May 27, 2022

Beloved Birchwood Day Nursery School to close doors on July 1

The community will feel the loss of the well-known and
much-appreciated Birchwood Day Nursery School in
Windham when it closes its doors on July 1 after providing
55 years of childhood exploration and education. Director
Connie DiBiase stands by the preschool's iconic crayon
fence as she officially announces her retirement.
By Lorraine Glowczak

It all started in 1967, when home daycare providers Paula Smithson of Windham and Nancy Dow, who now resides in Casco, joined forces to create the Birchwood Day Nursery School, at one point at the North Windham Union Church, 723 Roosevelt Trail in Windham.

Smithson and Dow eventually handed the reigns over to other trusted owners, Susan Attwood and Carol Black- all have made their indelible mark on young children, creating the beloved preschool today located at 1003 River Road.

But after 55 years of providing early childhood exploration and teachable moments to those three years old and above, Birchwood will give its final high-fives and hugs for a job well done on Friday, July 1.

The community will feel the loss of this much-loved preschool with its welcoming crayon fence surrounding the driveway as Director Connie DiBiase officially announced her retirement.

“With my 70th birthday approaching, I realized I was ready to travel and spend more time with my children and grandchildren, who live in various parts of the U.S., with one family moving soon to Finland,” DiBiase said. “Also, my husband retired a little over 12 years ago, and he has been waiting very patiently for me to join him.”

The bittersweet decision to step down was not an easy one for DiBiase. She stated she tried to find an assistant director to prepare for the directorship role but had very little luck finding the right person interested in taking over the position.

“Not finding an individual to step into the role of the director made my decision more difficult because I had to think about Birchwood ending,” DiBiase said. “This has been one of the most bittersweet times in my life because I love these children – I love the people I work with – and I love the parents. But I was worried about the options that would leave parents due to the current shortage of childcare.”

DiBiase has every reason to feel a bit sentimental as she makes this transition. Out of the 55 years, this center has been an educational staple for the community; DiBiase has been a part of the Birchwood family for 37 years.

“I got my start here through my oldest daughter. She attended Birchwood when she was just 4,” said DiBiase, a former art teacher at Manchester School in Windham. “One day, when I dropped off my daughter, I was asked if I’d be interested in substituting and began substituting soon after. Since then, I have been a teacher, band-aid nurse, janitor, landscaper, and director.”

For DiBiase, working with children was not just any job; it was a calling.

“I have always loved kids, and I knew I would be a teacher at a young age,” she said.

She said the best part about working with this age group is the innocence and the joy they give every day. DiBiase noted that young children do not have any preconceived notions about anything, making them a pleasure to work with.

DiBiase and the rest of the Birchwood teaching team have instilled in their young learners the importance of community and the art of giving to others.

“Family is the first community children experience, preschool is the second, and then we introduce them to the greater community surrounding them,” DiBiase said.

The teaching staff has created many service opportunities to introduce the children to the concept of community that includes but are not limited to: a Mitten Giving Tree, local food pantry donations, fulfilling Ronald McDonald House wish lists, and – more recently, has also been very active in the RSU 14 Backpack Program, in which they raise funds for healthy meals for older students by running a “marathon” around the small Birchwood playground.

Although saddened by the news, staff, and parents, celebrate DiBiase’s retirement and all the positive enrichment Birchwood has offered young minds throughout the years.

Lead Preschool Teacher Jenn Boisvert began working at Birchwood in 2004, only taking a short year away to be a stay-at-home mom.

“I love Birchwood because everyone shares the same vision and is dedicated to the mission,” she said. “Birchwood has created a strong family environment where everyone is there for each other, and I feel this preschool has been successful because it has provided high-quality care for children for many years. Our focus has been to provide a safe, caring, and healthy environment for all children to grow, develop and learn individually. Under Connie’s leadership, Birchwood has grown to the highly respected program it is today through her guidance and dedication to young children.”

Boisvert stated she loves DiBiase because she cares about, values and respects her employees.

“She has a generous heart and truly cares about everyone’s well-being,” Boisvert said. “Connie has demonstrated strong dedication and support to her programs, the children and their families.”

Parent Shannon Sampson said that DiBiase and her staff are amazing, and her retirement will be a significant loss for the Windham community. 

“All three of our children attended Birchwood's preschool programs and we will forever be in their debt for the support Birchwood provided to our children's early development,” Sampson said. “When our oldest started in the three-year-old program at Birchwood over seven years ago, Connie provided guidance and reassurance at every turn. Connie always supported her Birchwood teachers by sending them to trainings and conferences yearly as well as the community of Windham with the annual marathon to support the RSU 14 backpack program. The list of enriching opportunities that Birchwood provided to our children is way too long to list out, but we can say with confidence that every parent that attended a Birchwood art show or end of the year graduation left astounded and proud of not only their own children's hard work, but that of the staff at Birchwood.”

DiBiase carefully looks forward to the next journey in her life.

“As it gets closer to July 1, the feeling gets heavier and heavier, but I look forward to a new chapter,” she said. “I have had so many good years – it is just time for me to experience other adventures.”

As DiBiase waves goodbye, Sampson offers this sendoff:

“Although she will be greatly missed, we can't think of anyone who deserves retirement more than Connie,” Sampson said. “Thank you for caring for our children over the years as if they were your very own.” <

‘Feed the Need’ receives big check for area food panties

Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce Vice President
Jennifer Arsenault, left, Gary Bibeau of the Raymond
Food Pantry, SLRCC Executive Director Robin Mullins,
Joan Vail of the Casco Village Church, Deb Howard of the
Sebago Warming Hut Food Pantry, Annie Bowlman of the 
Naples Community Resource Council, Colette Gagnon of 
the Windham Food Pantry, Kari Reed of the Crosswalk
Community Outreach Naples, Raymond Town Manager 
Don Willard, SLRCC President Deb McPhail and Donna Rans
of the Gary Food Pantry gather at the SLRCC offices on 
Monday, May 23 for the disbursement of 'Feed the Need'
monies raised through several local fundraisers.
By Matt Pascarella

The “Feed the Need” initiative was originally started in 2012 by Sherri Huff, CEO of Lee’s Family Trailer Sales and Service and Allen Faraday, Executive Vice President of Windham Weaponry. Both were active board directors of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce who noticed a growing amount of people struggling with food insecurity in the Sebago Lakes region.

Through several fundraisers this year, along with donor donations, the “Feed the Need” initiative raised over $25,000 for distribution to the 11 food pantries in eight towns: Casco, Gray, Naples, New Gloucester, Sebago, Standish, Raymond and Windham. And an event was held at the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce office in Windham on Monday, May 23 to distribute the checks to the food pantries in these towns.

“This year was a phenomenal year,” said Sebago Lakes Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Robin Mullins. “The community stepped up ...  to be at $25,000 is absolutely amazing.”

In 2012, Huff and Faraday started the Community Coin Challenge and Octoberfest Celebration to raise money and awareness in support of the food panties in the Sebago Lake region.

From 2012 to 2016 the “Feed the Need” initiative raised over $80,000. In 2016 the chamber created an official 501(c)3 non-profit, the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber Charitable Trust to enhance the initiative.

Funds are raised via online donations as part of the chamber’s annual Bid of Christmas event, the annual Polar Dip as well as Walmart who donates $1,000 each year to the initiative.

This year the SLRCC Charitable Trust was fortunate to receive a $5,000 grant from the John T. Gorman Foundation.

February’s Polar Dip, part of the Rotary Club’s Fishing Derby, where participants jumped into 32-degree temperature water was a big success; it raised over $11,000 for “Feed the Need”.

Gary Bibeau is the manager at Raymond Food Pantry. On average, his pantry serves 79 families a month.

He has seen an increase in the numbers of those struggling with food insecurity. The money makes a big difference and will be used solely to purchase food.

“Donations go up and down,” said Bibeau. “Sometimes our donation resources aren’t there. We run strictly by donations. If the towns don’t provide money, we don’t run the pantry.”

He is very thankful for the money raised and said a big thank you to those who helped and continue to help.

Deborah Howard runs and is board president of the Sebago Warming Hut Food Pantry which serves between 26 – 30 families per week. The money she received will be used directly to purchase food.

She also runs a clothes closet on Saturdays where anyone can come in and get free clothes.

“Our community is wonderful,” said Howard. “I cannot say enough nice things about them.”

She wants individuals to not just have food, but healthy food that will feed developing children’s brains and help people be able to work well.

“It’s a community thing; from many different sources and it’s just people who are generous and caring and want to make sure people are fed and clothed,” said Howard.

Since the start of the “Feed the Need” initiative in 2012, the SLRCC has given $150,000 to fight food insecurity in the region. <

Grey’s Anatomy star Patrick Dempsey pays visit to Windham High School

Actor Patrick Dempsey visited Windham
High School on Tuesday, May 24 to thank
the school's junior class for winning the
statewide high school Dempsey Challenge
last fall. Windham students raised $1,715
to help support those who are managing
the challenges of cancer.
By Lorraine Glowczak

The Windham High School auditorium was filled to the brim with students and staff on Tuesday, May 24 as actor, director and philanthropist Patrick Dempsey visited the school for a special assembly.

The purpose of Dempsey’s visit was to give thanks and celebrate WHS and the Junior Class for winning the statewide Dempsey Challenge high school contest last fall.

In September 2021, WHS students participated in the first ever Dempsey Center High School Challenge, competing with other area high schools to raise funds for the center’s mission – to make life better for people managing the impact of cancer. WHS and the Junior class raised the most money winning the event by raising $560.

“In the past we have done a food drive or change wars to support local food pantries,” WHS Assistant Principal Phil Rossetti said in a previous interview. “We have several staff and students that have been impacted by cancer and the Dempsey Center has been a great support to many in the RSU community. Rod Nadeau, a counselor in the Katahdin Program, approached us about the opportunity to participate as a school in the Dempsey Challenge. Administration reached out to Pete Small, teacher and coach at WHS, who also helps coordinate homecoming activities to see if this would be a great fit for our school.”

He said that both Nadeau and Small have been active participants for several years in the Dempsey Challenge, which is traditionally held on the last weekend in September and features a separate run and a bike run for participants.

“When looking at the proposed timeline this meshed well with our homecoming events and is an organization that has and continues to support so many within the RSU,” Rossetti said last fall.

Across the state, more than 2,000 individuals took part in the 2021 Dempsey Challenge event which raised a new record of $1.3 million to support cancer centers in Lewiston and South Portland.

That total includes $1,715 raised by Windham High students with the junior class raising $560, the sophomores $475, the freshmen $355, and the seniors $325.

Patrick Dempsey, who was born in Lewiston and is a well-known film and television actor, is the founder of the Dempsey Center and he wanted to personally visit the school and thank students for their contributions to such a worthy cause.  <

Origins of Memorial Day can be traced to Civil War

Memorial Day will be observed in Windham on Monday, May
30 and activities will include placing flags on the graves of
the town's veterans, a parade, a gathering at Windham High
School and a picnic at the Windham Veterans Center.
By Ed Pierce

Memorial Day will be celebrated on Monday and for many, the holiday marks the traditional start of summer and family gatherings spent outside grilling hamburgers and hot dogs. But the origins and actual meaning behind Memorial Day can be pinpointed to the Civil War and a way for Americans to pay tribute to those who lost their lives defending our nation.

On May 5, 1868, Major General John A. Logan, the head of an organization of Union veterans called the Grand Army of the Republic, created a special holiday called “Decoration Day” as a time for Americans to decorate the graves of those who died during the Civil War with flowers.

Logan had originally proposed the date of May 30 for “Decoration Day” because he believed was a date that flowers would be in bloom throughout America. He led that first celebration of “Decoration Day” that year at Arlington National Cemetery outside of Washington, D.C. and during his speech, Logan suggested that the public should guard soldier’s graves with sacred vigilance.

“Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners,” Logan said. “Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

A crowd attending the first “Decoration Day” ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery was estimated to be about 5,000 as small American flags were placed on each grave. It is a tradition that is followed and carried down to this very day.

The custom of “Decoration Day” caught on nationwide, including in the Southern U.S. states where deceased Confederate soldiers were honored as well and by the end of the 19th century, “Decoration Day” observances were commonplace across the nation.

Following the end of World War I in 1918, the holiday was expanded to include honoring all American soldiers who died during wars and renamed as “Memorial Day.”

The U.S. Congress declared “Memorial Day” as a national holiday in 1971 and it moved the holiday to officially be observed on the last Monday in May.  

In December 2000, the U.S. Congress passed legislation called “The National Moment of Remembrance Act,” P.L. 106-579, creating the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance.

Its charter is to “encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country, which provides them so much freedom and opportunity” by encouraging and coordinating commemorations in the United States of Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance.

The National Moment of Remembrance asks all Americans to pause wherever they may be at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation.

Locally in Windham, there will be a parade and an observance to commemorate the day at Windham High School.

Windham’s Memorial Day Parade begins at 9 a.m. from the Town Hall on School Road and proceeds onto Route 202 in the direction of Windham High School.

At 10 a.m. the Memorial Day ceremony starts at Windham High School. The guest speaker this year is U.S. Army Lt Col. Wally Clark. The observance will include WHS band performances, a wreath laying, a bell tolling for Windham veterans lost this year and ceremonial burning of flags removed from veterans’ graves, followed by a traditional rifle salute and the playing of Taps. A picnic will follow at the Windham Veterans Center.

The public is invited to participate. <

L.L. Bean Bootmobile visits Manchester School for fourth-grade project

Fourth-grade students at Manchester School look over the 
L.L. Bean Bootmobile when it visited the school on May 20.
The visit was part of the students' study of famous Mainers
and Maine's famous industries. SUBMITTED PHOTO 
By Masha Yurkevich

Fourth-grade students at Manchester School students got a special visit from the one and only legendary L.L. Bean Bootmobile on Friday, May 20 as part of RSU 14’s ’s curriculum standards that has third- and fourth graders studying the state of Maine.

Carol Priebe is one of the teachers of a fourth-grade class at Manchester who was part of the special visit and was responsible for the visit as her son is one of the drivers of the LL Bean Bootmobile.

“Fourth grade also does Maine studies for half the year, and this fits our units for famous Mainers and Maine industry,” Priebe. “I teach Maine through a progression from geography to the Native Americans, to early explorers, to our history, the wars, and settlement, including the famous people and industries that brought us to where we are now.”

Many of famous Mainers were the pioneers of preserving Maine – such as Percival Baxter, the original landowner of Acadia National Park - or the founders of our industry and technology. 

In class, students learned about inventions such as the Stanley Steamer by the Stanley Brothers in Kingfield, Chester Greenwood and earmuffs and Leon Bean and the iconic hunting boot.

“We have discussed in earnest our logging and paper industries, and our recreational and tourism opportunities,” said Priebe.

The visit by the L.L. Bean Bootmobile was a casual question and answer as L.L. Bean is promoting more outdoor recreational activities and opportunities for Maine’s children. 

“Fourth grade's favorite field trip has always been to the Maine State Museum in Augusta, but it is unfortunately closed due to renovations,” Priebe said.

In efforts to substitute for the Maine State Museum field trip, there has been a visit by Osher Maps to learn about the Wabanaki Native Americans and a virtual visit by Victoria Museum to learn about Portland's history and mansion's symbolism.

The L.L. Bean Bootmobile was another fun, educational way to show the children one of Maine's most famous industries, said Priebe.

Priebe’s son, Wilson Cramp, was the driver of the Bootmobile that day and is a discovery school instructor and tour guide, certified ski patrol, wilderness EMT, and a registered Maine wilderness, sea kayak and whitewater guide.

“I thought visiting Manchester school was awesome and such a great way to bring some joy during a challenging year with Covid to both students and the teachers,” said Cramp. “It was heartwarming and hilarious the reaction of the students as I rounded the corner to their playground in the Bootmobile during their recess. The excitement and confusion as to why a massive boot was rolling onto their playground was electric.”

There have been multiple Bootmobiles. Boot One was built in 2012, to celebrate L.L. Bean’s 100 Year anniversary, Boot Two was built in 2013 and Boot Three was built in 2019 and was designed to be the first Bootmobile with the capability to tow the L.L. Bean Pop-Up Shop, thus combining two unique L.L. Bean experiences into one.

Cramp said that there are four Bootmobiles that exist today, three of which are here in Maine and the fourth is in Japan where L. L. Bean has a large presence.

There are no left and right foot bootmobiles, he said.

“The boots are about 12 and a half feet tall, so we have to follow a special GPS that helps us avoid low bridges,” said Cramp.

He’s been working with the Bootmobile since August 2021.

“I applied for a temporary assignment with the boot and got a job touring the northeast in it doing a pop-up tour,” said Cramp.

“Essentially, we pulled a trailer that was a mobile L.L. Bean store and brought gear to the people at many cities and universities as far south as Virginia.”

“The Bootmobile's mission is a surprise, and a delight, while inspiring more people to find joy in the outdoors,” said Cramp.

He said that he started working with the Bootmobile because he thought it would be fun.

“I had a friend who did it a year before me and it looked like he had a great time and he told me to apply,” said Cramp. “I started working at Beans five years ago and wanted to try something different so when I saw this job posted I figured why not apply. I'm very happy I got hired; it’s been a great time.”

Manchester student Maddie Shunda said that she loved learning about the Maine State Flag and how it has changed over the years, while student Grace Rinaldi that she liked studying the 16 counties of Maine.

Student Sage Bowie said that she liked studying the 10 rivers of the Maine geography test. Another student, Moria Elder said that she liked learning about Maine’s 28 geographical landmarks, especially the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. <

May 20, 2022

In the public eye: Bill Hansen makes a strong impact as RSU 14 Facilities Director

Bill Hansen has served as the RSU 14 Director of Facilities
since 2009 and his duties include oversight for all of the
district's school buildings, athletic fields and school grounds.
Editor’s note: This is another in an ongoing series of Windham and Raymond town employee profiles.

By Andrew Wing

When it comes to the RSU 14 school district, there are certainly a lot of facilities in the district between both the Raymond schools and the Windham schools. From the buildings to the athletic facilities to the grounds, being a facilities director for RSU 14 is no walk in the park, and for the past 13 years Bill Hansen has risen to the occasion and got the job done time and time again. His years of service to the public cannot be underestimated.

Hansen is clearly no stranger to our communities of Windham and Raymond as he has been working for RSU 14 for over the past decade as director of facilities, but he has been in Maine all his life.

“My roots are solidly in Maine,” said Hansen. “My family currently lives in Cumberland about a mile from the house I grew up in. I am the third generation to attend the University of Maine at Orono where I majored in Mechanical Engineering and also received a certificate in Pulp and Paper Management.”

After being impacted by a downsizing at his previous job, Hansen was not out of work for long before he saw a great opportunity present itself and that great opportunity was at RSU 14.

“In March of 2009, I was impacted by a downsizing at Sappi Fine Paper and I started working for a Facilities Management company as Facilities Director at a manufacturing plant in Auburn,” said Hansen. “However, a very good friend of mine told me about this opportunity, and as good fortune would have it, I was hired and started working for RSU 14 in July 2009. I could not have found a better opportunity.”

Hansen’s job of being a facilities director is a tough one as there are a numerous number of tasks he must complete on a daily basis, and he detailed a little bit about what those tasks are for RSU 14.

“The Facilities Department’s main duty is to maintain and care for all of the buildings and grounds for RSU 14,” said Hansen. “This includes all of the athletic facilities, cleaning the schools each day, completing minor and major repairs, preventative maintenance of all of our equipment and planning for future needs. The bottom line is for the department to have the buildings and grounds clean, safe and ready to support the great work that is done each day by the educational staff.”

And with all of those tasks that Hansen has to do every day, there must be one part of his job that is the most challenging, and when asked, he did not hesitate to answer.

“This is an easy one, summer,” said Hansen. “I know that most people look forward to summer, however it is the hardest time of the year for our department with the exception of a major winter snowstorm. In addition to the other work, the summer school vacation is the time we have to complete all of the major projects and upgrades while the students and staff are out of the buildings.”

Somehow though, Hansen and his department always manage to get it done. And despite the challenges that come with working in the summertime, there is a lot that Hansen loves about his job, and when asked the best part of it, Hansen highlighted three things, starting with the support staff.

“The support staff in the department are amazing,” said Hansen. “They care for approximately 900,000 square feet of building each day and always manage to have RSU 14 facilities ready for the teaching staff and students.”

The second thing Bill brought up was the leadership group for RSU 14.

“I am grateful for the leadership team and district office staff we have,” said Hansen. “We work very well together, and this has been so helpful through the challenges of the last few years.”

Lastly, Hansen touched on the third thing that makes doing his job worthwhile, and that was the educational staff.

“It is really rewarding to support the amazing work the Educational and Special Education staff does every day,” said Hansen. “Seeing this dedication and care given to the students by this group is remarkable.”

Hansen is also very fortunate to have a family that thinks very highly of his work.

“My family is very supportive,” said Hansen. “This job can sometimes require long hours and unexpected challenges, but they know that it is a passion of mine.” <

Windham municipal budget approval heads to voters

Voters in Windham will accept or reject a budget of $32
million during the Annual Town Meeting to be held at
the Windham High School auditorium next month. The 
proposed budget includes adding six rescue-emergency
staff members for the town and three capital projects
including creating new access roads, the East Windham
Conservation Area, and sewers for North Windham.
By Ed Pierce

One of the most important decisions in Windham history will be presented to voters during the upcoming Annual Town Meeting in June. Voters attending the meeting will approve or disapprove of a proposed $37,238,051 budget, that includes funding for three, long-range capital investments.   

Members of the Windham Town Council finalized the process of creating warrant articles for the budget during a council meeting on May 10. The proposed budget addresses capital project investments such as the North Windham Local Access Road Project; adding six new rescue-emergency medical services staff members; the creation of a North Windham Wastewater Treatment System; and acquiring more open space for the town through the addition of the East Windham Conservation Project.

“A lot of work went into this, and I hope the public grasps what we’re doing,” said Windham Town Council Chair Jarrod Maxfield. “I hope folks see they’re getting something for it. We are getting something out of this. It’s an investment for the future of Windham.”

In unveiling the proposed budget, Windham Town Manager Barry Tibbetts said that while town revenues are up $1.5 million, excise taxes, building permits and other revenues are expected to be flat or down for the coming year. He said revenue sharing from the state has been set at $2.5 million, with Windham expected to receive $1.63 million from Cumberland County.

According to Tibbetts, TIF funding for the year ahead also is expected to be flat because of anticipated expenditures for local access road funding and funds for the North Windham wastewater project. A budget of $28.7 million with increases in labor relations contracts, and general health and benefit increases coupled with a proposed RSU 14 budget increase of 4.34 percent led to the formulation of this new municipal budget, Tibbetts said.

None of the new capital projects will lead to a tax increase, Tibbetts said. Taxes could rise as much as 6 percent overall, but that is driven by the cost of adding six fire-EMS personnel, and fixed cost increases from rising electric, and fuel expenses, along with medical and dental contractual obligations, bonding, and capital equipment leases.

“It’s important to say that no residential monies are going into the access roads and because of a major grant from the state, there will be no tax hit for residents on the wastewater treatment facility,” Tibbetts said. “As far as the open space preservation in East Windham, that will be taken care of by impact fees.”

The proposed budget also would fund a number of other initiatives in Windham. Some of those include intersection engineering for River Road/Route 202; preliminary development of a Northwest Fire Station; Firewall and Switch Replacement for municipal buildings; creating a Public Safety Memorial at Windham’s Public Safety Building; records conservation; Collinwood Circle and Running Brook Development; purchase of a recreation storage container; and providing reserves for capital projects and bonding.

Tibbetts said the budget was prepared anticipating a General Inflation rate of 7.9 percent. He said that the overall CPI Net Town Increase in the proposed budget is 5.4 percent or an average estimated increase of $1 per day.

Windham’s budget for the past two years has essentially been flat with no tax increases, he said. Last year’s town budget approved by voters at the Annual Town Meeting was $34,459,803.  

Prior to the budget vote, residents will also be able to cast ballots on Maine Primary Day on Tuesday, June 14 to approve by referendum an agreement between the Town of Windham and the Portland Water District to finance the design, engineering and construction of a new sewer system serving North Windham.

The Annual Town Meeting is set for 10 a.m. Saturday, June 18 in the auditorium of Windham High School. <

Adventure awaits for spring hikers in Lakes Region

Luna the dog reaches the top of Bald Pate
Mountain during a recent spring hike with
By Briana Bizier

With its longer days and warmer temperatures, spring is the perfect time to get outside and enjoy some of the Lake Region’s hidden treasures. What’s more, a few of the trails waiting just outside your front door hold seasonal surprises you can only find during this time of year.

While we wait patiently for the leaves to emerge fully from the trees, why not take advantage of these last few weeks of bare branches to get a new perspective on your town? With views stretching from Mount Washington to Sebago Lake, Pismire Bluff in Loon Echo Land Trust’s Raymond Community Forest is spectacular any time of year, but this week might mark the last time you’ll be able to see that view through the trees as you climb the final pitch.

The Pismire Bluff trail is a short and sweet mile-long, out-and-back trail leading to the top of a rocky cliff face which overlooks Crescent Lake. There are some steep sections on this clearly marked trail, but I promise the view is worth the effort!

Pismire Bluff is one of four trails in the Raymond Community Forest. While the Spiller Homestead Loop, Highlands Loop, and Grape Expectations trails don’t offer the same spectacular views, they do showcase another hidden springtime treasure: vernal pools, those small, seasonal wetlands that bring a symphony of frogs to our woods.

The yellow-blazed Grape Expectations trail in the Raymond Community Forest leads past a large wetland that is sure to be humming with amphibian life. It’s also sure to be humming with what those amphibians are eating, mosquitoes and black flies, so you’ll want to add bug spray to your list of what to pack for a spring hike.

If you’re chasing postcard-worthy views before the leaves fill in, you’ll also want to explore Bald Pate Mountain in Bridgton. Also operated by Loon Echo Land Trust, Bald Pate Mountain offers almost seven miles of hiking trails and a dizzying array of mountain views.

The most straightforward route to the 1,150-foot Bald Pate Mountain summit is the blue-blazed Bob Chase Trail, which begins in the parking area off of Route 107. This trail is less than a mile, and the full loop takes hikers from a peaceful grove of birch and beech trees to windswept stands of pitch pine and exposed granite on the mountain’s summit.

The red-blazed Foster Pond Lookout Trail branches off from the Bob Chase Trail for another lovely vista, while the orange-blazed South Face Loop Trail gives hikers the full mountain climbing experience. Loon Echo Land Trust’s website,, offers maps and trail descriptions for both Raymond Community Forest and Bald Pate Mountain.

Finally, these lovely spring days also give us a chance to catch a glimpse of migrating animals. Yes, many species of birds are back from their summer homes in Florida or the Carolinas, but did you know that fish are also on the move? The annual alewife migration takes place in late May and early June as thousands of fish move from Casco Bay into the freshwater lakes where they will lay their eggs, and the largest alewife migration in the state of Maine is the run of fish into Highland Lake.

Luckily for us, these fish depend on Mill Brook to reach their spawning grounds, and Mill Brook is managed and protected by the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust. The Mill Brook Preserve offers over six miles of hiking trails, and dozens of chances to catch a glimpse of the thousands of alewives making their annual spring migration.

Mill Brook has two recommended pools for fish viewing; these are spots in the river where the alewives rest and school before attempting to climb the waterfalls in their path.

The southern fish-viewing pool can be accessed with a half-mile hike from the Methodist Trailhead off Methodist Road, or with a two-mile loop beginning and ending at Perry Court Trailhead. This loop crosses Mill Brook just above the southern pool and then leads back to the trailhead past a series of fairy and gnome houses that are certain to entertain hikers young and old.

When the alewives move past the southern fish-viewing pool, the northern pool offers another chance to spot them. This pool is accessed via the MAGAN trailhead on Willow Drive, just off Route 302. The trail could be turned into a “lollypop loop” by adding the Seven Bridges Trail on your way to or from your fish-viewing adventures. 

Presumpscot Regional Land Trust’s website,, has downloadable maps and detailed descriptions of all the trails in the Mill Brook Preserve. They also have a scavenger hunt to help motivate younger hikes!

If you are lucky enough to spot the migrating alewives in Mill Brook, please respect their difficult journey. Don’t try to catch or touch the fish and keep your dogs and children out of the river.

Also, wherever you are adventuring this spring, keep in mind that one of the charms of hiking is encountering the unexpected. Trails will have soggy, muddy patches; it’s important to stay on the trail regardless, and get your boots messy, instead of branching off into the woods and disrupting the wildlife.

Trails will also have wild creatures, including ticks and other biting insects, so pack bug spray and check yourself and your companions once you return home. Of course, bringing water, snacks, and a rain jacket for everyone will also help to ensure that the memories of your spring hikes are all positive.

Whether you are chasing views or alewives this spring, stay safe, be prepared, and have fun. <

2022-2023 WHS Chamber Singers auditions to be held next week

By Lorraine Glowczak

Any student enrolled at Windham High School or registered as a home-schooled student living in the Windham or Raymond community is invited and eligible to audition for membership in the much-loved and harmonious Windham Chamber Singers. 

Auditions for the Windham Chamber Singers will be held
starting Monday, May 23 in the Windham High School choir
room (Room 306) and must be scheduled in advance through
Chamber Singers Conductor, Dr. Richard Nickerson at SUBMITTED PHOTO

The in-person auditions will occur the week of Monday, May 23, in the WHS’ choir room (Room 306) and must be scheduled in advance through the link: Windham Chamber Singers Audition or, if the link is not readily accessible, email the Chamber Singers Conductor, Dr. Richard Nickerson at  for more details.

Although singing and performing for large crowds is the primary appeal for most student participation, Dr. Nickerson emphasizes there is more to being an active member of the Chamber Singers than one might suspect, including crucial time commitments such as tours around New England, Canada and beyond.

“Before a student decides to audition, it’s vital they know that the Chamber Singers rehearse every Wednesday from 4 to 7 pm, and the group has a very demanding performance schedule,” he said. “The students are also involved in selling ads and tickets, and they make the sets you see on stage.” 


Former Chamber Singer, Gabe Ransome, expanded upon Dr. Nickerson’s advice in a former interview. 


“The performances and rehearsals keep us busy,” he said. “As a director, mentor and friend, Dr. Nickerson pushes us to excel in the face of adversity.” 


The singers are expected to achieve in other areas of life and school and to continue with their extra-curricular activities, which sometimes do not provide extra time throughout the day. But instead of being daunted by the intense schedules, students have expressed the incredible feeling of family connection and community they experience. 


Past singer Annika Johnston stated that being a part of the group creates deep and lasting friendships since they work so closely together.


“Being a part of this group has developed a sense of pride and community and has helped me meet and gain many new friends,” Johnston said.


WHS senior and current Chamber Singer President, Lucy Hatch, agrees with her past counterparts.


“Whenever we are together, there is never this feeling of seniority,” Hatch said. “It feels like a place where you can be friends with everyone, and you can be yourself. The minor things don’t matter - what grade you are in or how long you’ve been a member of the group – there is this sense of mentorship among us. It’s just about being together and creating beautiful music better.” 


Junior and current Chamber member, Victoria Lin, uses her friend and fellow member Stuart Gabbaree’s analogy of what it is like being a part of the Chamber.


“Joining the Chamber Singers is like joining a beloved TV series that’s been showing for nine seasons,” Lin said. “You are a part of a big cast of characters that are close to one another – and you are just like family.”


Home-schooled students have also participated in the WHS Chamber Singers, and it has been noted that participation in the group offers another opportunity to meet people and often becomes a favorite social activity. 


During the audition, each student will be accessed on a range of voice, tone quality, intonation, versatility and sight-reading. However, Dr. Nickerson noted that one does not have to be a musical genius to be a part of the Windham Chamber Singers.


You don’t necessarily have to be the best singer or have the best voice,” he said. “A positive and strong character matters just as much in the selection process.” 


For detailed information, go to the Windham Chamber Singers website at: For questions, contact Dr. Richard Nickerson at <

The Coffee House reignites monthly community event after pandemic

By Masha Yurkevich

There is nothing better than getting together with family and friends on a warm Friday evening to enjoy coffee, live music, creative talents and spend time together in a casual setting. The First Friday Coffee House, located at 31 Main St. at the South Windham Community Church and Center, offers just that, and more.

South Windham Community Church and Center, 31 Main St.,
has reopened its monthly Coffee House on the first Friday of
each month. This free family event is open to everyone who
enjoys music, poetry and other uplifting and creative
performances. Coffee and pastries are also available.
Held on the first Friday of each new month, it is a welcoming place for the community to come and enjoy a relaxing evening with live music from local musicians, poetry readings and coffee. 

The Coffee House is intended to be an outreach ministry of South Windham Community Church and Center, which is pastored by Ken and Mary Stimson. This outreach was the brainchild of church members, Charlie and Sharon Bickford after attending a couple of similar events at other nearby churches.

The Coffee House was introduced in 2019, right before the pandemic hit. After only four monthly events, it was brought to a halt as it was unsafe to gather in large numbers in a closed area.

“When it seemed safe and after installing an air purification system like the hospitals use, we decided to start up again just this month in May,” said Sharon Bickford. “We are planning on continuing the first Friday of every month from 6 and 8 p.m. Our mission is to become engaged with our community and to be available as people who are willing to help others. “We transformed the basement into a Coffee House with cabaret seating and subdued lighting.”

Bickford said that everything at the event is free. However, donations are accepted to provide the local talent to offer live music and other creative performers; anything from poetry to other artistic talents.

“So far this year, we have not had any poetry but are open to anything uplifting,” Bickford said.

Some delicacies and refreshments are offered for guests and visitors.

“We serve coffee, of course, tea, cocoa, some cold drinks, and dessert,” she said. “We only ask that whatever is shared be positive and uplifting.”

In the past, The Coffee House has had guests performing like Bob Halperin, Peter Heimlich, Bob Moore and Tom Richter.

“The music that we have had so far has been eclectic ranging from acoustic guitar, sing-alongs, autoharp, ukulele, and kazoo,” said Bickford. 

In this world that is often negative and dark, it is good to see a group of people who are so focused on shining a light on positivity and togetherness, she said.

The Coffee House does not have an organizing committee, so volunteers are always welcome, and Bickford said that there is always a need for more hands.

The next First Friday Coffee House event will be held on June 3 and all are welcome to come and join as part of the audience or be a part of the event.

To stay on track with all the upcoming events and information, you can join their Facebook page at: <

May 13, 2022

Windham Town Council to explore adjusting cannabis business fees

Windham Town Councilors are expected to revisit the topic
of lowering or adjusting some Marijuana Business License fees 
at some point in the future. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE  
By Ed Pierce

A lengthy discussion during Tuesday night’s Windham Town Council meeting may eventually lead to some revisions in the town’s Business Licensing Ordinance as it applies to local cannabis businesses.

Councilors agreed to look at revising some of the marijuana business licensing fees during an upcoming meeting and listened to comments and concerns from the public about a new fee structure scheduled to take effect in September.  

The fee structure adopted by the council in September 2021 raised licensing fees for adult use, cultivation facilities and medical marijuana caregiver stores from $3,500 annually to $10,000.

Windham Town Manager Barry Tibbetts said he thought the fee increase was warranted because town staff members and many town departments become involved in the licensing stemming from the complexity of the town’s marijuana ordinance and ensuring businesses are complying with rules and regulations set forth in the ordinance.

He outlined that the town’s marijuana business fees compare to those charged by nearby towns and cities and suggested that the council’s Ordinance Committee should review definitions and standards for the Caregiver/Cultivation category.

“Of all the licenses, Caregiver/Cultivation and having better ways to control that would be more advantageous to us,” Tibbetts said.

Councilor Nicholas Kalogerakis questioned raising the business fees for marijuana while the highest permit charged for a Windham business serving alcohol is $2,200.

“I think a lot of people up here need to realize this is a legal business,” Kalogerakis said. “I don’t know how we went to $10,000.”

Kalogerakis said he feels that the town has overregulated the marijuana industry.

“We have to change the mindset here,” he said. “LD 1195 signed into law by Gov. Janet Mills would give towns up to $20,000 to process marijuana applications and we need to explore getting some of that money.”

Council Chair Jarrod Maxfield said he feels the town is still trying to fully understand the marijuana industry and some adjustments need to be made.

“There’s been a misconception that we’re trying to make a change now,” he said. “We’re going to make mistakes. Some of those fees are in line and some should be lowered. A $10,000 license is not cheap. I personally think we need to take a look at that fee. I’d like to look at paring back fees to something a little more reasonable.”

Windham Town Clerk told councilors that no marijuana business has paid the new fee yet as they are not due until September.

Councilor Mark Morrison said he believes some revisions to the fee structure should be explored.

“This is new and there’s not a lot of clear definitions,” Morrison said. “We have to be fair. There’s a lot for us to learn and I think this needs to be revisited.”

The council allowed five members of the public to speak about the issue even though they were not holding a public hearing about it right there and then.

Lauren Beatrice, a medical caregiver who operates Seed Sound Herbal Apothecary, questioned why the fees were raised and how the 40 percent education fee imposed by the town’s marijuana ordinance is being spent.

Maggie Terry of Windham said that the council should consider having the C-1 Zone for medical marijuana cultivation converted to adult use cultivation.

Terry also said the council should revisit creating a public committee to make recommendations about fees similar to the one that led to the adopting of the town’s marijuana ordinance.

Dave Whitten of Sticky Bud Farms said he supports having the council adjust the fee structure.

“I don’t think adult use and medical marijuana should be charged the same fee,” Whitten said.

Before ending the discussion, the council agreed to take up the topic of marijuana business licensing fees at a future meeting. <      

Diamond bill supporting human trafficking survivors signed into law

AUGUSTA — On Thursday, April 21, Maine Gov. Janet Mills signed into law a bill from Senator Bill Diamond, D-Windham. LD 1943, “An Act To Expand the Address Confidentiality Program to Victims of Certain Human Trafficking Crimes,” helps survivors of human trafficking and childhood kidnapping stay safe from their abusers by shielding their addresses in public databases.

State Senator
Bill Diamond
“The Address Confidentiality Program can give survivors the freedom and confidence to live their lives without fear that their abuser will find their address and harm them again,” said Diamond. “Just as survivors of domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault benefit from this program, survivors of human trafficking and childhood abduction need all the tools and support we can offer them to stay safe. While we should always be looking to prevent abuse however we can, it’s also important we support survivors of abuse so that they can live full and happy lives. I hope that this new law will help expand awareness about this little-known program to everyone who is eligible and could benefit by participating.”

As amended, LD 1943 expands the state’s Address Confidentiality Program (ACP) to survivors of human trafficking and childhood kidnapping. Survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking are currently eligible for the ACP, which is administered by Maine’s Secretary of State.

The program helps survivors shield their addresses in public databases so that they are not found and further targeted by their abusers by providing participants with a designated address. The Secretary of State’s office also acts as a confidential mail forwarding service for participants. About 250 Mainers currently participate in the program.

“ACP allows both state and local agencies and the courts to contribute to the safety of domestic violence, sexual assault, [and] stalking survivors. If this bill passes, those who have experienced human trafficking and minor victims of kidnapping will be covered under law. This will deny abusers the opportunity to use public records as a means to locate them,” 
said Secretary of State Shenna Bellows in testimony supporting the bill.

“Very similar to victims of domestic violence, a power and control dynamic exists between those who were trafficked and the traffickers. Numerous survivors have told me that due to their traumatic experiences, they continue to see the faces of the perpetrators within their communities and daily life, even if the perpetrators are in prison. Many have had their traffickers track them down and contact them years later. This legislation is an important part in the healing process for survivors and can provide them protections from future contacts, because the confidentiality becomes an additional mechanism for safety and security,” 
wrote Cumberland County District Attorney Jonathan Sahrbeck in testimony supporting LD 1943, on behalf of the Maine Prosecutors Association and the Office of the Attorney General.

Diamond sponsored the bill at the request of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). That organization was founded by John and RevĂ© Walsh after the 1981 kidnapping and murder of their six-year-old son Adam, NCMEC’s mission is to help find missing children, reduce child sexual exploitation and prevent child victimization.

Mainers can learn more about the Address Confidentiality Program, including how to apply, by visiting

As an emergency measure, LD 1943 went into effect immediately upon being signed into law. <

WCST's 'Steel Magnolias' tugs at the heartstrings

The cast of Windham Center Stage Theater's 
production of 'Steel Magnolias' gathers on 
stage for a scene. Performances continue
through this weekend in Windham.
By Collette Hayes

Windham Center Stage Theater proudly presents “Steel Magnolias.” Grab a cup of sweet tea, dish up a piece of armadillo cake, and sit back and enjoy the show Louisiana style!

"Steel Magnolias" opened Friday, May 6 at the Windham Center Stage Theater in Windham and be prepared with a tissue or two in hand when attending, for the main story line is a sad one. From the performance of the highly skilled and talented cast members, laughing through tears is sure to become a favorite emotion of all in attendance.

Before the play, attendees can make a donation to the theater by purchasing snacks and drinks from the small concession stand at the back of the theater, including a can of sweet tea, the house wine of the south, and a thick slice of bleeding Armadillo cake.

For those who missed the American comedy-drama film, “Steel Magnolias,” starring Sally Field, Dolly Parton and Shirley MacLaine, the audience follows a heart-wrenching drama, set in Louisiana in the late 1980s.

The story highlights the friendship of a group of women as they celebrate the joys and heartaches of life. The play opens in a beauty shop as Shelby Eatenton (played by Holly Glauber) prepares for her wedding day. She is to be married to a handsome lawyer who has promised to take care of her despite her health challenges. Her bossy but kind mother M’Lynn, (played by Jannine Gaudet) has hovered over her daughter Shelby for many years helping her to deal with the daily challenges of being diabetic.

Shelby marries and knowing full well the risks that having children would bring, she decides to have a baby. She claims that 30 minutes of wonderful is far better than a lifetime of nothing special. Due to Shelby’s decision, she is required to rely on the continuous support of her mother and the strong bonds of friendship from the compassionate, Southern women that frequent the local beauty shop.

Guiding the actors and technical crew, the talented director, April Monte, does a masterful job at visualizing the script and capturing the dramatic aspects of the play on stage. She has been performing in plays and touring on Broadway for 35 years.

Monte received her bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University in music and musical theater. Her career began with Prather Entertainment group as a performer, choreographer and director and then continued with Royal Caribbean Cruises as a featured singer. Now technically retired, Monte is the artistic director and teacher at the Dance Studio of Maine located in Raymond.

She’s also the artistic director at the Community Art Center in Gorham.

“Steel Magnolias” is the first time that Monte has directed a production for the Windham Center Stage Theater.

"Steel Magnolias has been so close to my heart for most of my career and I’m so proud to be a part of this production,” said Monte. “I have been very lucky to work with this amazingly talented group of artists both onstage and off throughout the process. I feel like Mainers settle into their community and enjoy themselves which is definitely reflected in the motto, ‘Maine, the way life should be’.”

A special thank you was given by Monte to the production team producers, Gail White and Heidi Doucette, stage manager Suze Quackenbush, props master Anna Petersen, and technical director Jim Flounders, the stage crew, the Windham Center Stage Theater Board of Directors and all of the volunteers that made the show possible.

Steel Magnolias will run through May 15 with evening performances at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and matinee performances at 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Performances are held at the Windham Center Stage Theater located at 8 School Road in Windham.

Tickets for Steel Magnolias can be purchased online at <

Windham Community Garden ready for new season

The Windham Community Garden offers a great gardening
experience for all residents of the town and has 10- by 20-
foot garden beds for $35 for the season.
By Masha Yurkevich

There is nothing better than picking and eating your own fresh produce. The crisp, green peas; the crunchy, refreshing cucumber; the tart and juicy tomato; nothing beats growing your own food and knowing where it came from, and the Windham Community Garden has been helping residents do just that since 2010.

Located on Route 202, down from the Public Safety building and next to the Windham Skate Park, the community garden offers a great gardening experience for all residents of the town of Windham. From artichokes and asparagus to flowers and kale, area residents can grow it all at the Windham Community Garden.

The garden is led by a committee of dedicated volunteers who play a role in making the garden a success. Committee members are always being sought and anyone with a passion for keeping the community garden a welcoming environment is encouraged to join.

Marge Govoni of Windham, co-chair of the Garden Council, said that committee members usually gather once every three months or so. She said that committee members also do work such as getting the garden ready in the spring, taking out the hoses and gardening tools, helping to keep the garden clean, tidy and organized and helping get the garden ready for the winter by putting materials away and closing it up for the winter.

“It takes a lot of work and commitment by everyone and I'm a small cog in a big wheel,” said Govoni. “We are always looking for additional people to be on the committee. People who share our interests in making the garden a welcoming place for everyone whose interested in knowing where their food is coming from because they grew it.”

Gardening in Maine has many benefits. It has spectacular scenery, fresh air and splendid sea food, but one unfortunate disadvantage is that the state’s many tall trees cover and shade yards, making it a challenge to grow anything, let alone a garden.

Govoni, too, said that she was faced with this dilemma. This is what led her to the desire to have a community garden in Windham.

“The land where the garden is presently belongs to the town and was only an empty field and I figured that I was not the only one with this problem, so I went to the Town Council meeting and asked permission to put a garden there,” said Govoni. “There was support from other residents and a council member and that was the beginning of what we have now.”

And, not much later, the Windham Community Garden was established in 2010 with about 10 beds and that figure has grown to 84 beds today.  

For gardeners, the community garden offers 10- by 20-foot garden beds for $35 a season. Its 4- by 8-foot raised beds are also available upon request for $20.

According to Govoni, not only do gardeners receive a garden bed, but they also have access to organic compost, tools, wheelbarrows, pesticides, and water at no additional cost.

“It's a wonderful experience! We will gladly help any gardener that has questions or needs advice”, said Govoni, “Gardening is hard work, but it is so rewarding and peaceful and everyone is so friendly that you can't wait to get back down there.”

Govoni said that the garden committee recently put up some birdhouses and a few picnic tables at the site, making it not only a welcoming place to come and garden, but also a great educational place for children and a great spot for a picnic, as long as you respect the property.

What many may not know about the Windham Community Garden is that the garden has scholarship beds available if someone is interested but cannot afford the bed rental fee, Govoni said. Information about this option is available at

“We contribute food to the Windham Food Pantry, and we have allocated a space for the Katahdin School to erect a greenhouse to grow produce,” said Govoni. “The gardeners periodically receive educational material about best practices and how to control insects that attack different crops.”

Gardeners are allowed to grow anything they like if it is not detrimental to the environment, but Govoni said that potatoes are not allowed to grow potatoes because they attract bugs that could harm other plants.

The Windham Community Garden is a not-for-profit organization and is dependent on fundraising and grants for financial support. For more details about the garden, visit<