July 28, 2013

Windham High School graduate serves as DeMolay State master councilor By Elizabeth Richards

Aaron Wright, a 2013 Windham High School graduate, has a busy year ahead of him serving as the Maine state master councilor for DeMolay.

Demolay is a fraternal organization open to young men ages 12-21. The organization is run by its youth participants, with adults serving as advisors, not “leaders.” The master councilor for a chapter runs meetings and plans events for that chapter, said Wright. State master is head of the state, in charge of planning state events and overseeing all the chapters in the state, he said.

Wright has been a member of his chapter of DeMolay for close to six years, since he was 12. At the time, he said, he’d been involved in other organizations, but never felt as though he really belonged. His uncle, who had been a DeMolay in Vermont, talked to the advisor of the local chapter about him, and how the organization might benefit him. That advisor happened to attend the same church as Wright, and asked if he was interested. After looking into the organization, Wright joined in November of 2007.

Wright is front, center

“I immediately felt like I belonged,” he said, when talking about the reception held after his initiation. “After that it was really easy to get involved,” he added. “A lot of the boys in DeMolay have become my brothers. They’ve become my family. I know that I could go to them for anything, and they know that they could come to me for anything.”

In order to become state master councilor, a member must first have been the master councilor of their own chapter, which Wright was twice. They must also hold one state office. For Wright, that was state chaplain. After that, he ran for and was elected state junior councilor, but because the state senior councilor dropped out, he held that position instead. This year, he ran for state master councilor, and was elected by the brothers to that position.

The one year position is a significant time commitment, with events to organize and a great deal of travel. Each state or jurisdiction in the region has a conclave, said Wright, an event where brothers come together for a weekend at a college campus. As state master councilor, he must travel to all of the conclaves in region 1.

One of the largest goals for his year as state master councilor is to increase membership, said Wright. Presently, there are approximately 40-50 active members in the State of Maine, though there are many others who are members, but may not be active. “Once you are a DeMolay, you are always a DeMolay,” said Wright. The goal for the next two years is to increase membership in the state by 80 members, he said.

    In addition, he will work closely with the other state master councilors and the region cabinet member, many of whom are good friends of his. They are hoping to work together to get Region 1, which includes New England and Atlantic Provinces, to be the best region in DeMolay.

    Wright said when he finishes his term as state master councilor he plans to join the Navy, and hopes to go to school through the Navy.    

    To learn more about DeMolay, visit www.medemolay.org or www.demolay.org.

July 20, 2013

Insight By Michelle Libby

Summer. We all know it’s time for vacations and hanging out on the beaches, but it’s also conference time all over the country for direct selling companies, romance writers and other organizations.

Why so they have the conferences in places like Atlanta, Florida and other places south of the Mason/Dixon line? For years I’ve speculated that it’s because it’s cheaper to hold a big conference in an off tourist season location. Very few people are vacationing in Texas during the summer months when the temperature reaches over 100 degrees every day.

That begs the question, why not have a conference in Maine in February? That’s off season for tourists. My answer is, we don’t have conference facilities that can house over 10,000 people or even 5,000. Conference hotels have many breakout rooms and one big room for meals, performances, lectures and award ceremonies.

Soon, direct sellers, writers and others will be home jazzed up about their products and eager to get to work on their latest project.

I have been to one such conference and all the rumors are true, the companies pull out all the stops to put on a show for its consultants. We received free products, unique gifts, inspiration and so much more. The entertainment alone was a highlight.

Wednesday started the 2013 Romance Writers of America conference (#RWA13) and as everyone probably knows I’m involved in that organization and although I can’t be at the conference, I hope that all of my writer friends have a blast, rubbing elbows, raising money for literary and gaining inspiration to bring home to share with those of us who didn’t attend.

One final shout out to the #2013Jambo, the Boy Scouts are holding a national jamboree in West Virginia, where 40,000 boys and girls have the opportunity to try and participate in almost every type of summer outdoor activity. To the Windham/Raymond attendees of these events, I hope they create a lifetime of memories.


Finance committee discusses State cuts By Leah Hoenen

State budget cuts are leaving Windham officials pondering how to deal with cuts to the town’s portion of revenue sharing.

Windham will receive $300,000 less in revenue sharing from the State, said town manager Tony Plante. Because the financial committee and town council budgeted in anticipation of losing some state revenue, the actual hit to the budget for this fiscal year will be $140,000, he said.

There are further reductions on the way for fiscal year 2014-2015, when the town expects to receive $75,000 less in revenue sharing and $25,000 less in road assistance, said Plante. Revenue sharing is a significant source of funding for the town, providing just more than $1 million last fiscal year, said Plante.
Now, town officials need to examine the numbers and decide whether to deal with the reductions all at once or over two years and consider whether the reductions are temporary or a permanent condition, he said.
Because the budget has already been approved, Windham can choose whether to rely on additional revenue to make up the shortfalls or reduce spending, in which case the town needs to decide what that would effect, said Plante.

When the town’s finance committee met Monday, July 15 to discuss the issue, Plante told committee members the town could decide to curtail spending. He said the town currently has three vacant positions and could delay filling them as one possible measure.

With this fiscal year’s budget already approved, the town portion of the tax levy cannot be increased, Plante said. “The alternative is hoping other revenue comes in higher than we expected and makes up the difference,” he said, noting that that could be a risky strategy. For now, the town could choose to defer expenses and decide later where to make cuts, if the council wanted to reduce spending to make up for the $140,000 reduction, said Plante.

If the reductions appear to be a short-term issue, the town could elect to defer a certain capital investment, but if fewer revenue sharing dollars are the norm, Windham would be better off considering changes to the level of programs and services it provides, said Plante.

Finance committee member Matt Noel said, he feels the reduced revenue sharing funds will be a long-term issue. “I don’t think it will go back to what it was,” he said.

Committee member Kevin Call said the town did well planning for some reductions in state sharing, but now needs to consider the long-term picture.

The committee discussed the town’s budgetary history and its trend of spending less than budgeted. Call said, “Knowing our history and keeping this in mind, I think we’re going to be fine, but long term, we have to plan for it.”

Committee members agreed the town could defer planned work to Falmouth Road as a way to curtail spending this year.

Prior to the committee meeting, Plante said, “The number is not so big that we’re looking at a wholesale elimination of programs and services. Some depends on the judgment of the financial committee and town council.”

“It’s better than what the governor proposed, but to call it good would be an exaggeration, in my opinion,” Plante said of the budget passed by the legislature.

New man on the beat By Michelle Libby

Windham’s newest police officer Joshua Katuzny has been on the streets for five weeks, but as a 34-year-old he has life experience he brings to the job.

“As a rookie, I like to think I’m more level-headed. I’ve seen a lot. I’ve been overseas. The shock and awe won’t get to me. I hope that will get me through the more serious calls,” Katuzny, who spent seven years in the Army, said.

“I always wanted to be a police officer. I just got side-tracked for the better part of a decade,” he said. In the Army, he was a crew chief working with multiple launch rocket systems, then went into the banking field as a financial planner. At the time he went into banking, he was engaged and a job with a suit and tie sounded appealing to him, but after seven years, he didn’t like it any better on the last day than he did on the first one.

“I refocused, applied and went to the academy,” he said. Katuzny is no longer married and was able to commit to his goal. Cumberland Police Department sponsored him to attend the 100-hour course and then Windham sent him to the police academy.

“It was exactly what I expected it to be,” Katuzny said of the police academy. The worst part for him was being away from his two young children for 18 weeks. “It’s not designed to be easy,” he said. He graduated May 24 and has been in Windham since then working with a field training officer.

“I like the freedom (of being a police officer). I did not like going to an office. This is always something different, which keeps it fresh,” he said.

The most interesting calls so far are those involving juvenile attempt-to-locates. They are more involved and rewarding when the child is found.

On the flipside, crimes against children including neglect and child abuse will be the hardest for him, he expects. “I don’t know if anyone can be prepared for some of that,” he said.

Right now, he sees Windham’s biggest issue is thefts. “Thefts are well above average.” Some of that he suspects is due to the number of teens out of school for the summer. They’re going to look for something to do, he said.

After his 14-week training period and a few years on the force, Katuzny hopes to work his way up toward sergeant and maybe detective. He also has his eye on possibly becoming a firearms instructor, since firearms have always been his niche, he said.   

Madeline Roberts retires from Windham Food Pantry By Michelle Libby

For more than six years, Madeline Roberts did all she could for the clients of the Windham Food Pantry and clothes closet as the social service administrative assistant. She was planning on retiring next February, but in the end after some cutbacks and a new supervisor, Roberts decided that June 25 looked like the right time to make her exit.

“Retirement’s looking pretty good right now,” she said. “I did what I could for the clients over the six and a half years I was there,” she said. 

“I made a lot of changes,” she added. The clothes closet, which was a disorganized room next to the food pantry, is now a five room, nicely sorted space. She also oversaw the revamping of the counter and new pantry shelves in the food pantry. She saw all of this work as betterment for the clients and for the town.

“It was time for a change,” said town manager Tony Plante. “Things move on. We appreciate the work she has done and change is always hard.”

“I was told I was too generous,” Roberts said. The need in Windham has increased drastically since the first year Roberts took over. The first year there were six seniors per month seeking help, now there are 53. Larger families have dwindled, but the food pantry still sees 170 families per month.

Roberts also revamped the Christmas program, where children, approximately 240 last year, received presents from the generosity of people in the community like Ron and Judy Eby. She also started a backpack project for children heading to school. Each child received a backpack filled with school supplies. There was also a chance for locals to sponsor Thanksgiving baskets for less fortunate community members.
After each donation, if she had an address, Roberts wrote the person or group a thank you note. “It doesn’t cost much to say thank you, but it costs a lot not to,” she said.

“We really worked well and the community supported us,” Roberts said. The pantry also held fund-raisers like a bowl-a-thon, spaghetti supper and an annual yard sale.

“The wonderful relationships I made and the support of people and businesses, those I’ll really miss,” she said. “I would like to be known as someone who had a lot of empathy for the clients in Windham. They were my concern and of course my beautiful smile,” she laughed. “Certainly not my height.” She also wanted to thank her clients and especially the volunteers who worked with her during her tenure.

Roberts plans to stay active with social and human service causes within the community, but she’s not sure just how at this point. For now, she looks forward to spending more time with her 12-year-old granddaughter and family.

“We will continue the work and we wish Madeline well,” Plante said.

The position vacated by Roberts will remain open through the summer. Plante said that they would look into filling it in the fall. “The plan is to fill it,” he said.

July 13, 2013

Insights by Michelle Libby


I heard a woman say she was looking for someone with passion to do a volunteer job. She didn’t mean passion in the romantic way, but passion in the way that someone devotes time and energy to something because they can’t imagine doing anything else with their time.

It got me thinking about what makes someone passionate about the environment, music or gardening. What makes someone drop everything they are doing to be emerged in that activity? And, how do you know what you’re passionate about? Just because you’re doing it, does that equal passion?
Is Governor LaPage passionate about helping Maine, or is that just his job and really he’s passionate about sales and running a successful business. For some I believe that their job is their passion, but for others working as a secretary or as an accountant isn’t their passion. Most times passion doesn’t sit on the surface - it’s under a few layers. I know a woman whose passion was creating jewelry, but she was stuck working as an executive secretary, or another woman who is an alumni relations director, but her passion is writing love stories.

How long does it take to find a passion? Is it like choosing a book in the library? Picking whatever is new on the shelf, or is passion more about something that speaks to a person’s soul? I don’t think passion can be chosen. I believe that you may have to kiss a few frogs to find your passion, but I think it’s out there and when you find it you will know it in your heart and soul. It will be that thing that makes you want to get up in the morning and the thing you think about before bed each night. Passion doesn’t have to be a life changing, philanthropic, do-good activity. It could be as simple as having a passion for reading. And, for those of you with that passion, I thank you and thousands of authors around the world, thank you, for without readers, having a passion like mine is nothing more than writing for my own satisfaction and right now, I get much more pleasure when I’m writing for you.

Girls State: Life changing week by Michelle Libby

Maine Dirigo Girls and Boys State has been educating future leaders in Maine since 1947. The program sponsored by the American Legion holds sessions in 49 states for one week. Girls State is described as a “Youth Citizenship Program for Young Women”. “It offers training in the process of self-government and good citizenship as practiced in a democratic society.”

The participants are girls finishing their junior year of high school. The counselors are delegates from the previous year.

In Windham, the delegates are chosen by an AP US history teacher for the girls and the boys have to go through an interview process. Most of the delegates are sponsored by local American Legion chapters. There were a total of 229 girls in attendance.

This year Windham sent three delegates to Girls State, two to Boys State. Kiara Tringali and Cole Moran returned as counselors. The mock government takes the girls through an election on all levels all the while using guest speakers from the real world of politics to answer questions and inspire those in attendance.

“It was a nice opportunity for me to work with girls who really care about government,” said Tringali.

Girls State was held at Husson University in Bangor and Boys State was across town at Thomas College. Each floor of the two dorms is considered a town. Each dorm is a county. Each girl caucuses with her political party before general elections and then state elections, according to Tringali. “It’s set up like a real election,” she said. The girls man the polls and vote by town. It takes the girls three days to hold all of their elections, while it takes the boys at Boys State only two.

“It’s about the process. Some girls come in and want to be governor. I ran for governor,” Tringali said. “I had no idea what I was getting into.” 

For the final two days of the event, the elected governor addresses all the delegates and explains which bills she wants to pass. Bills are given to the governor like physician assisted suicide, housing rights and wind farms, according to Tringali. This year they were given 14 bills, but they didn’t get to all of them. 

At Boys State, the boys write their own bills and pass them.

Governor Paul LePage and Senator Susan Collins both spoke to the girl delegates this year. Collins spoke about what it means to be a woman in politics, Tringali said. A state senator, the director of Seeds of Peace and the Waterville mayor also spoke.

“Last year at this time I had no idea what I wanted to do. I’m at a very different place this year,” Tringali said. She thought she wanted to go into the field of neuro-science, but now she plans to major in politics with a minor in journalism at Brandeis University.

“It’s a huge honor,” said Tringali, who added that when it’s all over the delegates go home and sleep for three days.

Windham Rotary garden Club back in business by Senator Gary Plummer

The Windham Rotary Garden Club was formed in 1987 as part of the Windham 250th Anniversary celebration, and continues to this day. It has no dues, no regular meetings and no ongoing membership list. The only two members of that original group, who have continued to plant every year, are Ann Paquin and Gary Plummer (They are kneeling in the picture).

The sole purpose of this entity is to plant the flowers in the islands of the rotary at Fosters Corner (the intersection of Route 302 and Route 202). Over the 26 years of existence, there have been many dozen members. In order to become a member, all a person has to do is show up on planting day with a trowel and help plant the flowers. Initially the flowers were grown by June and Richard Hawkes in their greenhouse on Windham Center Road. After they closed their greenhouse, Harry Carlin of the River Road stepped up and provided the flowers. A few years ago, the town council eliminated the funding, which only covered the cost of the flowers.

At that point, I polled several of our workers and found that they loved to plant flowers, but had no desire to fundraise so that we could do it. I reluctantly reported this decision to the town council during public participation. When I returned home that evening, there were two messages on my answering machine.

One was from George Hall of Hall Implement Company, letting me know that he valued the flowers at the rotary and he would be willing to donate to see this project continue.

The second call was from Joe Gagne, owner of Roosevelt Trail Nursery, telling me that he would provide the flowers free of charge.

I was pleased that the Rotary Garden Club was back in business. Ever since that time, Roosevelt Trail Nursery has supplied the flowers and Hall Implement Company has provided the mulch. All that was needed was the labor to do the planting, which happens at the annual meeting of the Rotary Garden Club.

Senator Gary Plummer represents Maine Senate District 12 which Maine Senate representing District 12 which includes the Cumberland County towns of Casco, Frye Island, Raymond, Standish, and Windham as well as the York County town of Hollis.

July 8, 2013


Summer how it was and how it is

All year long we dream about summer, the sun baking on sparkling blue water, boating, swimming and wearing sandals. When it gets here are we as excited as we were when we were young…back in the day…you know, the eighties. 

Getting up and putting on your bathing suit first thing because why do you need regular clothing, the little, hard plastic pool and the back and forth sprinkler are just outside the door. 

As a child I spent hours in the woods behind my house making forts with other neighbor children. The only way for my parents to get in touch with me was by yelling into the wide open woods. 

Today’s children are scheduled most of the time. If they are lucky they have a phone and can still talk to their friends from daycare or while being forced to drive to a beach with their parents who demanded they come.

Experts are demanding that the children get outside to exercise, when we never had someone telling us that. Most of the outdoor activities involve high tech equipment, paddle boarding, wakeboarding, water skiing or surfing, are just some of those. Of course, they might need lessons on how to perform these sports without injuring themselves and requiring months of physical therapy, indoors. 

Paddling a canoe on a lake was pure bliss in my youth. Strapped into my orange life preserver with its one strap and bow tie, I would paddle around, no care if I was doing it right or wrong. 

Today that canoe is a high speed boat with wakeboarding tower and that orange life preserver has been replaced by a form fitting neoprene vest.
What is the best way to spend a summer? And are our memories clouded by the years? Maybe there’s no way to go back to that time. However, our children deserve the opportunity to play unrestricted without their cell phone ball and chain. Should we give them the freedom?

Bears, Backpacks and Blessings

Bears, Backpacks and Blessings packed a trailer to bring supplies to Oklahoma next week for families affected by the tornados that tore through Moore in May. Under the close supervision of founder Shelley Chappell, the organization raised enough money and took in enough supplies to load the trailer.

Chappell and her husband, Chris, moved to Gray recently and still own a home in the area near Moore. They know what type of destruction can happen in minutes when a tornado touches down. Shelley’s goal was to give comfort to those who now have nothing.

“Within 90 minutes we were up and running and snowballing really fast,” said Shelley. The foundation will continue, after this inaugural run to Oklahoma, providing backpacks and other gear to people affected by tragedy and devastation. Shelley feels that getting one of the care packages will help cheer up the receiver.

For more information or to donate, visit www.gofundme.com/Bears-Backpacks-Blessings.

July 1, 2013

Insights by Michelle Libby

Summer vacation has officially arrived here in Windham/Raymond. The traffic has increased, the days are hotter (much, much hotter) and the children are out of school.

It’s this last part that I’m having some new found trouble with. My children are no longer young enough to go to daycare, and paying for them to go to camp all summer seems extravagant, especially when I want someone to hang at the lake or pool with me. Selfish, I know.

My daughter decided to get a summer job. Last year she did two weeks at a Girl Scout camp at Kittery Point. When I dropped her off, it was like leaving her at the end of the Earth. Rustic was the only word that came close. This year she decided to get a job almost two hours away from home as a counselor at an overnight camp. She’ll be gone all summer only contacting us by phone and when we stop by for a few hours, but it’s not like she’s in Raymond.

This leaves my son without someone to pal around with all day while mom’s at work.

So I ask…what do you do with your teenagers while you are off at work every day? As I am writing this, my son is sitting next to me playing video games, with some work he could be doing, sitting on the floor next to him. I’ve scheduled for him to attend a few camps, act as a  counselor at a vacation bible school and spend some time with the grandparents.

I know he’s old enough to stay home alone, but sitting in the A/C playing video games doesn’t seem that productive to me. I plan to take him to the Windham Public Library to get information on all of their programs and force him to write book reviews to keep up his skills.

In the end, I’m at a loss as to what parents do in situations like this, so if you have any advice, I’d love to print some next week. Email me at michelle@TheWindhamEagle.com.

Chamber Singers alumni gather for reunion concert by Elizabeth Richards

Twenty-five years of magical music was celebrated on Saturday, June 22, when singers from all over the country reunited for a Windham Chamber Singers Reunion Concert. Dr. Rick Nickerson, founder and conductor of the Windham Chamber Singers, called the concert one of the proudest moments of his teaching career. “It was unbelievable,” he said. “It was so fascinating on Saturday to see them all just come together through this common bond.” 

This isn’t the first musical reunion. Five years ago, the group held a 20th reunion, which was such a success that they knew they had to do it again at 25 years, said Nickerson. Both reunions were intentionally scheduled for the same weekend as Summerfest. “We’re bringing people home from all over the country, and I’ve always said what a better time to bring them home than the very day you’re celebrating your community,” said Nickerson. During breaks in rehearsal, the singers are out and about, walking through the Summerfest activities. “They’re running into people they haven’t seen for years and otherwise wouldn’t get to see,” Nickerson added.   This year, though it briefly looked as though Summerfest might not happen, the concert would have gone on. “Thankfully, it really developed into a great day for our town.”  Nickerson said.  He would like to see Summerfest, which is all about celebrating community, expanded into a three day event, and encourage classes to have their reunions at that time each year. “It’s just a really great time to come home,” he said.

Community was a large focus for the group this weekend. “We would not be what we are without the support of our community. That’s another reason it was important for me to have this event on the day we celebrate our community,” Nickerson said.

Amy (Damron) Kyle, a chamber singer for four years in the mid 90s, including the year the group went to Vienna, said having a great community has allowed the group to do things that are unusual for a town the size of Windham. “It’s just amazing what [Dr. Nickerson] has been able to do, and it speaks well of him and the support of the community.  Windham is an amazing community,” she said.  The support that the chamber singers have received allowed things like travelling to Vienna, singing at Carnegie Hall, and bringing Broadway performers to the community to happen. “It’s a unique experience for a smaller town,” Kyle said. “It’s like all the stars align. A great community and an energetic, enthusiastic and knowledgeable teacher come together, and I think magic happens.”

The Chamber Singers have spent a whole year celebrating their 25th anniversary. They wanted this reunion to be more than just rehearsals and a culminating concert Nickerson said. The weekend included a social event on Friday evening, rehearsal and concert on Saturday, and a family barbeque on Sunday. “It was so wonderful to see students who haven’t seen each other for sometimes 20 years, and were really close at one point in their life, and how those years just evaporate. It becomes, all of a sudden, 1996 again,” Nickerson said.

The reunion gave alumni a chance to see old friends and reminisce about their experiences, but also to relive those experiences a little bit. “Typically when you go to a reunion, you rekindle friendships, but you talk about what you did in high school. In this reunion we got to actually do it – we didn’t talk about singing, we actually sang,” said Nickerson.

Kyle said she’s more motivated to attend a reunion of the chamber singers than her regular high school reunion because of the shared experiences. “Being in a choir is a little bit like being on a sports team, but sometimes I feel it’s a little bit more intense because it’s focused on the emotions and the  emotional experience that comes with expressing an art form,” she said. Even though there were many people she hadn’t gone to school with at the reunion, she said, “It didn’t really matter because we had this shared experience of being in the same choir.” And although she mostly sings solo now, she added, “This is the one choir I like to come back and sing in because it has so much emotional memory with it.”

While Nickerson didn’t take a count of how many alumni returned, somewhere between 120-150 sang at the concert. “Anyone who has ever sung in the Windham Chamber Singers was invited,” he said. The process of inviting alumni back was several months of Facebook, email, letters to the editor in local newspapers – any kind of outreach they could think of. “I knew it was not realistic that we were going to get everybody. What I was hoping we could do is that at least everybody knew about it,” said Nickerson.

The concert opened with the current chamber singers, and moved into alumni pieces. Many of the alumni have gone on to professional careers, but others haven’t sung since high school, said Nickerson. The challenge this presents means the pieces performed must be chosen carefully. “You want to pick pieces that you know most of students have sung, and the others will pick it up quickly,” Nickerson said.  The performance also included a short slide show of the past 25 years, as well as alumni speaking of their memories and experiences in the Windham Chamber Singers. A limited edition compilation CD was released Saturday night, with recordings from the past 25 years. 

Nickerson said they are also investigating the possibility of doing an alumni tour in Ireland next July.
Nickerson’s favorite moment during the weekend was sitting back to watch his former students, and the smiles on their faces. “I can’t even tell you how proud I was. It was just an ultimate moment for a teacher,” he said. “The sound was one of the finest sounds we’ve ever had on our stage.”

For more information on purchasing the CD or about the Windham Chamber Singers, visit their website at www.windhamchambersingers.com