July 29, 2016

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Sen. Diamond submits bill to block discrimination against seniors

AUGUSTA — In response to efforts by an auto insurance company to increase premiums for Maine seniors based solely on their age, Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, has submitted a bill that would prohibit such rate hikes. 

“Such an arbitrary policy is blatantly unfair and will present an unnecessary financial burden to many senior citizens,” Sen. Diamond said. “Mainers don’t believe seniors should be discriminated against or treated unfairly. It’s not inherently dangerous for a person to reach their 65th birthday, and insurance companies shouldn’t act like it is.”

http://mulberryfarmsmaine.com/Diamond pledged to work with Rep. Henry Beck, D-Waterville, to ensure seniors are protected from needless discrimination by auto insurers. Beck, the house chairman of the Insurance and Financial Services Committee, has also submitted a bill to block such rate changes. 

“Auto insurance companies should not be able to penalize seniors simply because they are getting older,” Rep. Beck said. “I am pursuing legislation that will make that completely clear, whether it involves existing customers of a particular insurance company or seniors who are shopping around for a new insurer. We have an obligation to protect the independence of Maine seniors. Fairness in auto insurance rates is part of that.”

Sen. Diamond’s bill will be considered by the new legislature when it convenes in January. 

“A history of reckless driving or car accidents may be justifiable reasons to increase a customer’s premiums. Age alone is not,” Sen. Diamond said.

South Windham landmark and eyesore demolished - By Michelle Libby

Making way for progress in South Windham, the former Patsy’s Store once owned by the Meile family was demolished this week. The building located at 9 Main Street had been a blight on the main road for years having trouble with tenants for years and finally in July of 2014 was abandoned. 
The original building before renovations was a neighborhood store with four apartments above it, according to historical documents. The building was built in 1875. The town owned the property through foreclosure and non-payment of property taxes until it was purchased by Jim Cummings for $26,000 and is expected to be re-developed under the town ordinances. During the February 23rd meeting of the town council, Cummings planned to build a four unit apartment building there. 

Student of the week - Nathan Plummer

The Windham Eagle student of the week is Nathan Plummer from Jordan-Small Middle School. The soon to be eighth grader loves math and sports. 

“Nathan Plummer exhibits the most valued traits of a good friend and an excellent student.  Peers describe him as trustworthy, accepting and dependable. He leads by example and is someone who welcomes others' opinions.  He never boasts or brags in order to upstage someone else.  Nathan's strong academic skills shine because he is willing to work hard, has a positive attitude and seeks to understand, not just get things done.  Most importantly, Nathan will help anyone who is in need.  Today's students are tomorrow's leaders and with Nathan Plummer at the helm, the future looks bright,” according to his teachers. 

“When I grow up I want to go to college then maybe into the Navy and then find a job in law enforcement,” Nathan said. When  he’s not in school working to get into college, he is practicing sports. 

Nathan is the son of Kim and Scott. He has an older brother Ryan and a younger brother Sam, as well as a dog named Molly.

Favorite TV show: Hawaii Five-O
Favorite Animal: Dog
Favorite movie:  Star Wars
Hobbies:  Sports, TV

Feed the Need fundrasing efforts change course - By Elizabeth Richards

Fundraising efforts for the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce Feed the Need initiative looks different this year, but the goal of eliminating hunger in the region remains unchanged. Rather than the Octoberfest festival of recent years, the committee will concentrate on raising money through a series of smaller events, said SLRCC Executive Director Aimee Senatore.

“It comes down to what the mission is. Feed the Need is an initiative to eliminate hunger in the Sebago Lakes Region. Our efforts were getting pushed towards putting this big festival on and we weren’t dedicating our time to raising as much money as we wanted to raise,” she said. 

What people don’t necessarily know, she added, is that Octoberfest was originally started as a way to thank the businesses involved in the Community Coin Challenge, rather than a major fundraising effort. But over the years, a lot of energy was focused on the festival rather than how to raise money. Last year, due to a variety of issues at the previous location, including security, electricity and space, Octoberfest was moved to Camp Hinds in Raymond. 
“It was very successful, but it also demanded an awful lot of work and people to make it happen,” Senatore said. 

As challenges arose for some of the key planners, the committee met and determined that the festival had moved away from the original purpose. With a small volunteer base, they decided to eliminate a lot of the work while focusing on fundraising with smaller events over the next few months.

These events include a yard sale on July 30th, an eBay auction and a raffle for helicopter rides, a walk put on by the Rotary Club called Feet for Food, and a benefit night at Franco’s Bistro on Tuesday, August 23rd. Lee’s Family Trailer will hold its annual Dumping for Diapers event which collects personal care products like diapers, shampoo, toilet paper and paper towels that are essential items that the food pantries are in dire need of, said Senatore. 

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In addition, a new regional spotlight event called The Amazing Chase will be held on September 24, 2016. Four person teams will compete for prizes in a series of challenging team building activities, including physical challenges, road blocks and pit stops that take them all over the region. More information can be found at www.amazingchasesebago.com.        

Once a participant has registered for the Amazing Chase, Senatore said, they will receive an email encouraging them to raise at least $50 per person for Feed the Need through a crowd funding platform.

Included in the Amazing Chase is a large after party for participants, with food, beverages and live music. Lee’s Family Trailer and Windham Weaponry will both participate in this party as the Feed the Need representation, Senatore said. The barbeque will be hosted by Lee’s Family Trailer, and Windham Weaponry will have a dessert tent at the event. During this party, a check ceremony will be held to award the money raised through that date.

Feed the Need is the primary philanthropic activity of the chamber, Senatore said. While the initiative is active year round, the major fundraising push happens from July through October. At the beginning of November, checks are awarded to the food pantries as they move into their greatest time of need.
In the first four years of the initiative, over $80,000 has been raised, directly benefiting the food pantries. In April 2016, the chamber created a 501©3 non-profit, the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber Charitable Trust to enhance the initiative.

The 13 pantries in the ten communities served by the SLRCC have come to rely on the money raised through Feed the Need, said Senatore. “We decided to really focus our efforts on making sure that we reach our fundraising goals, and do it in a way that is more streamlined and efficient from a volunteer and time perspective, and hope that the community can understand that,” she said.

July 22, 2016

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Community opinions wanted for community center

Windham Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee is looking for the opinions of community members in a survey they have been circulating. 

hr@grandyoats.comThe general questions ask the community if they are in favor of a community center for the town. “The parks and rec committee are in favor. We want to see how other folks feel,” said parks and rec director Linda Brooks. 

The committee wants to know what people would like to see in a community center, how long people have lived in town and give reasons for or against the proposal. Brooks can then take the proposal to the town council for their approval. 

They are hoping for at least 600 responses by Monday, August 8. There are hard copies around town, but the easiest way to answer the survey is online at www.windhamrecreation.com.

Windham Neighbors Helping Neighbors receives donation from local organization

The Windham Neighbors Helping Neighbors has received a donation in the amount of $10,000 from the Lake Pine Association, the organization that managed the Odd Fellows Hall on Route 302 in Windham. The Quonset-hut type building was the home of the Lake Shore Lodge #5 and the Pinea 71 Rebekahs, together known as the Odd Fellows. The Lake Pine Association sold the building and decided to donate a portion of the profit from the sale to Windham Neighbors Helping Neighbors.

“We are very grateful to the Odd Fellows and the Lake Pine Association for their extremely generous donation to Windham Neighbors Helping Neighbors. This amazing contribution will help keep many needy Windham citizens, who have no other place to turn, warm this coming winter,” said Bill Diamond, president of WNHN. 

“The Odd Fellows and the Rebekahs have served Windham citizens in need for nearly 70 years and so it’s in keeping with their proud history to help those who struggle to stay warm in the winter by donating funds to Windham Neighbors Helping Neighbors,” said Mark Bryant, WNHN Board of Directors.
One hundred percent of every dollar donated to WNHN goes to the purchase of heating fuel.

For more information, contact Bill Diamond at 207-892-8941 or visit www.windhamneighbors.org.

Free meals for children - By Elizabeth Richards

The Preble Street Maine Hunger Initiative (PSMHI) provides hunger relief to children during the summer at free summer meal sites positioned throughout Cumberland County. This year, Windham once again has a site of its own. Free lunch is served to children aged 5-18 from Monday through Friday, weather dependent, from 12:30 p.m. to 1 p.m. at Dundee Park, off Presumpscot Road.
Michelle Lamm, PSMHI program manager, said Windham has had summer meal sites previously, but was not able to find a site last year. This year, Goodwill NNE Americorp VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) volunteer Danielle DiCenzo worked with several key players in Windham and Westbrook to get the site up and running. That collaboration included Parks and Recreation Director Linda Brooks; Director of School Nutrition for RSU 14 Jeanne Reilly; School Board Chair Marge Govoni; Volunteer Coordinator for RSU14 Michelle Jordan, and Director of School Nutrition for the Westbrook School Department Barbara Nichols.

In order to qualify for the program, a site must be at a school where 50 percent of children receive free or reduced lunch, or in an area of need based on census data, DiCenzo said. The challenge in RSU14 is that the schools don’t qualify, but there are still around 900 children in the district who receive free or reduced lunch through the school nutrition program, making it clear that there is still a need.
“Jeanne Reilly has been a really strong supporter every year to try to reopen a site so her kids could access this,” Lamm said. 

The meals for Dundee Park are prepared in Westbrook, which has multiple summer meal sites. As the sponsor, DiCenzo said, the Westbrook School Department is responsible for administrative paperwork, overall training, and receives the reimbursement for the meals. 

The summer meals program is a federal nutrition program, similar to the school lunch program, said Lamm. Through the program, sites can offer two meals or snacks per day, but cannot offer both lunch and dinner. The Dundee park site offers lunch only.

The initiative seeks to offer other enrichment activities at the meal sites as well, Lamm said. This might include nutrition education, gardening, or literacy activities – anything to give it a more camp-like feel.
“We like to say that kids can come get a meal and have fun,” she said. Dundee Park has a natural camp feel with the beach and recreation area.

Although there is an admission cost at Dundee, DiCenzo said that Reilly helped arrange for some passes to be available to families, and did outreach through the school Backpack Program to get those passes into the hands of families who might need them. She said there were approximately 20 passes given out, and that allows the families not only to get meals for the children, but also to enjoy the park all summer.
Staffing arrangements for the sites vary, but at the community sites, volunteers often serve the meals.

Volunteers for the Dundee Park were located through Jordan, an announcement on Volunteer Maine, and community members who saw the program in action and stepped in to help. Volunteer Marisa Washburn and her children, Ella and Cole, got involved through Jordan. “It was a wonderful opportunity, and both of my kids were totally interested in helping to volunteer and help out in the community as much as we could,” said Washburn. Twelve year-old Cole added, “It seemed fun, and it’s good to help the community.” 

The number of meals served daily averages to about 20, with the actual number changing frequently, often due to varying weather conditions. A mini-grant from the Good Shepard Food Bank allowed the site to purchase a mini-fridge to store left over meals, and pay for the van transportation for the daily meals from Westbrook.

The support from Americorp VISTA is an important aspect of the program, Lamm said. The volunteers do the organizing, build relationships, and find future leaders. “Danielle was pivotal in organizing the Windham group. Her role is to set that stuff up, do capacity building, then slowly step back and hope they are able to run it with everything she has set in motion,” said Lamm.

Lamm said that in 2010, Maine was ranked 23rd in the nation for summer meals participation. In the last year, Maine has climbed to number six. “We’ve seen a lot of growth and I think it’s due to all the hard work of all the different partners across the state – the Department of Education, Preble Street Maine Hunger Initiative, Good Shepherd Food Bank, all the sponsors – but we have a lot more work to do. I think we’re only reaching 20 percent of eligible kids,” said Lamm. With summer hunger hard to combat, she said, all USDA federal nutrition programs must be maximized to have the biggest impact.