives being saved by your efforts here today.” Copp herself is a breast cancer survivor.

This relay celebrated the fifth year that Sebago Lakes has held a relay.

Upbeat music was provided by Hicks Productions to keep the walkers motivated. Despite the heat in the gym, people continued to walk around and around the track created in the gym by hundreds of luminary bags decorated by participants in memory for, or in support of, someone who has been affected by cancer. Glow sticks were lit in each bag and the lights were lowered while one member from each team read names of some of the friends and family members battling cancer.

Although it never rained, the shortened event was a good idea many thought. “Better to be safe than sorry,” one woman told a committee member.

There was a gift basket raffle with prizes ranging from a giant teddy bear to a Kindle Fire. That brought in much more money than Copp was hoping for. “My goal was to raise $2,000,” she said.

The overall goal was to raise $75,000, but Copp said, “there’s always next year.”

For more information on how to get involved in the 2014 Relay for Life, visit or email

Local drummer goes national by Kiara Tringali

It is an incredible feat for a solo drummer to be praised by The New York Times, Jazz Times, and Downbeat Magazine. It is an even more incredible event when that drummer is from Windham.
Mike Pride began his music career much like any other child of Windham: in the Manchester School band conducted by Betty McIntire. He excelled in the program all the way through middle school, where David Kent urged him to play percussion instead of the saxophone. Through music lessons, classes and activities, Pride discovered his love for music. He credits supportive parents, especially his mother (who bought well-loved instruments from yard sales so her sons could become musically adept) with his earliest successes.

When he was in college, Pride considered several different career paths before ultimately choosing music. He began with a major in visual arts with the intention of becoming a filmmaker. But after playing with the Smithsonian jazz musician David Baker in Rockport, Pride changed his mind and his major.

He’s not the only thankful one. Pride’s journey to New York brought him an immensely successful career, and a diverse one at that. He has played everything from jazz to rock to metal, including film soundtracks and video games. His diversity is evident in his two latest albums: Birthing Days and Drummer’s Corpse, both released this past May.

Birthing Days, released with Pride’s band “From Bacteria to Boys,” was written in the month after Pride’s first child was born. Pride says he spent a large amount of time at home and his landlord’s empty apartment contained a piano. Pride wrote in his free time and the music unintentionally shaped itself around the joy felt by being a parent. It is a positive record with a beautiful and warm sound.
Drummer’s Corpse is two longer compositions, almost like a classical record, with one composition at 33 minutes and the other at 26 minutes. Pride released this record with a 7-drummer band under the same name. When asked, Pride said that the first composition from Drummer’s Corpse was written after an apartment fire, while the second was written after a close friend’s death. The raw, emotional music was written from 2005 to 2007, but Pride never had any intention of releasing it on a record. As a spontaneous idea, Pride started a Kickstarter, a funding platform for creative projects, to fund the project in 2012, and the record was released in 2013.

It is unusual that a record company would release two records on the same date, let alone two records produced by the same artist. But Pride said that this made publicity much easier, especially because he can publicize both records simultaneously. Pride said that this project, specifically the one with “From Bacteria to Boys,” is his favorite project so far (although he said that he has spent long enough paying his dues and now only plays gigs he thoroughly enjoys).

Mike Pride is someone whose love for music goes beyond the recording studio and into his own personal compositions.

If you’re interested in buying Pride’s records or finding out more information about him, visit

Monday, July 1, 2013

Summerfest: family, food & fun by Michelle libby

Summerfest 2013 is history, but the memories will last in the minds of the over 4,000 people who attended the event some time during the day.

“It went off without a hitch,” Summerfest coordinator Kelly Mank said. The day kicked off with a car show, a 5K and the Lion’s Club pancake breakfast. The parade, which started later than in the past, travelled down Route 202 to the high school complex, where organizations had tents set up to sell everything from frozen hot chocolate to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

“I think it went amazing. A great success,” said Kathy Varney, who coordinated the vendors. “Minus the 50 raindrops we got, no one left because they were disenchanted or unhappy.” Some vendors ran out of products and others had other commitments, Varney said.

Smiles abounded as neighbors in the parade greeted neighbors on the side of the road. There were many different floats and entrants this year. Stanley Wisecup, the man in charge of the parade, said there were no incidents or even near incidents this year between parade goers and the larger vehicles.

“This is something we can continue to build on,” said town manager Tony Plante. “We had a rocky spring. We didn’t have the volunteers. A really great group of people stepped up, actually tons of great people,” he said.
“I watched the parade, and walked through the car show, food vendors and saw a lot of people enjoying themselves,” Plante added.

The main stage and the field in front of the stage was busy through the day with entertainment like Mad Science, the frog jumping contest and a K-9 demonstration by K-9 Grinko and his handler Sergeant Bill Andrew. The Windham Eagles’ Rob Donato acted as master of ceremony for the day. The most popular part of the day was headliners Motor Booty Affair, who played for almost two hours before the fireworks. Not even a little bit of precipitation slowed the crowds from seeing the show. Community members danced in front of the stage and in their chairs to the sixties and seventies disco music. Even The Windham Eagle’s own Dave deBree played his saxophone as a guest of the band. The fireworks, donated by Central Maine Pyrotechnics, were spectacular as billed. 

Humanitarian and Summerfest committee consultant Ron Eby was allowed to help set off the display with Windham High School principal Chris Howell and his team.

“The energy was phenomenal. The community really pulled together with volunteers and business sponsorships to make it a family friendly, fun-filled day,” Mank said. 

Safety was top priority and the Windham Police force was on site all day. “Everyone was safe. I had some concerns, but everything worked out pretty well,” Chief Rick Lewsen said. “Only two kids were missing for a few minutes.”

The silent auction raised $409.50 for the Windham Primary School playground and Del Chadbourne won the 50/50 drawing, both of which took place the day of the event.

“It went fabulously. It was an exhausting and fun day all at the same time. I honestly don’t think it could have gone any better than it did,” said Robin Mullins, who did much of the fundraising organization. Mullins also wanted to thank Josh Elliot, Joe Hansen, Michelle Brooks and Rick Yost for their help with selling advertisements and running fundraising events.

There were helicopter rides for much of the day, but when the weather rolled in threatening the fun, it no longer was safe to fly and that was closed. There were also rides and games at the carnival to add smiles to the event. Plante was in contact with people all day, he said, watching the weather. “It was if a little hole opened up in the weather front right around Windham,” he said, thus the fireworks were able to be lit.

“It was exactly what we expected Summerfest to be,” said Varney.

Next year promises to be an even larger event. Mank is hoping to grow the business expo and would like to see more youth organizations get involved to help with their yearly fundraising. 

“After all the people who have worked so hard enjoy their summer, I look forward to working with them on Summerfest 2014 and the town continuing to be part of that,” Plante said.

21st Century Family Fitness sold by Michelle Libby

After 13 years, John Booth is selling 21st Century Family Fitness to Meredith Hanby from the Oxford Hills region. She is planning to relocate to the area with her husband Bob.

“It’s not getting any closer,” said Booth. “I live in Winslow and made the commute for 13 years. The goal was to have three clubs in Maine, but the economy had other ideas.”

The new owners take possession on July 1.

“I’m scared, excited and stressed,” Meredith said. Both Meredith and Bob are teachers, but Meredith resigned last year and realized that she really likes working with people. She got her strength and conditioning certification and when she saw the gym for sale, she pursued it.

“Fitness and weightlifting are a part of our life together, part of our relationship. Weightlifting is a passion of ours,” Meredith said.

She didn’t want to be only a trainer, she wanted to have her own facility. “I want to help people in an existing facility,” she said. “It’s still teaching, just not in a traditional classroom. I want to be a business woman,” she added.

The name will change to Rohan Strength & Fitness. The fee structure will change eventually, but it will be consistent and fair, they said. They plan a fall membership drive with deals on memberships. She would like to expand the personal training, bring in atlas stones, car pulls and big tires for lifting, which is the type of weightlifting Bob is passionate about.

“I would like to find women who would like pick up heavy things off the floor. It’s empowering,” she said.

Bob will remain a teacher at his present position, but will help during the summer. The Hanby’s don’t plan to change things right away.

“Bob and I are learning what’s here. We want to meet people’s needs and start implementing things we’d like to add,” Meredith said. She also would like to upgrade equipment slowly.

Getting to know their members is very important to them. “Introduce yourself. You’re not just a face just walking though,” she said. She’d like to know everyone’s name.

They plan to hold a grand opening in August.

“What I love about this facility is that it’s so diverse here they can meet their own goals, whether it’s train for a tri-athlon, or one of the senior programs. What is offered is phenomenal,” Meredith said.

Mayer touches lives with art by Leah Hoenen

When Nancy Meyer arrives at a senior center, she unpacks watercolor paints, brushes and paper. Eager hands await the materials, ready to get to work adding color and personal flair to the watercolor paper.

Meyer has been visiting Southern Maine retirement and senior centers for more than 10 years, holding watercolor painting sessions using materials she’s designed herself. Line drawings of plants and animals on watercolor paper enable people of all abilities to paint pictures they’re proud of, she said.

Activities directors have been so pleased with the results, Meyer has launched a new business called Dandi-Lines, and now offers packaged painting projects for senior citizens for sale online.

Teaching and facilitating watercolor painting with seniors has had a great effect on Meyer, a New York native who now calls Baldwin home. “It’s so rewarding. They’re so proud of it,” said Meyer. 

She focuses on nature in her watercolor sessions, bringing pieces of the natural world inside especially for those who are unable to go out-of-doors. It may be apple blossoms, flowers or pumpkins. These special still-life subjects are sure to bring smiles, said Meyer.

The people attending Meyer’s sessions range from the very independent to those stricken with Alzheimer’s. Many forego drawing in favor of painting Meyer’s printed designs. “I always say, ‘Personalize it,’” she said. “One lady put a bottle of beer in the sand,” said Meyer, laughing and sitting in the sun on one of the first warm days of the Maine summer.

In a bright dress, eyes behind stylish sunglasses, she becomes pensive and tells of another participant who has lost her memory, and set down her painting when visitors arrived. “She walked back in to where I had the paintings and picked up hers – she has no memories anymore, and couldn’t remember her visitors, but that picture mesmerized her,” said Meyer.

“I learn from them,” she said, of her students. Some smile, paint and have a great time. Others are slowed down by the details. Others come simply to watch her paint.

“It’s like a therapy to watch someone paint. Activities directors say it’s a very therapeutic session. It’s very calming,” she said. The sessions offer an opportunity for Meyer to make personal connections.
She’s met fellow wild-bird admirers in her classes. Others love plants. There are always stories to go around.

Meyer appreciates the pride her students take in their work, and she enjoys the variety in the finished products. Despite the fact that most people paint off the same pre-printed design, no two end products are alike, she said.

Traveling around southern Maine, Meyer teaches two classes a day on average, and is working on Dandi-Lines, which she opened in May along with her business partner. Some people are unable to draw, said Meyer, while others are fabulous artists and still want to use the pattern. The printed designs enable both to express themselves in color.

“I’ve made so many people happy with painting,” she said. Meyer is a self-taught artist who got her start in craft shows when she was 18 years old. Her paintings have hung in some of New York’s prestigious galleries – she later began teaching watercolors and her business spread by word-of-mouth.

Meyer said it is a privilege for her to be able to get to know the senior citizens she works with. “They give me so much more than I give them. They have such a soul,” she said.