October 21, 2016

Bean supper and country western concert scheduled for next weekend - By Elizabeth Richards

Next Saturday, October 29th, fans of old time country music can enjoy a bean supper and concert featuring local artists Lou and Maureen Mathieu, with special guest Doug Protsik. The event is a joint effort between the Windham Veteran’s Association (WVA) and the Maine Country Music Hall of Fame (MCMHF). 

Lou was inducted into the MCMHF in 2014. His father, also in the MCMHF, was a fiddler, who introduced Lou to playing music at a very young age. Lou’s father ran a band called the Saccarappa Boys, which was started in 1976. Lou filled in with them sometimes, and when the older members stopped playing, the band became a bluegrass band under Lou’s direction. He also played for twelve years with the Maine French Fiddlers, along with his father. With this group, Lou toured all over the country. 

After retiring from the mill, Lou started his own business teaching music and repairing instruments. He ran this out of his garage for 15 years. Though he is now retired from teaching, he still does some instrument repair, mainly through word of mouth recommendations.

When the bluegrass band broke up, Lou said, he returned to teaching and playing with his students. He and Maureen kept learning new material and began performing together. They mainly perform old time country and old time western songs with yodeling and a wide range of string instruments. 

Maureen was born and raised in Weston, VT. She grew up playing bluegrass and ragtime on the piano. After moving to Maine, she learned to play a variety of other instruments including the accordion, fiddle, mandolin and bass. In addition to performing, Maureen does custom pearl inlay on instruments, also through word of mouth.

Maureen and Lou met when she was at a gig he was playing with his father. During the intermission, she started speaking with his dad, and discovered that Lou gave fiddle lessons. “I gave her my card, and the rest is history,” Lou said. 

The couple has been together for ten years, married for almost six. They play at nursing homes and senior facilities, farmer’s markets and other venues, including Lenny’s Pub, where they will perform on Wednesday, October 26th from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. “We do it for the fun of it,” Maureen said. “We get a lot of joy in making people happy with music.”

Lou and Maureen have played at the Windham Veteran’s Center before, with other musicians from the MCMHF. “It is so much fun to play for the veterans,” said Maureen. 

Dick Small, president of the Windham Veteran’s Association, said the partnership began when the Maine Country Music Hall of Fame (MCMHF) wanted to move its museum from Mechanic Falls to Windham. Although the museum might end up just over the line in Westbrook, upstairs from Lenny’s Pub, the joint benefit dinner and concerts continue. 

Small said the money is used for upkeep of the Windham Veterans Center, which houses both the American Legion and the VFW. In the last few years, the parking lot has been paved, and a new hood for over the stove was purchased for the kitchen. The current need is between $15,000-$20,000 for a new heating system, Small said. “We’d like to get a lot of people coming out to support it,” he added.
The benefit will be held on October 29th at the Windham Veterans Center. The bean supper will begin at 5 p.m, with the concert starting at 7 p.m. Cost is $8 for the supper, $10 for the concert, and $15 for a combination ticket to both events.

Therapeutic riding center tops fundraising goal - By Walter Lunt

A Windham therapeutic riding center lived up to its name Saturday when its annual fundraiser topped all previous years between sponsorships, ticket sales, volunteer hours and donations.

With the goal of continued funding for its grounds and equine assisted activities, Riding to the Top’s “Party With A Purpose” raised a total of $125,000 during their Triple-B, Boots, Band and BBQ, benefit at the center’s 50-acre riding farm on Lilac Lane in Windham. This year RTT also wanted to make the event more “green.” 

“One of our goals is to practice and model environmental stewardship at the farm,” said executive director Sarah Bronson. “We have installed solar panels and LED lighting, we have our manure composted, and for insect management on the farm we use a natural rosemary-based spray for ticks and fly predators to reduce fly populations. Reducing waste at our events is another way we can be better stewards of the environment at our farm.” This year’s event not only recycled bottles, cardboard and plastic, but all organic waste, resulting in only a very small amount of “trash”. 

Three hundred and fifty people attended and in addition to enjoying DennyMike’s barbecue and dancing to the live music of Under The Covers, they participated in boot contests, photo booth and door prizes. A pair of mission based auctions, emceed by 99.9 The Wolf’s Michelle Taylor and led by auctioneer Elizabeth Holmstrom, were also held toward the support of scholarships for riders and care for the horses.

Founded in 1993, RTT is a community based nonprofit organization; it receives no taxpayer funding.
Bronson said its volunteers and certified instructors help over 250 clients with various disabilities “reach their highest potential through the healing power of horses. (The program) truly changes the lives of people with severe physical and cognitive disabilities, including ADHD, autism, cerebral palsy, hidden depression and anxiety, head injuries, PTSD or behavioral and abuse issues.”
A major goal is to promote psycho-social development. “Clients experience overall wellness through balance, thinking, sequencing and connections with staff and the horses,” added Bronson.

The fundraiser, corporate sponsors and grants combine to sustain programs at RTT
“Every lesson is subsidized, “said Bronson, “and 50 percent of our patrons receive scholarships.”
Clients range from 3 years old to 80 and over years of age.

Since its start, The Triple B has raised over $750,000 in support of RTT’s riders, horses and programs According to Sarah Bronson the Triple B is the center’s the event is the largest fundraising of the year and proceeds fund nearly a quarter of the center’s annual expense.
For information on client services, volunteering, making a referral or gift giving, visit www.ridingtothetop.org or call 892-2813.

Photo credit by Sandra Miner

October 14, 2016

Fireworks ordinance in the making for Windham - By Stephen Signor

On October 4th, Windham Town Council members convened in the council chambers for the purpose of establishing a draft that would in all likeliness become an Ordinance Regulating the Use of Consumer Fireworks. Present were chair Donna Chapman, council members David Nadeau, Tim Nangle and Robert Muir.
Town manager Tony Plante presented to council members a draft copy of the ordinance originally considered when allowing fireworks in Maine first became law. Two items in particular were the focus of conversation. First, the allowance of fireworks only on Saturdays from noon to 10 p.m. to which Nadeau replied, “I think this (draft) looks good except the item that specifies use confined to Saturdays. I’m with the rest of this draft, but allowing them just Saturday is almost like doing nothing.”

Chapman also expressed concern over this stipulation with concern of over-regulation. “I’m not going to support every Saturday or even every other Saturday because of the summer people. Many of our visitors leave on Saturday.” While this council meeting was minus two members, Chapman continued, “I know how Roy and Dennis are going to vote so this isn’t going to happen.”

The second item discussed revolved around section 5 of Gorham’s ordinance, which nearly mirrors the content of Windham’s and states: “No person shall use, display, fire or cause to exploded consumer fireworks within 150 feet of any buildings or structures.” This struck a positive cord among members and all were in agreement it should be incorporated. 

Nangle emphasized its justification by revisiting the last session when personal property damage was reported in the form of a boat cover. “I don’t think it is right that someone should have to replace a boat cover just so someone else can set off fireworks.”

In conclusion, Plante said, “Remember this is a legislative process and when you get to a vote it’s not necessarily an all or nothing proposition. There’s opportunity to amend or compromise so if there is a provision in there that you are not happy with but fine with everything else, by all means try to amend it. But I don’t think we have to reach a unanimous decision tonight.”

In a conversation following the meeting Plante shared the following, “This is a 180 degree turn for the council in response to public concerns. Prior to this, from the time consumer fireworks laws went into effect, the council chose to rely and subsequently operate on those laws. But because of numerous complaints this is where we landed.”

The Windham Town Council will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, October 25, 2016, at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at the Windham Town Hall to receive comment on the proposed Consumer Fireworks Ordinance, Chapter 96 of the Code of the Town of Windham. A copy of the ordinance is available in the town clerk's office and on the town's web site at www.windhammaine.us/DocumentCenter/View/2761.

Dollar General open in Windham - By Stephen Signor

Back in the late spring, ground was broken for a new Dollar General located at 367 Roosevelt Trail. Four days ago the doors to one of over 7,000 stores opened to a small but continuous crowd throughout the day. Considered a soft opening as opposed to a grand opening, it happened as if under a shroud of mystery without bells and whistles, we as consumers have come accustomed. 

“Actually we were scheduled to open on Sunday at 4 p.m, but product delivery delays dictated otherwise,” shared a store associate who cannot disclose his identity. The store also opened with a minor glitch.  Customers entering the store were greeted with “just to let you know, today our credit card chip reader is down. All we can accept is cash and no chip credit cards for your purchases,” he continued.

The lack of a full parking lot is no indication of Dollar General’s popularity. With over 7,000 stores its success speaks for itself. And despite a slow start to the day there was a variety of reasons for stopping. One Windham resident who wished to remain anonymous said, “I am here just to drop off an employment application.” 

Almaria, a resident of Gray came here once when it wasn’t opened. “I was very disappointed,” she expressed. But now that it is open General has a loyal customer. “I’ll stop here all the time, there’s always something I need. I shop here for my cleaning supplies and toys for the grandchildren. I see something I like, I grab it,” she continued.  

As for an official grand opening, this has yet to be determined.

Lake Region Senior Center helps keep kids warm - By Elizabeth Richards

With the help of area senior citizens, elementary school children in Windham and Gorham will be a little warmer this year. Members of the Lake Region Senior Center (LRSC) are collecting mittens, hats and scarves to donate to local schools.
Kim Foss, who is coordinating the project, said this is the second year the group has collected these items for the schools. They had a great response last year, from both members and schools, she said.
In late September, the center held was a kick-off workshop where members who knit, crochet or sew were encouraged to create an item for the drive. The center has patterns for mittens and hats, and yarn available for the project. Foss said they also encourage members to let friends and family know about the collection.

The project was started after hearing about less fortunate kids in the communities served. Foss said they collect the items and give them to schools for distribution. “They know who needs them,” she said.
The goal last year was to collect 100 items, Foss said, and they exceeded that goal collecting 136 items. Foss hopes to have the same success this year. “I’m putting the goal out again for 100 items, and we’ll see how we do,” she said.

The warm clothing is divided evenly between schools in Gorham and Windham. These communities were chosen, Foss said, because many of the members of the LRSC are from those towns.
Another ongoing project, Foss said, is a collection of pink scarves that are taken to Mercy Hospital and distributed to patients diagnosed with breast cancer. Their big campaign is over, but the woman taking the scarves to the hospital has said she will continue to deliver them as long as people keep bringing them in, Foss said. 

“We’re not a big group, but we’re an active group,” Foss said of the membership at LRSC. “We’ve got a lot of people that are interested in their community.”

Anyone wishing to donate hats, mittens or scarves can drop items off at LRSC, located at 40 Acorn Street in Gorham. The center is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m, Monday through Friday.