April 9, 2021

RSU 14 registering children for kindergarten

Any Windham or Raymond child who will be 5 years
old by Oct. 15 is now eligible to register for kindergarten
classes at either Raymond Elementary School or
Windham Primary School. COURTESY PHOTO  
By Briana Bizier

The current school year ends in June, but parents and teachers of next year’s incoming class are already starting to plan for September. For the 4- and 5-year-olds of Windham and Raymond, it’s time to start thinking about kindergarten.

Any Windham or Raymond child who will be 5 years old by Oct. 15 is now eligible to register for kindergarten classes at either Raymond Elementary School or Windham Primary School.

“The best thing for parents to do is to go to the RSU14.org website. There’s a registration link that will walk you through the process,” said Beth Peavey, Raymond Elementary School principal.

To register, parents will need to provide their child’s birth certificate, proof of residency, and immunization records as well as their contact information.

In the past, kindergarten-bound students traveled to their future elementary schools for an in-person screening following their registration. This year, however, things are different.

“When our students are all registered, parents will receive a phone call with questions,” Peavey said. “We’ll do an over-the-phone screening with parents in late April or May, and then a full in-person screening would be by invitation only.”

Dr. Kyle Rhoads, Windham Primary School principal, said that the remote kindergarten screening process was even more complicated this past year during the school shutdown resulting from the pandemic. Despite school closures, Rhoads said that he was able to get a dedicated team of staff members together to make phone calls to the families of future kindergarteners over the course of several days.

“We were very successful with that last year, which says a lot about the strength of our team,” Rhoads said. “But I think it’s going to be a bit easier this year than it was last year.”

Both Raymond and Windham schools are expecting a normal number of incoming kindergarteners this fall. A typical incoming class for Raymond is about 45 students, while Windham Primary School usually has between 180 and 220 registered incoming kindergarten students.

“We’re right on track for our typical class size,” said Rhoads.

Because of the pandemic, all RSU 14 schools are following a hybrid schedule this year. Windham and Raymond students, from pre-kindergarten to high school seniors, are attending school in person two days a week and working remotely three days a week. The school district provides iPads to kindergarteners for Zoom classes and remote work, and laptops to older students. RSU14 also offers a fully remote kindergarten option.

While it’s too early to say how the ongoing pandemic will affect RSU 14’s school schedule come September, teams at both Raymond Elementary School and Windham Primary School are preparing to welcome their new students.

“We’ll do our best to make the coming school year as normal as possible,” Rhoads said. “I’m confident our awesome team will be ready to welcome our next crop of young learners.”

Those incoming kindergarten students will have a full year of learning waiting for them.

“In kindergarten we work on letter sounds, forming words, and beginning to read,” Peavey said.

Both RES and WPS use a reading program called Jolly Phonics.

“That’s a kinesthetic program, so there’s a motion for every letter sound,” Peavey said. “It helps them to remember their letter sounds much easier. The kids are really picking it up, and we’re noticing a difference in their writing.”

Reading and writing aren’t the only skills these little scholars will acquire in their first year of school. The math program for kindergarten focuses on counting to 100 by ones, adding and subtracting within five, and also learning shapes. These lessons go beyond identifying shapes to include mathematical concepts like length, weight, and capacity.

“The math program is really focused on learning the basic skills and then their application,” Peavey said. “So students learn the basics of adding and subtracting, and then they work on things like word problems.”

Both elementary schools are also focusing on social and emotional health, beginning with the youngest learners.

“Yes, they’re going to learn the foundational academic skills, Rhoads said. “And the teachers also understand the importance of spending time getting to know each other, to give their students the skills to navigate the social and emotional side of school as well. They need to have those connections and relationships in order to do their best learning and to enjoy school. Our kindergarten learners get a really well-rounded curriculum. It addresses not only their academic needs but also their need to be a good thinker, to be a good citizen, and their social emotional needs as well.”

For both Raymond Elementary School and Windham Primary School, the primary focus of kindergarten hasn’t changed even as COVID-19 has upended almost everything else.

As Dr. Rhoads explained, the goal of kindergarten is simple: “We want them to love learning.”

If you are planning to enroll or considering enrolling your child in kindergarten, please visit 
https://wps.rsu14.org/ for kindergarten registration information. <

Essentials Pantry to host food and essentials item drive with hope of receiving grant money

By Lorraine Glowczak

For about five years, St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, 40 Windham Center Road in Windham, established a monthly Essentials Pantry for those who may be facing challenging circumstances by providing personal and household items that cannot be purchased by an EBT debit card.

Since then, the program has grown to serve more than 100 families, with about 25 families participating on a monthly basis. The pantry also offers commodities that are not available at local food pantries.

If 500 or more items are collected during the
St. Ann's Essential's Pantry Drive, the pantry
will be in the running to receive an additional
$500. If awarded, the monetary gift will be
used to purchase essential items when the stock
is low. The food and essentials drive will take
place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, April 18.
COURTESY PHOTO
“We provide personal hygiene and cleaning products that are acceptable to donate and are not provided by local food pantries, like powdered laundry detergents and stick deodorants,” Deacon Wendy Rozene, of St. Ann’s said. Rozene is the founder of St. Ann’s Essentials Pantry.

Part of the Pantry’s success has been due, in part, by the donations they have received from the community at large. Also, about two years ago, Faith Lutheran Church, 988 Roosevelt Trail in Windham, joined the Pantry efforts as a part of their ecumenical Faith in Action initiative. They contribute donations, monetary funds and volunteers.

Recently, Faith Lutheran Church received $250 from a Thrivent* Action Grant to organize a community food and essential items drive. Funds are earmarked to go toward marketing efforts to create awareness and to invite the community to gather the much needed items. Faith Lutheran elected to apply the grant award toward St. Ann’s Essentials Pantry.

If 500 items or more are collected during the drive, the Pantry will be in the running to receive an additional $500. If awarded, the monetary gift will be used to purchase essential items when the stock is low. The food and essential items drive will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday, April 18.

The pantry serves those who live in Raymond, Standish, Casco, Gorham, Windham and other Sebago Lakes region area. The only thing an individual needs to receive the free products is proof of residence (CMP bill, etc.). No questions will be asked.

The types of essentials the Pantry needs include the following: bars of soap, toothpaste, shampoo, stick deodorant, toothbrushes, powdered laundry detergent, toilet paper, paper towels, tissues, hand lotion, razors, shaving cream, spray cleaners and Comet.

Non-perishable food items are limited to: Pasta and pasta sauce, peanut butter and jelly, tuna fish and canned chicken, canned vegetables and soups and non-sugar cereals.  

The Essential Pantry is open the last Saturday of every month from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. During non-pandemic times, families and individuals were able to select the items they needed in the lower level of the church; however, the pantry has made special accommodations to adhere to Maine CDC guidelines. 

“We now bag items separately and have them prepared as people drive up to the door, remain in their car with masks on and we put the bags in the trunk of the vehicle,” Rozene said. 

The Essentials Pantry also collaborates with the Windham Food Pantry to help keep their pantry stocked and running successfully. 

“There are times we have a lot of food donated to us which we can’t easily store,” Rozene said. “So, we give some of that to the Windham Food Pantry and the toiletry items they can’t give out, they give to us. It is a win-win situation.”

Briefly and as written in a previous Windham Eagle Article, the idea for the Essentials Pantry came when someone dropped off rolls of paper towels into the collection basket at a church service after having read an article in The Windham Eagle about items that the food pantry didn’t provide.

Rozene noticed the donation and thought about the same article which she’d read. She got permission to start an initiative through a grant she applied for from the Dioceses of Maine for $3,000, which gave the pantry its start. Rozene bought shelves and loaded them for the first day. 

Food, essential items and monetary donations can be made in person or sent via snail mail to: St. Ann’s Essential Pantry, PO Box 911, Windham 04062. If delivered in person, the office is open Monday through Thursday from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m.

For more information, Contact Wendy Rozene at: wendyrozene@gmail.com or Stephen Palmer at best1axz75@gmail.com. <

*About Thrivent:

Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Foundation supports programs that contribute to the health and vitality of the greater Lutheran community and beyond. FMI: www.thrivent.com/what-we-offer/generosity/

April 2, 2021

Award recipients receive recognition for exceptional dedication to community

By Lorraine Glowczak

Kevin Bailey
Successful businesses are a direct result of the outstanding efforts from staff members who enjoy their chosen careers. Their enthusiasm to uphold the company’s overall mission and the positive impact it has on those they serve as a result, deserves acknowledgment and reward.

Two local employees, Kevin Bailey, Windham Parks and Recreation Maintenance Foreman, and Catherine Giuffre-Renaud, Adult Basic Education Coordinator for Windham/Raymond Adult Education, recently received award and recognition for a job well done. Giuffre-Renaud received a fellowship from The Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE) and Bailey is the recipient of the 2021 Maine Recreation and Park Association Outstanding Parks Professional of the year.

“Kevin diligently attends to his tasks independently each day and takes great personal pride in the parks and trails facilities that he oversees,” said Windham Parks and Recreation Director Linda Brooks. “Recruiting seasonal help has been a challenge for the last two summers, so Kevin just picks up the slack and gets the job done. His winter duties include managing two ice skating rinks, plowing parking lots to keep our parks open and accessible, and grooming trails for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.”

Brooks also said that Bailey, who is a life-long Windham resident, is motivated to provide stellar service to the community. “Kevin is always thinking about ways to improve what we offer,” she said. “He is the face of the department in our parks and on our trails, and is friendly and caring, while also seeking ways to encourage people to be good stewards of our facilities.”

Bailey, nominated by Brooks with the support of other parks and recreation employees, received his award virtually in mid-March in the Windham Town Council Chambers with his co-workers as well as with wife, Melissa, and their two daughters, who were all there to congratulate him.

I was quite surprised to have been nominated,” said Bailey, who has held his position for 13 years. “In fact, I’m honored. I just come to work and do my job the best I can. The people who I work with make my job easier and I enjoy working with everyone. In fact, of all the jobs I have had, this is the best and most rewarding one.”

Catherine Giuffre-Renaud
While Bailey’s award was the appreciation and acknowledgement for the excellent upkeep of Windham’s parks and trails, Giuffre-Renaud was nominated for and selected as a State Advocate for Adult Education Fellowship, a year-long training to develop leadership, advocacy, and research capabilities. The purpose of the fellowship is to lead an effort focused on the advancement of adult education and literacy across the country.

“Catherine has always been a fierce advocate for her students,” said Windham/Raymond Adult Education Director, Tom Nash. “She has actively participated in many of the Maine Adult Education Association Student Days at our Maine State House Hall of Flags events. She realizes not only the importance of exposing her students to the workings of state government, but also the power of encouraging them to find their own voice to speak up - and speak out – for funding to help them reach their very personal educational goals.”

Nash said that what has always impressed him about Giuffre-Renaud is her willingness to find methods to improve her own practice, seek out learning opportunities to enhance the quality of education she can provide her students, as well as her fervent desire to train others in adult education best practice. “She is clearly devoted to adult learners and lifelong learning, serving as a bright example for others.”

Giuffre-Renaud explained what she will be doing during this fellowship award program. “I will receive trainings on how to request and hold meetings with legislators to discuss the needs of adult education and how adult education is a key to the recovery of our communities post-COVID-19,” she said. “I will also learn how to write effective pieces that will be published in the media. Adding to that fellowship opportunity is the know-how to organize and influence others in Maine to work to promote adult education.”

Nash said that Giuffre-Renaud is the epitome of a life-long learner and is passionate about lifting up the adult learners with whom she has been entrusted. “I am proud of her dedication to her students and her willingness to support them through advocating for them when they aren’t able to do so. COABE’s advocacy fellowship and experience will not only bring Cathy joy, but will have a lasting impact on her students, our communities, and even our state and nation.”

Just as it is true that any successful business is a direct result of the outstanding efforts of its employees, it is also true that those successes filter down to the communities they serve, providing outstanding benefits for all involved.<

Local poetry display returns to Windham Public Library

Bob Clark's 10th poetry display can be viewed in
April during National Poetry Month at the
Windham Public Library. SUBMITTED PHOTO

By Elizabeth Richards

Bob Clark’s framed poetry display was ready to go in the Windham Public Library last April, for what was to be his 10th consecutive year, when the library closed its doors due to the global pandemic. This year, the library has reopened, and Clark’s 10th poetry display can be viewed in April during National Month Poetry.

Clark started writing poetry in high school and continued in college, publishing pieces in campus literary publications. After time in the Peace Corps and a career as a Spanish teacher at Gorham High School, Clark began writing poetry again around the year 2000 as retirement approached.

In 2010, he began displaying his work in local libraries via framed poetry that is sometimes accompanied by illustrations. For the past several years, Clark has also published a booklet for sale. Each of these booklets is now included in the library collection.

This year’s display includes new poems as well as several that appear each year, Clark said. The theme, Tourmaline, was chosen to highlight a natural product of Maine that is valuable in both its natural state and when used to create jewelry, Clark said. The booklet cover will feature an image of raw aggregated tourmaline with finished products on either side.

In his 2021 display notes, Clark said his poetry allows him to observe, perceive, and communicate something of lasting worth, similar to the way raw tourmaline becomes jewelry.  “The attempt becomes one of organizing and “polishing” an idea that might otherwise lay dormant as single words scattered throughout pages of a dictionary,” he wrote.

He said he begins with the natural state and brings a connection to the human experience. “I lay the landscape, then make a human connection so you’re really there with me for a touch of humanity,” he said. “It underlines the human character and makes a connection to the natural world.”

Covid-19 has had an impact on his work as well, Clark said, though he hasn’t written directly about the pandemic. The poems selected for this booklet reflect the uplifting idea that in tough times, support is all around. “The 2020 Covid-19 Pandemic continues to cause profound difficulties. At the same time though, it is uplifting to notice abundant concern for others and unending rescue measures that continue daily. The reality that ‘we are all in this together’ and that ‘together we win’ applies as we ‘share and share alike’ in progress,” he wrote in his display notes. 

Tourmaline includes selections from his books The Hitching Post and Tenerife Island, Clark said. “Readers will find poems that mention expressions of faith, resilience, and the shared, natural joy of positive outcomes,” he wrote.

Clark’s work will be on display for the month of April during library hours. <

Raymond Village Library Birdhouse Raffle under way

Colorful birdhouses built by Bob Grimm are being
raffled off during April as a fundraiser for the
Raymond Village Library.
PHOTO BY BRIANA BIZIER  
By Briana Bizier

If you’re looking for signs of spring this April, you don’t need to go any further than the Raymond Village Library. While the season’s bright green leaves and colorful flowers might still be weeks away, the library’s shelves are filled with a cheerful and eclectic collection of birdhouses waiting to welcome their new residents.

The birdhouses were constructed by Raymond Village Library trustee Bob Grimm. “Bob is a Maine Woodcarvers Association Board member and was one of our featured artists hosted by the Raymond Arts Alliance this past year,” Library Director Allison Griffin said. “Bob donated his time and materials to construct the birdhouses, which were then distributed to volunteers to design and decorate.”

Originally, the library hoped to have twenty birdhouses available for the spring raffle. That number has now grown to 27 as local artists contributed their own creations to the growing collection on display in the Raymond Village Library. This birdhouse bonanza now includes painted gourds, snowman-shaped creations, a birdhouse farm stand, a cozy home shingled with shiny pennies, and even a miniature replica of the Raymond Village Community Church.

Each of the beautiful birdhouses will be raffled off this weekend on April 4. Hopeful birdhouse owners can purchase raffle tickets for $1 each or six for $5. Tickets can be purchased in person at the library, over the phone, or online at 
http://www.raymondvillagelibrary.org/birdhouse-raffle. Each of the beautiful birdhouses can also be viewed online, and Raymond residents can request curbside pickup or home delivery of their winning birdhouse.
  

Children’s librarian Karen Perry has even included the library’s youngest patrons in the birdhouse festivities. Last month, young readers had the opportunity to take a small wooden birdhouse home and decorate it however they wished.

These youthful birdhouses are now on display in the children’s area of the Raymond Village Library. Visitors to the children’s area can vote for their favorite creation by placing a cheerful bird sticker on the paper “tree” behind each birdhouse.

Perry has created several categories for voting, including “unusual,” “realistic,” “sci-fi,” “colorful,” “historical,” and “book-inspired.” Raymond Village Library’s Facebook page includes both pictures and a video of all the creative kid creations on display.

These avian adventures are a new fundraiser for the Raymond Village Library, which is partially funded by the town of Raymond and dependent on donations and creative fundraising opportunities to sustain their annual budget. The library’s programs and services, such as their weekly children’s activity kits and monthly book club meetings on Zoom, would not exist without the generous support of their community.

This spring’s birdhouse raffle has connected local artists and community members, given children an opportunity to express themselves as they decorate their own miniature birdhouses, and raised funds to support ongoing programs at the Raymond Village Library. It’s also brought color and creativity to the dreary days of early spring, and it’s even given the birds a reason to be grateful for their local library. 

Please visit http://www.raymondvillagelibrary.org/birdhouse-raffle to view to birdhouses or to purchase tickets for the raffle. <

In the public eye: Town of Raymond’s Alexander Aponte

Alexander Aponte was appointed by the Raymond Select
Board to serve as the town's Finance Director and Town
Treasurer in December. His position supports the Raymond
Town Manager in making financial decisions.
COURTESY PHOTO 
By Briana Bizier

Editor’s note: This is another in an ongoing series of Windham and Raymond town employee profiles.

Just like any household, towns and cities need to keep a careful eye on their income and spending, manage their budgets, and make sure all of their bills are paid. For the Town of Raymond, newly appointed Finance Director Alexander Aponte fills this essential role.

Aponte, who has previously held accounting positions in both the private sector and with nonprofits, was excited to join the Town of Raymond.

“It seemed like a great opportunity when I saw this job listed,” Aponte said. “I took that leap of faith and applied.”

Aponte was officially appointed by the Raymond Select Board to serve as the new Finance Director on Dec. 8, 2020. It’s a job that differs from its counterparts in the private sector.

“When you hear finance director, it’s usually referring to the Chief Financial Officer,” Aponte said. “But in local government, the primary responsibility is that of the treasurer. So, my role is to support the Town Manager with the finances.”

It’s a big job that started immediately. Preparation for Raymond’s 2021-2022 budget began as soon as Aponte was hired. He presented a budget development schedule as the first step in the seven-month process leading to Raymond’s annual Town Meeting in June, when the final budget is approved just as the previous fiscal year ends.

“From July on, we’re implementing the budget,” Aponte said. Aponte and his team also prepare for an audit of the previous year’s spending and generate assessment values in order to send out tax bills in October.

Of course, Aponte and the deputy treasurer Rita Theriault are also responsible for the day-to-day functions of the Town Office.

“We pay the bills,” Aponte said. “We make sure that we stay within the budget, make sure the money keeps coming in that needs to come in, and make budget forecasts.” In December, work on the next year’s budget begins again. “It’s a very cyclical job,” Aponte said.

The cycle suits Aponte well. Born in Puerto Rico, Aponte moved with his family to Dorchester, a neighborhood in Boston, when he was a young child.

“I grew up in the inner city,” Aponte said. “It was not a very friendly environment. I heard gunshots as I was going to sleep at night. So, one of the things that drew me to Maine was peace and quiet. “I was the first one in my immediate family to graduate from high school and go to college. When my parents moved back to the island, I decided to move to Maine and never looked back.”

While his move to Maine was a welcome transition, his initial experiences were a bit of a shock.

“My welcome to Maine was the ice storm of 1998,” Aponte said. “I thought to myself, ‘what did I do?’”

However, Aponte made it through that legendary ice storm and has lived in Maine ever since. His parents even ended up following him to Maine, and now they live in Topsham and Brunswick.

Even after his move to the Pine Tree State, Aponte still feels very connected to his roots, and he is in contact with many of his far-flung family members. He also speaks Spanish, which comes in handy on occasion in the Raymond Town Hall.

“If anyone comes in who speaks Spanish, I told the front office to come and get me,” Aponte said.

Aponte is currently in the process of purchasing a house in Poland to be closer to Raymond.

“My boys are really excited,” Aponte said. “They’ve been a part of the whole process. When we were looking at houses, we took all four of them with us.”

A new house and a new job aren’t the only major milestones unfolding in Aponte’s life. “Our family just grew,” Aponte told me. “We’ve been fostering since 2016, and two of the boys who’ve been with us for three years have just joined the family. The adoption should have happened a year ago; it’s backed up a little because of COVID. I still consider them my sons, but it will be nice to have that paper.”

When telling me about his reasons for choosing Maine, Aponte explained that he has always loved and appreciated the beauty of nature. Like accounting, Maine’s seasons move in a predictable, if occasionally dramatic, annual cycle.

With his new position as the Town Finance Director and his upcoming move to the Lakes Region, Aponte is positioned to help Raymond navigate its financial cycles while raising his family to appreciate all that the natural world has to offer. <

New owner unravels history of old boat built in Windham

A 1956 wooden howler made of plywood and oak and built
in Windham by legendary boat builder Owen Staples is
now owned by Nathan Sawyer of Windham. He tracked 
the vessel online to learn its history and ended up meeting
the nephew of Staples, who gave him some old spare
boat parts. SUBMITTED PHOTO 
By Daniel Gray

The generations of owners of an old Windham boat take nothing for granted and are proud of the fact it shows the history of the town, not to mention the character of a local boat builder who had such an impact on multiple Windham families.

 

Windham in the early 1950s was much different than the town today. While we do know our neighbors today, the town was much smaller then, and people knew one another more intimately. One such person who lived in Windham was a man named Owen F. Staples, a great guy who loved to keep his hands busy.

 

Staples would build various sizes of gorgeous boats in his shop that was once located at 644 Roosevelt Trail in Windham. Sadly, those days are in the past, and Staples passed in October 2001. Despite this, some of his hand-crafted boats still live on to this day, and one remains in very good condition.

That boat, a wooden howler made of plywood and oak, was built in 1956. It can seat six people and is beautifully varnished around the exterior. The motor originally attached and still attached is a 35- horsepower Johnson motor. The boat isn't considered an antique, but at 65 years old, it looks almost brand new.

About 10 years after building the boat, Staples sold it to Clayton Crumnett in 1967. It had been well used on Little Sebago for years in the Crumnett family, constantly being on the local lakes during the summers.

Crumnett's daughter, Sharon Campbell, said that the boat and Owen's old shop drew quite a lot of attention back then.

"Owen would make these large boats in his shops and then put them out on the lawn for passing cars to take an interest. At the time, this was across the street from the old Windham drive-in theatre, so quite a lot of people would see the boats he built,” she said. “It was a real cute boat, so my dad got it and he would speed around Little Sebago in it at his camp for years."

The boat got many years of love from the family, traversing through Little Sebago, Big Sebago, and even Moosehead Lake. However, as Crumnnett grew older and eventually passed away in February 2020, he had made a final decision in 2017 to sell the boat to Nathan Sawyer, another Windham local who had a close tie with the family.

Years passed with the boat now in Sawyer’s hands and he had found himself growing more and more curious about the original builder. A small sticker plaque gave him the clue about who had built it without much other information.

Sawyer reached out online and eventually connected with one of Owen's family members, Fred Staples.

"Windham is a small town so usually somebody will know something about the history and the people,” Sawyer said. “We reached out online since surely someone knew more about the boat and the builder, and we're really glad we did."

Fred Staples said that he was pleasantly surprised when Sawyer called him asking about the old boat and was happy to give any information that he could use. He even went as far as offering to give old parts for some boats that Owen had given to him years prior, along with telling Sawyer more about his uncle in the meantime.

"My uncle was a great guy,” Fred Staples said. “Around the time he was building these handmade boats I was about 6 years old. I remember he would work on two at once in his two-car garage-turned-workshop."

Owen Staples was historically one of a few boat builders in Windham, not including the boat manufacturer that soon opened near his little business. He had a good heart and truly cared about the people in his community, his nephew said.

"If he heard someone was having boat issues around the boating season, he would go out and fix it himself," Fred Staples said. "And that was whether or not it was a boat he had built himself or not. He cared about boats and he cared about people, too. He was an incredible guy."

As we grow closer to the warmer months and the local lakes start to thaw, Sawyer said that he fully intends on getting the boat back into the water as soon as he can. Now armed with the knowledge and history behind the boat, Sawyer said that he has a bit more fondness toward it and the amazing work Owen Staples did crafting it more than 65 years ago. <

March 26, 2021

Proposed Windham budget could have lasting positive impact for town

Windham's town councilors will receive the town
manager's proposed 2021-2022 budget of 
$35,115,270 during a meeting on April 6. If
approved, the budget will be presented to voters
during the annual town meeting on June 12.
PHOTO BY ED PIERCE 
 
By Ed Pierce

For many town residents, there’s a lot to like about Windham 2021-2022 budget proposal as members of the Windham Town Council prepare to examine it closer when it is presented during the council’s scheduled April 6 meeting. 

Windham Town Manager Barry A. Tibbetts said the goal of this year’s budget proposal is to maintain services and programs while implementing capital improvements to improve the community. 

Potential capital projects for the year ahead for the town funded in the proposed $35,115,270 budget include paving and sidewalk work; work on rear access roads off Route 302; addressing North Windham wastewater treatment; completing the second phase of the Lowell Reserve parking lot; creation of three new playing fields behind Manchester School; a possible new community center; and addressing open-space property issues in Windham.

“In the proposed budget 2021-2022, we are looking to accomplish several objectives; hold the budget increase due to the COVID impacts on residents and businesses, continue with the paving and equipment replacement programs, develop recreational playing fields and playground while expanding parking at Lowell,” Tibbetts said. “The first item is to hold or limit any increases in the budget to the minimum based on the COVID impact to residents and businesses. The municipal budget increase is at 0.33 percent, or flat or no increase to the mil rate.” 

The new playing fields could be accomplished through a municipal bond and the use of town impact fees, Tibbetts said, and the parking lot at Lowell Preserve can also be paid for through town impact fees.

Longstanding wastewater treatment issues in North Windham may finally be addressed and potentially resolved following the Windham Town Council’s approval of two new Tax Increment Financing Districts and amendment of an existing TIF at its Jan. 26 meeting. Councilors agreed at that meeting to establish new 30-year TIF districts for North Windham and South Windham and voted to amend the current NW Roosevelt Trail TIF.

What that means is that the North Windham TIF could leverage taxes generated for a specific project such as wastewater treatment and use them to finance sewers or make other infrastructure improvements in the TIF district.

Savings for funding some other projects will be achieved by the retirement of existing town debt and obligations such as expiring leases on town vehicles and equipment and paying off an existing road bond of $148,625, Tibbetts said.

Roads to be repaved should the councilors approve, and then town voters agree at the town meeting on June 12 are Land of Nod Road; Depot Street; Common Avenue; Dunridge Circle; Page Road, Vance Drive; Varney Mill Road; Gosher and Gateway subdivison; Hillcrest Subdivision; Abby & Oak Subdivision; and Lantern Lane Cross Culvert.  

The budget proposal includes allocating up to $200,000 in capital funding for paving stretches of dirt roads on Hall Road; Gilman Drive; Old Country Road; a portion of Swett Road; Keene Road; Barnes Road; Read Road; Town Farm Road; Pendleton Ash Way; Peartree Lane; Craig Road; Claman Drive; Jones Hill Road; Hall Road where it meets Route 302; and Neighborly Way.

Under the budget proposal, Tibbetts said that Windham will add an assistant town manager and two new fire/emergency medical technicians.

If the budget is approved as proposed, town impact fees will be used to replace the playground equipment as Lowell Preserve and for a design and engineering study to improve Donna Lippman Park.

“We are maintaining our 16.67 percent unassigned balance reserve to meet Government Finance Officers’ Association three-month recommendation for operating revenues,” Tibbetts said. “This is important for any bonding we would be considering.”

Tibbetts said that the town will use about half of last year’s revenues increase for the coming year to provide a reserve for future unexpected variances in the economy.

“Those unanticipated revenues in the coming year over the new projections could be used on next year’s budget,” he said. “This is a conservative approach which will allow for better budgetary management in the long term.”   

For 2021-2022, Tibbetts said revenues are projected to rise overall about 3.2 percent.

“The expenditures are increased by 0.33 percent,” he said. “The county budget has increased by 3.1 percent. The end result of the mil rate, while holding the school overlay and new building and land valuations as static, would increase 0.02 cents based on the county budget.”     

The budget that Tibbetts is proposing includes $1.1 million for the lease/purchase of two plow trucks; a street sweeper; a trackless snow blower/mower; three new EMS stretchers; and three new cardiac monitors. It also allocates $550,000 to complete the purchase of Engine 7 for the town’s fire department. 

Although the RSU 14 has yet to be formulated, the budget Tibbetts will submit to town councilors for 2021-2022 is marginally higher than the 2020-2021’s budget of $35,048,303 approved by town voters and the town council.

With the mil rate of 4.4 unchanged from a year ago, the municipal tax rate for Windham will be flat, Tibbetts said. < 

Meals on Wheels continues to deliver food and social connection without fail during pandemic

By Lorraine Glowczak

The Meals on Wheels program delivers more than
just food. It also ensures social interaction and a
wellness visit to vulnerable adults in Maine. For 
those who are in  need of Meals on Wheels services or
for those who wish to volunteer, call 
207-396-6500. COURTESY PHOTO

The concept of the Meals on Wheels program began in the United Kingdom during World War II when many civilians were displaced by German bombings throughout England in 1939.

According to the website, History of Meals on Wheels, “the Women’s Volunteer Service for Civil Defense responded to this emergency by preparing and delivering meals to their disadvantaged neighbors. These women also brought refreshments in canteens to servicemen during World War II. The canteens came to be known as ‘Meals on Wheels.’ Thus, the first organized nutrition program was born.”

The website also stated that after the war, the United States embarked on its own experimental meal program and the first American home-delivered meal system began in Philadelphia in January 1954. From there, the program’s mission to provide home-delivered meals rapidly spread across the United States and Canada. 

Currently, in the U.S., the Meals on Wheels program provides food and social interactions for older adults and is financed and operated at the local level. Here in Southern Maine, including the greater Raymond and Windham areas, the program is managed by the Southern Maine Agency on Aging (SMAA). Their mission is to provide home-delivered meals to not only older Mainers but to their caregivers as well - even during the most challenging times, such as a year-long pandemic.

Gratefully, their delivery program did not stop during Covid-19. In fact, the need for nutritious food provisions for older adults and their caregivers increased.

"Prior to the pandemic, we were serving, on average 750 clients with 2500 meals per week,” SMAA’s Program Manager of Nutrition, Renee Longarini said. “When the pandemic hit, we saw those numbers increase to 1150 clients and more than 5,000 meals per week. Those new numbers have been consistent throughout the pandemic.  We began to offer clients 3 weeks of emergency meals (this was a combination of frozen and shelf stable) to have on hold in the event of an emergency or should their delivery be temporarily suspended as a result of COVID.  We also began offering up to 21 meals per week.  Prior to COVID, on average our clients received 5 meals per week.  With the decreased ability to get support from other services during the pandemic we wanted to ensure they had access to the meals they needed.  I believe all the adjustments we made certainly helped reduce food insecurity.

Perhaps just as importantly, the Meals on Wheels Program delivers more than just food. It also ensures social interaction and a wellness visit to vulnerable adults in Maine.

“We have a saying ,’it’s more than just a meal’,” Longarini said. “That’s because, often times, the visit from our volunteer is just as important as the meal itself.  Of course, this has become more difficult during the pandemic as we had to implement safety precautions at the time of delivery.  However, we have a wonderful Phone Pals program where we match clients with volunteers.  The volunteers make a friendly daily call to the client as part of a wellness check.”

The wellness checks have established connections between volunteers and the individuals they serve. This creates pleasant memories and heartwarming stories.

Nicole Parker, SMAA Nutrition Site Manager for the Sebago Lakes Region area stated that that she is amazed and lucky to have 22 dedicated volunteers who pack and deliver meals two mornings a week. Five of these volunteer delivery drivers have been providing food and social connection in the Greater Windham area for more than 10 years.

“Delivery is a check in and a connection,” Parker said. “If anything seems ‘off’ when the meals are delivered, like no answer at the  door, sick, confused etc.,  the driver calls me, and I check in with an emergency contact and if needed, a wellness check with the Police Department is initiated.”

Parker said they pay attention to the additional necessities that come up when the drivers are delivering weekly meals.

“Right before this last Christmas I had a driver come back and tell me a usual client of ours had given back her meals and asked to cancel the program,” said Parker. “I called right then to check in and she told me it was due to the fact her microwave broke and she had no way to reheat them. Money was a concern, and she was homebound and did not drive. One of the morning meal packers overheard my phone call, and then reached out to her high school aged daughter and together decided that this would be their Christmas tradition of giving this year!”

About an hour later the volunteer and her daughter had purchased and delivered a new microwave and brought the client to tears of gratitude.

“My family and I now seek out donated microwaves to always have on hand for future needs- any are welcome,” Parker said. “The bonds formed are heartwarming and mutual. I get calls from concerned clients if their usual driver is a tad late, or not in that day, or to ask me to pass messages along of updates or good wishes!”

Parker said that she has been told repeatedly that the Meals on Wheels delivery driver is the only person some of the Meals on Wheels recipients see for the week. “So, yes, I’d say a masked front door chat is just as needed as the meals themselves!”

Crucial times call for crucial  measures. Since its inception in the U.S., the Meals on Wheels program continues to serve both nutritional and social needs for older adults during challenging times, without fail. This year of a world-wide pandemic has been no exception.

For those who are in need of Meals on Wheels services or for those who wish to volunteer, please call 207-396-6500 for more information. <

American Legion Field-Allen Post 148 celebrates veteran’s coffee anniversary

By David Tanguay

Special to The Windham Eagle

Looking back, it is hard to believe that five years have passed since the American Legion Post 148’s service officer, Chuck Whynot, approached the post adjutant about starting a regular Veterans Social Coffee at the Windham Veterans Center. 

He had indicated that he visited four to five “housebound” veterans each week and found that some of them just needed a place outside the home that was safe for them to go.  Initially established and advertised as a drop-off for ambulatory veterans to get out of the house and possibly allowing the veteran’s caregivers a little free time, the Veteran’s Socials are held from 9 to 11 a.m. each Wednesday morning at the Windham Veterans Center. 

Windham veterans observe the fifth anniversary
of the American Legion Post 148's weekly 
veterans coffee gatherings on Wednesday, March
24 at the Windham Veterans Center. Left is 
Windham Veterans Association President
David Rendall and Legion Post Service Officer
Chuck Whynot, founder of the popular weekly
event as they cut a ceremonial cake. 
SUBMITTED PHOTO  
The first coffee social was held on March 23, 2016, with six new veterans in attendance. The gathering was considered a success and plans continued for the weekly event which grew over the following years to about three dozen veterans. Many came for the camaraderie and coffee, others developed other interests such as playing cribbage and other board games.

Each Year, on the closest date to March 23, an anniversary cake cutting ceremony is held to honor the time that the veterans have had together. 

Strong bonds of friendship have been formed with many of the members and because of the coffee, on average, some 15 new veterans have joined the Field-Allen post and many of them have become integral members of the organization.

In March 2020, just two weeks before the fourth anniversary of the coffee, everything was halted because of concerns about the COVID-19 virus spreading in the community. This ended a 203-week run of the Veterans Coffee gathering without ever missing a single Wednesday. 

But in early April 2020, an interesting thing happened. Several of the Veterans Coffee members started coming to the WVC on Wednesday around 9 a.m. and they set up chairs in the parking lot at appropriate social distances to spend some social time together. They brought their own coffee and face masks. Obviously, the Veterans Coffee was not dead.

When the WVC was cleared in early summer by the CDC to resume hosting limited functions at the WVC, the Veterans Coffees returned with about a dozen local veterans in attendance. Since then, the coffees have continued unabated under COVID-19 social protocols of social distancing, face coverings, hand sanitizer and temperature checks at the door.

The Veterans Coffee has also provided the opportunity to honor some of our veterans by recognizing their birthdays, and through the presentations of Eagle Canes and Quilts of Honor. Everyone is looking forward to the time when they can visit their fellow vets unimpeded. 

On Wednesday, March 24, the veterans gathered and celebrated the fifth anniversary of the Veterans Coffee. And this time, there was a cake to cut. <

March 19, 2021

In the public eye: Town of Raymond's Kaela Gonzalez

By Ed Pierce

Kaela Gonzalez has worked for the
Town of Raymond for five years and
wears many hats including assistant
to the town manager, assistant to the
town assessor, and assistant to the
town public works director, along
with duty as the town's communications
director. She says that her job keeps
her connected to the community and 
residents where she lives.
FILE PHOTO  

Editor’s note: This is another in an ongoing series of Windham and Raymond town employee profiles.

When looking at the attributes of an ideal employee, the human resources director for the Town of Raymond certainly hit the jackpot when hiring Kaela Gonzalez five years ago.

In her duties as assistant to Raymond’s town manager, assistant to the town assessor and assistant to the town public works director, Gonzalez also serves as Raymond’s communications director, a position that requires the utmost of tact and diplomacy. She exhibits characteristics employers dream of in an ideal employee such as dependability, honesty and integrity, a positive and proactive attitude, a wiliness to work hard and the ability to use her time productively.

Gonzalez lives in Raymond with her husband and four children, and her versatility working at town hall makes her someone many town departments seek out when they are trying to resolve difficult problems and issues. Among her many tasks on the job are gathering and assembling the town’s monthly newsletter, The Roadrunner, ensuring that the Town of Raymond’s Facebook page is updated frequently, and posting information and articles to the town’s website.

Originally from Owls Head in the mid-coast region of Maine, Gonzalez spent time in the service and hospitality industry as a waitress and then earned a degree in health sciences at the University of Southern Maine.

Moving to Raymond and starting a family, she had an epiphany that led to a career change and a desire to go to work for the town.

“Each time they had an opening, I applied for it,” Gonzalez said. “We had started a family and wanted to root here. I kept on applying and I told them at the time that I would continue to apply for openings until they hired me, and it must have worked because they did.”

She says that one of the best things about her duties gathering material for the town newsletter is that it keeps her in touch with what is going on in the community and the residents who make Raymond a great place to live.

“Working on The Roadrunner keeps me connected to the community for sure,” Gonzalez said. “You truly get to know more people from working for the town. It keeps me engaged in this community in a way that I wouldn’t feel if I didn’t work for the town.”

Her family are usually at community events right there with her, such as during last summer’s backpack program in Raymond, when her children joined Gonzalez in preparing meals for students in need living in town.

“My kids went with me and bagged bags of food right along with me,” she said. 

One of the drawbacks of her service to the town though is many long hours of being on-call.

“As communications director, I need to be available on weekend or at night and that can add up,” Gonzalez said.

But the experience of being able to help residents resolve issues courteously and with professionalism continues to be the guiding factor in how Gonzalez approaches her work each day she arrives for duty.

“I think that even over the phone, people can sense if you are smiling or not,” she said. “I try and handle everyone as if they are a friend. I work for the residents of Raymond and I try to convey that every time I speak with someone on the phone.”

When she does have free time, Gonzalez says she enjoys summer camping trips with her family, being outdoors every chance that she can get and participating in various health and fitness activities.

Gonzalez said she strives to treat everyone she meets in her duties with the town with respect and dignity and how she herself would want to be treated.

“I had a career in the service industry, and I understand the concept of being in the service of others,” she said. “I really feel that it’s important to end a conservation with someone in the community who has asked us a question on a positive note. That’s really why we are here, as I see it. It’s the mission of town employees to help the residents of Raymond.”

She said she’s aware some residents are not always going to be happy in their dealings with the town government, but it is a goal she constantly works at.

“I’m very appreciative to work here for the Town of Raymond and be provided with that opportunity,” Gonzalez said. “I really enjoy coming to work every day. I truly do and I’m proud to serve this town and this community.” <

Windham Christian Academy students excel in VFW essay contests

A contingent of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10643 members
surprised student winners from Windham Christian Academy
with awards from the Voice of America and Patriot's Pen essay
contests for 2021. From left are VFW Post 10643 Post Chaplain 
Roger Timmons, Post Surgeon Jerry Black, Hunter Edson of 
Windham Christian Academy, VFW District Commander Willie
Goodman, Abigail Williams of Windham Christian Academy and
Past State VFW Commander Steve SanPedro.
SUBMITTED PHOTO 
By Ed Pierce

Patriotism is a core value of American democracy and as such isn’t restricted to age group or gender. These facts were evident as members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars stopped by Windham Christian Academy in Windham to surprise student winners of the VFW’s annual essay contests on March 12.

A delegation of VFW Post 10643 leaders visited the school and recognized Hunter Edson and Abigail Williams for writing standout essays in the Voice of Democracy and Patriots’ Pen essay competition.

The Voice of Democracy competition was open to all high school students, grades 9 to 12, including those who are home-schooled. Students wrote and recorded a three- to five-minute essay on an audio CD on this year's theme of "Is This the Country the Founders Envisioned?" The Patriot's Pen competition was open to all middle school students, including home schoolers, in grades 6 to 8. Students were tasked with writing a 300 to 400 word essay on this year's theme, "What is Patriotism to Me?"

Edson, a sophomore at Windham Christian Academy, was honored as the first-place recipient for the VFW district in the Voice of Democracy contest and was also informed by VFW Post 10-643 Commander Willie Goodman that he was chosen as this year’s winner for the entire state of Maine.

As a result, Edson will now advance to compete in the national VFW Voice of Democracy contest and for winning first-place in the Maine state contest, he earned a four-day trip to Washington, D.C.

In the national competition, Edson is competing for a $30,000 scholarship awarded by VFW.

For her entry in the Patriots’ Pen contest, Williams, an eighth grader at Windham Christian Academy, placed second in the district overall.

Both Williams and Edson were presented certificates, cash awards and backpacks, along with accessory items for their outstanding essays and contest entries.   

“The VFW is extremely proud of both Hunter and Abigail and we congratulate them for their achievements,” Goodman said.

The national VFW Voice of America contest will be conducted later this spring in Washington, D.C. and entries will be judged on content, creativity and delivery.

Interested students and/or teachers looking to participate in next year’s contests should contact VFW Post 10643 by phone at 207-228-4329 or write to the post at P.O. Box 1776, Windham, Maine 04062 for more information. <

Lost ring bands community together to produce a miracle

Windham Walmart employee Bernadette
Stevens displays a ring that was given to 
her by her late mother that she lost during
February prompting a desperate search.
Earlier this month she found the precious 
memento in some melting ice near her
driveway in Casco. SUBMITTED PHOTO
By Daniel Gray

With a little over 50 square miles in Windham, finding an item that has been lost is no easy feat. Personal items are misplaced all the time, whether it be big or small. There are great cases where the items are found, but not every story has a happy ending such as that. To lose a priceless ring, for example, anything could happen. For example, finding the ring where you least expect it.

That happened to Bernadette Stevens, a Casco resident and Windham Walmart employee. In February, Stevens had noticed that during her shift that the ring from her beloved mother, Mary Stevens-Jellison, had somehow slipped off her finger and was lost.

The ring had been her own engagement ring and Stevens’ mother had recently passed away in August 2019. The ring was gold with three striking diamonds embedded in it, and though no matter the cost, it was a precious memento of her mother and losing it was a huge heartbreak to herself and her family.

Stevens recalls one fond memory with her mom and the same ring,

"I remember seeing the ring when I was younger, just looking at it, and my mother would tell me 'If you can get this ring off my finger, I'll let you have it.' She didn't think I would be able to get it off her finger, it was a challenge," Stevens said. "It took a while to get, but her ring means the world to me."

She was devastated looking down to see that she no longer had her mother's ring on her finger. Determined, Stevens looked high and low, even checking the plastic bags with Walmart's to-go carts that are used with pick-up orders. The hunt was on, but Stevens was not the only person searching.

Stevens had reached out to other Walmart associates, who made sure to keep an eye out for the ring. Stevens also took to Facebook in a desperate attempt to see if someone had found it in the store or the parking lot.

"I had cleaned so much to find the ring, hoping that it would just appear on its own,” she said. “Tore the couch apart, tore everything apart where it could have gotten stuck. I reached out to the community since maybe someone had found it in the parking lot or in the store. I didn't expect so many people would reach out and offer to help."

Instead, the opposite happened. The original post Stevens made on Facebook had more than 3,000 shares and wonderful comments to match. People across Windham gave their best wishes for Stevens to find the lost ring. There were even people willing to help search the parking lot if she needed help looking for it.

"I was just blown away. I had so many comments and shares, and a few guys wanted to search the parking lot with a metal detector once spring hit,” Stevens said. “I wasn't expecting so many people to lend support to me, and it really helped me get through the month knowing that I had people willing to help out in different ways."

February came and went, and then the snow and ice slowly started to melt in March. Still, no sign of the ring and Stevens had even gone to local pawn shops and jewelers to see if anyone had found the ring and sold it for a quick buck. 

As the days ticked on, she found herself losing hope of ever finding it. She was explaining her desperation to the Walmart store manager until something had clicked.

"I went to the store manager and I was talking about the ring, and she suggested that I ask my mom where it is," Stevens said.

Of course, she couldn't just call her mom up on the phone and ask. Instead, that night, Stevens spiritually asked her mother to help her find the lost ring or to give her a sign of where it would be, at the very least.

The next morning, nothing came of it. She continued doing this and by the third day, she was outside looking for something else and suddenly found the unexpected. 

There was her mother's ring, trapped under a bit of ice.

Stevens goes into detail of how it felt to find the ring there, of all places.

"I saw a glimpse of gold and looked closer at it. I kept repeating to myself 'no way' since I was surprised it was 3 feet away from my car, just under ice. It must have just slipped off my finger at some point in the colder days of February."

Excited and overjoyed, Stevens happily told her family, friends, and the community. Everyone was supportive that she had found it, glad that it wasn't in the parking lot and instead was found close to home.

Since losing the ring, Stevens has also had countless people recognize her at work and give passing words of encouragement upon finding the ring once more. Now, Windham residents are congratulating her on finding it.

"It just really goes to show how awesome Windham is,” Stevens said. “I grew up there and It's hard to find communities like that these days to root you on for the little victories."

To save this from ever happening again, Stevens said that she will be getting a guard on the ring that helps resize it without having to damage it in any way and prevent it from falling off unexpectedly when she wears it. <