August 25, 2023

Lakes Region birdwatchers await spectacular fall season

By Kaysa Jalbert

Birds are a beautiful sight sometimes paired with a beautiful song. We watch them in awe as they fly through backyards and over the ocean waves, but if you wake up early enough and take the time to sit back and watch carefully, their colors, songs and flight patterns start to have a much deeper purpose than beauty for the eye.

Maine Audubon says there will be an abundance of 
Black-capped chickadees and many other birds in the
Sebago Lakes Region for birdwatchers to observe 
this fall throughout the season. COURTESY PHOTO 
Maine is a hotspot for both birds and birdwatchers as it represents a significant portion of the breeding range for many woodland bird species. The late summer and early fall months in the Lake Region of Maine beckon to bird watchers to bust out their binoculars and observe the diverse behavior amongst them.

Doug Hitchcox, a Staff Naturalist at Maine Audubon, says fall is a great time in the Lakes Region for birdwatching.

“Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of watching birds this time of the year is the diversity in their behaviors,” he said. “We have some species that are still finishing breeding, while others have been, or are soon to be in their fall migration.”

Native to the Lake Regions of Maine include some of the more common and well-known species from the smaller Black-capped Chickadees and Northern Cardinals to the large Bald Eagles and other birds of prey, stated Hitchcox. Hitchcox says there are around 60 to 80 species that can be found year-round in the Sebago Lake region, while another 50 and counting are simply migrant that come to breed, specifically warblers and other neo-tropic songbirds.

According to the Maine Audubon birding guide, some typical breeding species of the deciduous woodlands in this region includes the American Woodcock, Broad-winged Hawk, Ruffed Grouse, Alder and Great-crested Flycatchers, Black-capped Chickadee, Hermit Thrush, Wood Thrush, Veery, Scarlet Tanager, Red-eyed Vireo, Chestnut-sided and Nashville Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, Ovenbird, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and Song Sparrow.

Hitchcox said fall in the Lakes Region features many areas to spot birds.

“It is hard to go wrong in the fall, and I’ve had great days just watching birds using the trees in my Windham backyard,” he said. “We are fortunate to have so many parks and preserves, but anywhere with water is usually going to attract birds.”

The Hawkes-Towpath Preserve and Black Brook Preserve are excellent walking spots to roam and watch for fluttering friends, while smaller spots like the deck at Pringle Wildlife Preserve offer more of a challenge for one to sit still and see what one can spot. By the beach, Shorebirds, like sandpipers and plovers, have been migrating for the past couple of weeks and soon their numbers will peak.

Hitchcox said that what draws the birds into this area of Maine is a combination of the diversity of habitat as well as the quality and quantity of food. The best time to see any bird’s activity is in the morning while they are foraging and fueling up for the day. You may even catch some dropping in if you are out early enough as fall migration has already begun.

Birds do a lot, but they don’t have to do it alone. At this time, birds need to eat insects, especially caterpillars to feed their young. People can help the birds by planting native plants and not using herbicides or pesticides. Not only does this help feed the baby birds, it will also attract more species right into your backyard to observe while taking morning coffee.

“Once the nesting season has wrapped, some birds will switch over to a seed-based diet and that's when you'll see activity pick up around your bird feeders,” says Hitchcox. “If you have a field on your property, leaving it unmoved as late into the season as possible is going to be a great help to birds foraging for the naturally occurring seeds in those plants.”

Luckily this year, the avian flu has not significantly affected Maine’s bird population. According to the USDA website, the last known case in Maine took place in Penobscot back in May and was found in a wild Mallard.

Many of the birds will go as far as they need to find food or the right habitat in the winter, Hitchcox said. Red-winged Blackbirds will stay close, with some sticking around in southern New England, while Swainson's Thrushes who sing their eerie and whimsical songs all summer will go as far south as Peru. <

MSSPA to host 'Unpack the Shack' benefit event

By Nicole Levine

Windham is home to the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals (MSSPA) and located right in the heart of the farm is Treasure’s Tack Shack, a place to donate and buy second-hand horse equipment. Treasure’s Tack Shack is getting ready to host an event called “Unpack the Shack” day on Saturday, Aug. 26.

The 'Unpack the Shack' event will be held
on Saturday, Aug. 26 at the Maine State
Society for the Protection of Animals in
During “Unpack the Shack” day, Treasure’s Tack Shack will be accepting donations of any type and aims to support horse owners during the upcoming cold months, by offering horse blankets for the winter at an affordable price.

Horses who have been seized by the law or have been surrendered by their previous owners, currently reside at the MSSPA. The goal of the society is to rehabilitate and ultimately find a new home for the animals under their care. All horses receive veterinary care and individualized feeding plans. Those who are deemed unsuitable for adoption, live out their lives under the care of the farm.

Treasure’s Tack Shack was created by two of MSSPA’s volunteers, Mary Oate and Amelia Small. Originally, the concept of selling their second-hand horse equipment was an event held twice a year called “Take It Away Day.” The event proved to be incredibly popular, and MSSPA volunteers established a permanent place for the “Unpack the Shack” day.

To get ready for the event, all horse equipment donations that are made to Treasure’s Tack Shack are sorted through by staff ahead of time. Some items are kept for the in-resident horses at MSSPA, and the rest are displayed for sale to the public.

Treasure’s Tack Shack offers a wide range of used and new horse equipment such as saddles, bridles, halters, blankets, riding clothes, grooming equipment and more. Offered at a discounted price, MSSPA volunteers say that this is a great opportunity for horse owners and horse enthusiasts to buy quality equipment at a lower cost. All proceeds from the event go toward assisting the herd currently living on the farm.

MSSPA currently has around 170 volunteers who serve a variety of different roles. The Shack itself is completely run by volunteers as well.

“The Tack Shack is truly a volunteer labor of love,” says Peg Keyser, MSSPA’s Advancement Director.

Volunteers assigned to the Tack Shack focus on sorting and cleaning the donated equipment. They also assist with sales and run the shop while it is open.

“The Society staff could not engage in the important rehabilitative work that it does if not for the volunteers that literally keep the place running smoothly,” says Keyser in describing the roles volunteers have on the farm.

Not only does MSSPA welcome volunteers who have extensive experience working with and around horses, but also people who have never touched a horse. The important quality MSSPA looks for when searching for volunteers is their dedication and respect for these animals.

In general, what the volunteers all have in common is a dedication to the MSSPA's mission to protect the health and welfare of neglected and abused equines, and an openness to share their time and love with the horses.

Many of the volunteers have been able to form lifelong friendships and connections with one another. For example, one volunteer shared a cancer diagnosis with her fellow volunteers, and they were there to support her throughout her battle. During the pandemic, the former MSSPA Volunteer Coordinator hosted book groups over Zoom to keep the volunteer community alive during a difficult time.

“Volunteers have created a sense of community at the shelter that now extends into their personal lives - having potlucks, going for walks, seeing movies and so forth.” says Keyser in talking about the community that has formed between volunteers.

Treasure’s Tack Shack offers a great opportunity for horse lovers to buy used equipment at a discounted price while supporting these beautiful animals at the same time. MSSPA and the Tack Shack have a supportive and caring community for both their horses and their volunteers.

Those who are interested in volunteering at the farm can fill out an application through the Maine State Society of the Protection of Animals website at <

Grant will enhance Cumberland County’s successful substance use diversion programs

The Maine State Department of Public Safety has awarded more than $365,000 to Cumberland County to develop the “Pathways of Hope” program across the region.

The Scarborough Police Department in partnership with Portland Recovery Community Center (PRCC), launched Operation HOPE in 2015 as a response to the growing number of overdose deaths in Southern Maine, and a desire for law enforcement to be a part of helping people find treatment and recovery. Operation HOPE was so successful that people from all over Cumberland County and the state arrived in Scarborough, seeking support and resources through the program.

The Pathways of Hope program, now managed by the Cumberland County Public Health Department, is a continuation and adaptation of that initiative.

In 2022, there were more than 2,000 drug overdoses in Cumberland County and 130 overdose deaths, the highest of any county in the state. People released from prison or jail to the community are up to 40 times more likely to die of an opioid overdose than the general population, especially within the first few weeks after reentering the community.

A proven strategy for lowering risk of drug overdose death and improving public safety among people at risk for being in the criminal justice system or formerly incarcerated is to intercept and divert people away from the criminal justice system and into community services that meet their treatment, recovery, and housing needs. In partnership with the Portland Recovery Community Center and behavioral health liaisons within police departments across Cumberland County, the Pathways of Hope program serves people in Cumberland County with substance use disorders and high risk of involvement in the criminal justice system by connecting them with housing and treatment services as an alternative to the criminal justice system.

Pathways of Hope funds support a Resource Navigator based in the Portland Recovery Community Center, located at 102 Bishop St. in Portland. This key position will work directly with people with substance use disorders who are at risk of justice involvement to identify their needs and connect them to timely and appropriate resources in the community, including housing and treatment, and open pathways of recovery.

"We are proud to partner with Cumberland County to help people with substance use disorder obtain treatment and recovery housing,” said Leslie Clark, executive director of Portland Recovery Community Center. “The need is greater than ever. People seeking help with addiction can come to PRCC and we will help them navigate treatment options. We are grateful for the County’s support, which is helping meet this critical need and undoubtedly save lives.”

The Pathways of Hope program is strengthened by partnerships with police departments across Cumberland County and Behavioral Health Liaisons embedded within those departments who interact with and divert people with SUD to the Portland Recovery Community Center.

The grant is the latest in a series of awards to the Cumberland County Public Health Department, which in only its second full year has already established itself as a significant partner in regional health programming. The Department drafted a four-year Community Health Improvement Plan with input from dozens of municipal, non-profit and service providers in the area. The Plan serves as a guidance document for goals and collaboration on public health initiatives county-wide and provides priorities for the work of the new department. In an effort to meet those priorities, the department applied for and was recently awarded funding from the state to manage the Maine Prevention Network in Cumberland County, a program to provide tobacco and substance use prevention services and promote healthy eating and active living.

The department also launched a new collaborative plan to improve children’s access to dental health and a pilot project with several towns to create a behavioral health emergency response program. <

Falls are not an inevitable part of aging

September is National Falls Prevention Awareness Month, and The Southern Maine Agency on Aging is pleased to announce its autumn classes in Windham of “A Matter of Balance” and Tai Chi which run between September and November 2023. 

These classes are designed to enrich the quality of life for adults 60 and over by improving their physical wellness and self-confidence.

A Matter of Balance is a falls prevention class designed to help participants increase physical activity, make important home safety improvements, and even learn how to respond if a fall does happen. The class empowers participants to take charge of managing their health, and to share their own experiences and concerns about falls.

Tai Chi classes use gentle movements, combining exercise and mental strength to improve mobility, breathing, and relaxation in ways that help you feel greater control over your daily life. It is a safe way for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy life and meet new friends while taking control of your physical, emotional, and mental health.

A Matter of Balance classes are twice a week for four weeks, and Tai Chi classes are twice a week for 10 weeks. Pre-registration for all classes is required, as class sizes are limited.

Dates for the Windham “A Matter of Balance” class will be scheduled later this fall, but the Tai Chi class will be held between Sept. 11 and Nov. 15 on Mondays and Wednesdays from 1 to 2 p.m. at the Unity Gardens Community Room, 124 Tandberg Trail, Windham.

Please visit the events page at to pre-register and check out our other class locations and dates. Keep an eye out for updates on our Windham “A Matter of Balance” class. For more information, contact the Agewell team with any questions by calling 207-396-6578 or by e-mailing

The Southern Maine Agency on Aging is the focal point in Cumberland and York counties for resources, services, and information to empower older adults and adults with disabilities. <

Church schedules marriage annulment presentation in Windham

WINDHAM – The Diocese of Portland’s Office of the Tribunal will hold presentations and lead discussions on the annulment process in the Catholic Church in several areas during the coming months. All are welcome at any of the gatherings, which will include question and answer periods as well as the opportunity to speak privately to a canonist.

A presentation about the Catholic marriage
annulment process will be held at 6:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 13 at Our Lady of Perpetual
Help Church in Windham.
The Office of the Tribunal is part of the Department of Canonical Services in the Diocese of Portland and handles cases and trials that are subject to the Catholic Church’s canon law, which is the code of ecclesiastical laws governing the Church.

As the judicial arm of the bishop, the Tribunal cooperates in his ministry, namely, "the salvation of souls, which must always be the supreme law of the Church" (canon 1752) and seeks justice, the protections of rights, and the clarification of obligations for all who approach it. The procedures utilized by the Tribunal are grounded in canon law, Scripture, and the authentic teaching of the Church.

While the process is judicial, it is the commitment of Tribunal personnel to demonstrate a pastoral attitude and regard for those who submit cases for adjudication. One of the responsibilities of the tribunal staff is examining petitions for marriage nullity/dissolution.

The upcoming schedule of presentations about the marriage annulment process includes one to be held at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 13 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, 919 Roosevelt Trail, Windham.

As future events are added, they will be listed at

For more information about Catholic annulment, or to contact the Tribunal, call 207-773-6471. <

August 18, 2023

Straw poll vote set for concept design for new Windham/Raymond Middle School

By Ed Pierce

Yet another straw vote conducted by RSU 14 is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 24 in the Windham High School auditorium and will focus on the proposed concept design of the new Windham/Raymond Middle School building to serve the school’s team-teaching Integrative Project Based Learning plans.

A straw poll by RSU 14 is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday,
Aug. 24 in the Windham High School auditorium and will
focus on the proposed concept design of the new 
Windham/Raymond Middle school building to serve the
school's team-teaching Integrative Project Based
Learning plans. The school is expected to open in 2027.
The meeting will last about an hour and will include a brief presentation of the proposed concept design of the building and an opportunity for the public to ask questions about the work that has been completed to date.

RSU 14 Superintendent of Schools Christopher Howell said that the non-binding straw poll vote is one of the many steps in the approval process outlined in the Maine Department of Education construction program and this step must be completed prior to the concept design being submitted to the Maine State School Board for final approval.

“This vote is specific to the concept design that was developed with input from students, staff, and community members,” Howell said. “A positive straw poll vote will allow the project to go forward to the Maine State School Board where it will be reviewed at both the committee level and at the board level. As a reminder, this project is roughly 80 percent funded by the State of Maine. For the district to unlock the state funds, we must demonstrate that the community is in support of what has been designed.”

Under the team-teaching concept, students attending the new Windham/Raymond Middle School will be divided into 12 teams to provide personal connection and then broken up into smaller teams. Incorporating Integrative Project Based Learning, Team Teaching is a method of instruction where a group of teachers work together to plan, conduct, and evaluate learning activities for the same group of students.

“Teaming is considered to be a best practice at the middle level and supports student achievement in a couple of different ways,” Howell said. “First, teaming serves to break a large school into smaller sizes. This arrangement promotes an environment where students feel more connected to their school and teachers have a better opportunity of knowing the needs of their students. Second, teaming makes it easier for teachers to plan and deliver instructional units that integrate content areas.”

According to Howell, the team areas of this building are designed to allow for a science teacher, math teacher, social studies teacher, and an English teacher to be in the same teaming area.

“The delivery of content through integrated units and projects increases student engagement and ultimately student achievement,” the superintendent said.

In June, voters in a different straw poll conducted RSU 14 approved a proposal to situate the new Windham/Raymond Middle School at 61 Windham Center Road in Windham. The plan was then presented to the Maine State School Board Construction Committee which unanimously approved moving forward with it and recommended the proposal to the full Maine State School Board.

The RSU 14 Board of Directors entered into an option-to-purchase agreement with the owner of 61 Windham Center Road in Windham and the owner agreed to take the property off the market for a period of up to two years in 2021. The cost of that option was $110,000 in the first year and $100,000 of the payment would be applied toward the purchase price. The option to extend the second year of the agreement was $10,000 per month but none of the funds from the second year would be applied at closing.

More than 132 potential 35-plus acre sites were originally identified for review by the RSU 14 WMS Building Committee and then ranked according to transportation accessibility, utility availability, environmental impact, and a range of other factors.

Howell said the state is expected to pay 80 percent of the cost of the $140 million project, or about $102 million. Windham residents would be responsible for roughly 80 percent of the remaining $38 million with Raymond residents responsible for 20 percent of that.

Under the project plans for the new middle school, the school would educate Windham and Raymond students in Grades 5 to 8. Windham fifth graders currently attending Manchester School would attend the new school, as would Jordan-Small Middle School students from Raymond. The new school is being designed for a capacity of 1,200 students.

The original Windham Middle School was built in 1977 and intended for a capacity of 483 students. That number has grown in the last year to 636 students, with sixth graders being housed for some classes at the adjacent Field Allen School, originally constructed in 1949. Jordan-Small Middle School in Raymond was built in 1960.

RSU 14 first applied for the Maine Department of Education’s Major Capital Construction Program in 2016 for funding for construction and was ranked as the fifth-highest priority among 74 proposed school construction projects statewide each year before eventually gaining approval in March 2021. Once a district applies for funding, Maine Department of Education reviews and rates the projects based upon need. The State Board of Education then funds as many projects from the list as available debt limit funds allow. Working with the State Board of Education, Maine DOE establishes both size and financial limits on projects.

Local school districts may exceed these limits at local expense through municipal bonds, but the state bears the major financial burden of capital costs for approved school construction projects. As such, Maine DOE first looks at the possibility of renovations or renovations with additions and new school construction projects are only considered in instances in which renovation projects are not economically or educationally feasible, which was the case with Windham Middle School and Jordan-Small Middle School.

More than 132 potential 35-plus acre sites were originally identified for review by the RSU 14 WMS Building Committee and then ranked according to transportation accessibility, utility availability, environmental impact, and a range of other factors.

Howell said that it is anticipated the students and staff will move into the new Windham/Raymond Middle School building in the fall of 2027. Windham and Raymond students who will be entering grades 1 to 4 this fall will be the first classes to occupy the building. <

In the public eye: Community Resource Liaison builds positive connections with those in need of help

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

By Ed Pierce

Haley Berry believes that self-care is how you take your power back and that’s how she approaches each day in her work as Community Resource Liaison for the Windham and Gorham Police Departments.

Haley Berry serves as the Community
Resource Liaison for the Windham Police
Department and the Gorham Police
Department and provides support to
individuals struggling with mental health
or substance use and offers assistance to
the community for any mental health
related incidents that occur.
Berry’s duties and responsibilities for both police departments include providing additional support to individuals struggling with mental health or substance use. She connects community members, whether individuals or family members, to additional support if it is needed and does follow-up and check-in phone calls or in-person meetings to the community for any mental health-related incidents that occur.

She also responds to any mental health-related incidents that take place while she is on duty to help support department officers if needed and connects with community providers to help and/or support clients and individuals within the community. Berry assists in minimizing police-related incidents specifically related to mental health and substance use and she offers support to first responders she works alongside, if it is needed, and can connect them to support outside of the police departments.

“In my opinion the best thing about my position with both departments is continuing to build a positive relationship between the departments and the community,” Berry said. “Offering individuals support that they may not have known was available and identifying to individuals who struggle with mental health and/or substance that they are not alone and there are supports available.”

According to Berry, the most challenging aspect of her work is the availability and accessibility of resources and support that are available within Cumberland County and the State of Maine.

She started her duties in November 2022 after working for the Opportunity Alliance as a crisis intervention specialist.

“I previously had been working for The Opportunity Alliance through their program Cumberland County Crisis Response. I worked there for five years as a crisis intervention specialist and fell in love with it,” Berry said. “The Opportunity Alliance also had a position with the Portland Police Department titled, police liaison, similar to what my position is here in Windham and Gorham. I worked closely with one of the police liaisons in Portland and knew I wanted to do something similar or even the same position if another town had the opportunity to apply for. One of my co-workers identified that there was a joint position for Windham and Gorham available last summer and I had applied.”

She said the biggest misconception that people may have about her position with both police departments is that she is not a police officer or that some individuals may believe that she is there to arrest them or “get them in trouble.”

“I am not. I am there to help support individuals who are struggling or simply just need someone to talk with or need additional support being connected to resources/supports,” Berry said. 

Before working for the Windham and Gorham Police Departments and The Opportunity Alliance, Berry also worked for DayOne, a residential services program for adolescents for co-occurring disorders as a Residential Care Staff member at both the male residence in Hinckley, and the female residence in Buxton. She also has served as a substance use counselor for Crossroads.

Originally from Westbrook, Berry graduated from Westbrook High School and earned a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Maine at Farmington specifically focusing on Rehabilitation Services with a specialty in Substance Use Counseling. She went on to obtain a master’s degree at the University of Southern Maine in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a specialty in Substance Use Counseling.

Her family is supportive of her work with both police departments.

“They continuously say how proud they are of me and encourage me to continue with this position,” Berry said. “I am not sure what they like most about my job, but I could guess is helping individuals connect with supports for mental health and substance and give individuals someone to speak with if they need to check in or additional support.”

She says the most important thing she’s learned while working for the Windham and Gorham Police Departments is that police officers handle a lot more than the communities may realize.

“Both departments have done an incredible job in assisting individuals who may be struggling with mental health and substance use,” Berry said. “The one thing the public may not know is that I am available if it is needed. I am not sure how many community members know about my position with the police department and if it is needed that I can be of support, specifically if it is mental health or substance use related.” <

Popular WPS ‘Popsicles on Playground with Principals’ event nearing

By Ed Pierce

The start of another school year brings a fresh start, new opportunities, and a wealth of new possibilities for students at Windham Primary School. As in years past, school administrators will host a “Popsicles on the Playground with Principals” gathering next week for students and their families.

The popular '"Popsicles on the Playground with Principals'
event will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 24
at Windham Primary School and 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Aug. 24 at
Raymond Elementary School. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE   
The event will run from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 24 outside the WPS cafeteria and on the school’s A-House Playground. WPS Principal Dr. Kyle Rhoads and Assistant Principal Diana Jordan will welcome the community to the event, which has been held every year at WPS since 2008.

“The event is important because the event celebrates the return to school, celebrates a new year, and for families to connect and staff after being away from Windham Primary School,” Rhoads said. “The new school year should be exciting.”

Participants will be able to take tours of the main areas of Windham Primary School guided by staff members and enjoy music by DJ Dave, who also serves as a noon monitor at WPS.

There will be games for children, raffles for prizes, and the playground will be open throughout the event. Best of all, free popsicles will be given out to everyone who attends.

If past years are any indication of the popularity of this event, Rhoads said he expects that WPS will give out between 600 and 800 popsicles during the gathering.

“The event provides families an opportunity to come back to WPS, have fun and if new to our school take a tour of the common areas of the building,” Rhoads said. “Oh, and to enjoy a popsicle too.”

According to Rhoads, some WPS teachers conduct their class open houses prior to the gathering, and he expects some of them will be on hand for the “Popsicles on the Playground with Principals” event to meet students and families.

“Many help with the event or join the fun after their class open house,” he said.

Rhoads recommends that parents arrive early and then attend the straw poll for concept approval for the new Windham/Raymond Middle School from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Windham High School Auditorium.

The first day of school for Windham Primary School students in grades 1 to 3 will be Tuesday, Aug. 29. Half of WPS kindergarten students begin school on Thursday, Aug. 31 and the remaining half of kindergarten students start school on Tuesday, Sept. 5.

Raymond Elementary

Raymond Elementary School is also hosting a free “Popsicles on the Playground” with Principal Beth Peavey on the RES Playground from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 24 for students and families. 

The first day of school for Grade 1 to 4 at Raymond Elementary School is Tuesday, Aug. 29, Half of Raymond Elementary kindergarten students start school on Thursday, Aug. 31, while the remaining half of RES kindergarten students start classes Tuesday, Sept. 5. <

August 11, 2023

Groundbreaking set for 31-unit apartment project in South Windham

By Masha Yurkevich

Windham is a beautiful town with a wonderful growing community and now developers Simon Beylin, President of Beylin Development and Peter Anania, VP of Acquisitions and Predevelopment at Beylin Development, are working to give this community more housing space and breaking ground next week for a new 31-apartment project in South Windham.

A new 31-unit apartment complex will be built in South
Windham and is expected to be completed by summer 2024.
There will be three buildings on the property including
two 12-units that are al two bedrooms and one building
with seven three bedrooms with two bathrooms.
“We’re a vertically integrated construction and development company,” says Beylin. “We find, develop, construct and manage multifamily and commercial properties in Southern Maine and New Hampshire since 2016. We have projects finished and underway in Westbrook, Windham and in Windham, New Hampshire, Londonderry, New Hampshire, Methuen, Massachusetts, and Lowell, Massachusetts. We have a particular interest in working with towns to discover and deliver needed affordable and market-rate housing.”

The groundbreaking ceremony holds significance as it is the first project started since the Master Plan for the project received approval by the towns of Windham and Gorham.

“We believe that this project is very much in line with the vision of the master plan and will contribute to Little Falls once again becoming a bustling and desirable part of the town,” says Anania.

The project also follows the opening of the Red City Ale House at the former South Windham Fire Station.

“We also feel that this a significant development for the area that is also in line with the vision of the master plan set by the towns. Furthermore, the project precedes the $17 million cleanup of the Keddy Mill at 7 Depot St.,” Anania said. “This location is poised to become a focal point for future development, and we have a particular interest in developing the Keddy Mill site after the cleanup is completed.”

Beylin says that their development stands out in Windham due to the availability of public water and sewer infrastructure. Additionally, a partnership between the development and Portland Water District has enabled the installation of pump stations on part of the site, enhancing the capacity for the entire area and paving the way for future development opportunities. It also gives the South Windham Fire Department a needed access road for their fire station.

“Our hope is that this project will attract new families and working professionals to the area, becoming part of the master plan in action,” says Anania. “We anticipate these individuals being drawn to the region due to the presence of emerging businesses like the Red City Ale House, improved access to the Presumpscot River and the Sebago to Sea Trail, as well as its convenient proximity to Gorham, Portland, and the Lakes Region."

The 31-unit apartment complex is expected to be completed in the summer of 2024. There will be three buildings on the property. Two 12-apartment units that are all two-bedrooms and one building with seven three-bedrooms with two bathrooms. Maine Community Bank is financing the project.

Beylin and Anania say that they have been drawn to Windham for many reasons. The first is the challenge the town faces with a shortage of affordable housing.

“Windham is consistently listed as one of fastest growing towns in the state and hottest ZIP codes in the country,” says Anania. “From our research and experience, builders can’t keep up with demand and there are not enough market rate apartments being constructed. In addition to this we became aware of a parcel and its unique site work challenges. We knew that we would be the development team to overcome them. Their team also liked the location of the parcel, close to Windham schools, the Lakes Region, Portland and Gorham.”

Anania and Beylin are placing their bets on and wholeheartedly embracing the town's vision. Being a modest contributor to that vision and witnessing others also play their role is what truly makes this endeavor worthwhile for them, they say.

“Everyone in the town of Windham has been great to work with,” said Anania and Beylin. “We’re not used to towns being so friendly and helpful. We want to thank them for their assistance in getting this project off the ground.”

More information on the project will be available at <

Sebago Lake buoy helps ensure clean drinking water

By Nicole Levine

Ever been out on Sebago Lake and seen a bright yellow buoy floating on the surface near the Lower Bay? It just might have been the Sebago Lake Monitoring Buoy. This buoy serves a unique purpose and enables scientists to determine different characteristics of the water quality. It is monitored by and is the property of Portland Water District.

A buoy placed in Sebago Lake records and transmits data
about water temperature, dissolved oxygen, water clarity,
and levels of chlorophyll, a type of algae within the lake,
and that information is posted directly to the Portland
Water District website. SUBMITTED PHOTO
The technology within the buoy records and transmits data on water temperature, dissolved oxygen, water clarity, and levels of chlorophyll (a type of algae within the lake), directly to the Portland Water District website.

This buoy was originally placed in Sebago Lake in 2018, when it was funded by the Water Resources Sustainability Research Grant from the University of Maine. The grant was offered for the research of water quality, undergraduate training, sustainable water resource management, and community health and safety.

All data transmitted from the buoy is studied and maintained by scientists associated with Portland Water District and researchers from Saint Joseph's College. These professionals check the data that is collected once a week to determine if the results are in a normal and expected range. It is visited by boat once a month to have the surface oxygen sensors cleaned, and to take duplicate readings using a hand-held probe.

The temperature data that is collected is taken from the surface to the bottom of the lake in 6-foot intervals. Dissolved oxygen data is collected from the surface and just above the bottom of the lake in Lower Bay.

“The dissolved oxygen readings tell us how fast bacteria are decomposing organic matter at the bottom of the lake,” said Nathan Whalen, Portland Water District’s Watershed Specialist. “This is a measure of lake health. We use the temperature data as an outreach and education tool for the people using Sebago Lake.”

The Sebago Lake monitoring buoy provides researchers with many important factors that determine the water’s quality. This is especially important for Maine residents living in Cumberland County that get their drinking water supply through the Portland Water District.

This buoy helps monitor and protect clean drinking water for the community by collecting data that shows researchers if the lake conditions are changing. By analyzing the information, the data can also be utilized to determine when and how the water treatment process needs to be adjusted.

Customers of Portland Water District who are living in Windham have meters at their property and pay water bills depending on how much water is used.

“It is less expensive to use water from a clean lake, rather than cleaning water from a polluted lake,” says Whalen.

As of right now, the quality of the water in Sebago Lake is healthy and the data indicates that there are no signs of it declining or negatively changing.

The monitoring buoy is consistently collecting data that helps determine the health and safety of Sebago Lake. During the winter months, the sensors are cleaned, and the buoy is removed and stored away until the lake unfreezes.

Currently, the buoy is no longer in the lake due to damage from a recent storm. Following repair, the buoy will be placed back in Sebago Lake.

While keeping Maine residents safe, the buoy also has a more significant role in global events and changes.

“If we keep the buoy going for a long time, it may provide information about climate change,” says Whalen.

By monitoring different water quality factors of the lake, the buoy provides scientists with data regarding current changes to quality, and information about long-term trends that may help determine how climate change is directly affecting lakes in Maine.

For more information, and to view current data, visit Portland Water District’s Sebago Lake Monitoring Buoy’s website <

Maine Scouts travel to National Jamboree in West Virginia

The Boy Scouts of America Jamboree attracted over 13,000 scouts from around the world and over 5,000 visitors to the 10-day event in West Virginia in July, including a contingent of Scouts from Maine.

Scouts from Maine visited the U.S. Capitol in July and 
received a tour before taking part in the National 
Jamboree in West Virginia. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Over the course of the Jamboree, which takes place every four years, Scouts and Scouters explored all kinds of adventures ranging from stadium shows, pioneer village, Mount Jack hikes, adventure sports and more, in the heart of one of nature’s greatest playgrounds. With 10,000 acres at the Bechtel Summit Reserve in West Virginia to explore, and directly across from the New River Gorge National Park, there was no shortage of opportunities to build Scouting memories.

The 45 Scouts and leaders from Pine Tree Council, which covers southern and western parts of Maine, took a bus to the event which was held at the Summit making stops in Washington, D.C.

Scout Contingent Leader, Joan Dollarhite wrote on July 17 at Camp Snyder outside Washington, D.C., “Tents are pitched, pizza ordered and eaten. We had a great ride and are looking forward to sightseeing tomorrow.”

The Scouts earned the money for the trip through many fundraisers such as selling popcorn outside the Lowes in Brunswick, selling meat sticks, bottle drives, etc.

From soaring high above the ground on a zip line to conquering high ropes courses and scaling rock walls, there was no shortage of adventures at the Jamboree.

Local Scouts took on the challenge of the climbing wall, navigated their way through orienteering courses, tried new things like branding or welding, and braved the rapids during an exhilarating whitewater rafting trip.

There were also demonstrations from the U.S. Coast Guard and motivational speeches given by Scott Pelley, correspondent for 60 Minutes and former news anchor and managing editor of CBS News who talked about bravery; and Lt. General and Eagle Scout, John Evans, who spoke to Scouts about the importance of leadership.

Susan Shoberg of Windham served as the Scoutmaster for the female Scouts from Pine Tree Council who attended the Jamboree.

“I enjoyed watching the youth be able to explore on their own and find adventure every day,” Shoberg said. She enjoyed the zip line and meeting guest speakers such as Scott Pelley; Elaine Ho, director of diversity at NASA; and Scott Mann, founder of Operation Pineapple Express. Shoberg is the volunteer District Commissioner for the Abnaki District which delivers Scouting in Androscoggin and Oxford Counties

Maine’s Scouts not only found their adrenaline rush but also took part in programs designed to foster personal growth and build self-confidence. They also found opportunities to overcome mental and emotional obstacles as well and engage in team-building exercises that required communication, problem-solving, and collaboration. These experiences not only enhance outdoor skills but also cultivate character and resilience. The Jamboree helped to develop leadership skills.

The Scouts also took part in a massive undertaking which was a good deed. Scouts at the National Jamboree assembled 5,000 "Flood Bucket" cleaning kits consisting of 15 items ranging from rubber gloves and scrub brushes to scouring pads and towels packed tightly into a 5-gallon bucket. These kits serve as essential “first aid” resources that provide flood victims with the practical and emotional support necessary to begin restoration of their homes and personal belongings.

The completed tightly packed 5 gallon bucket kits, valued at $375,000, will be wrapped and transported to a warehouse and then distributed as needed to flooded areas throughout West Virginia as "first aid" resources for flood victims.

Alexander Durocher of Dayton, 12, is a Second Class scout in Troop 310 and said that he enjoyed trying new things.

“I tried fly fishing for the first time and almost completed the merit badge. I just have to catch a fish. I also tried out welding,” Durocher said. “I like earning the Jamboree NOVA award -it was such an accomplishment. I wanted to try rock climbing and to visit the military exhibits more.”

Michael Fortin, Committee Chair for Troop 603, also attended.

“It was fulfilling to see all of the Scouts have this amazing experience,” Michael Fortin said. “Many of the Scouts on this adventure did not know the leaders and conversely, we did not know most of them. Spending time together provided the leaders with the opportunity to get to know them and witness these young people on their Scouting journey. The heat, humidity, and hilly terrain were challenging for us older adults to navigate, but we endured it all to ensure our Scouts were safe and had an absolutely awesome time. We saw many examples of Scouts who unselfishly embraced the Oath and Law and demonstrated what it truly means to be a Scout.” <

RSU 14 receives USDA subgrant to improve school meal quality

By Ed Pierce

RSU 14 has learned that it will receive up to $150,000 as part of a cooperative agreement to develop and implement the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Healthy Meals Initiative aiming to improve the quality and nutrition of meals offered in local schools.

Windham/Raymond Schools Director of
School Nutrition Jeanne Reilly shows a 
healthy meal served to RSU 14 students.
RSU 14 has learned it will receive a 
subgrant of up to $150,000 to develop
and implement the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's Healthy Meals Initiative
aiming to improve the quality and
nutrition of meals offered in local schools.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service is awarding $30 million in subgrants to 264 school districts across 44 states and the District of Columbia, including 12 districts in Maine. The funds are being distributed by the national nonprofit Action for Healthy Kids, which is dedicated to improving children’s health and well-being by bringing together and mobilizing educators, families, and other key stakeholders to help children lead healthy lives.

“Students in every community deserve access to healthy and nutritious meals,” said USDA Deputy Secretary Xochitl Torres Small. “With these funds, small and rural school districts will be able to modernize their operations and provide more nutritious meals, helping students succeed in the classroom and beyond.”

She said that school districts receiving funding will be able to use it to support them in improving the nutritional quality of their meals and modernizing their food service operations through efforts which could include innovative food staff training programs, kitchen updates and renovations, redesigning food preparation and service spaces, and other school-district led efforts to support school meals and school nutrition professionals.

All Maine students attending a public school are provided free meals, regardless of their family's income.

This was approved by the Maine Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Janet Mills to start with the 2022-2023 school year. The intent is to help eliminate stigma and help fight hunger in Maine and acknowledges that since some families that weren't traditionally eligible for free or reduced-price school meals may still need help. In enacting the bill, Maine became the second state in the nation to provide free meals to students.

This new USDA funding for RSU 14 will augment that initiative in different ways.

“Offering healthier school meals is key to helping our nation’s kids get the nutrients they need today and for their long-term development,” said Action for Healthy Kids CEO Rob Bisceglie. “Through this historic investment in school nutrition, we will help school districts across the country overcome challenges and develop solutions to provide nutritious foods for the children they serve.”

Stacy Dean, USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary for Food Nutrition, said that strengthening school meal quality, strengthens children’s health.

“These grants are the largest targeted investment USDA has ever made for school meal programs in small and rural communities,” Dean said. “We want to ensure every child in America has the opportunity to attend a school with high quality, nutritious meals, and this support is a step in that direction.”

Under the direction of Windham/Raymond Schools Director of School Nutrition Jeanne Reilly, RSU 14 received the International Fresh Produce Association Excellence award for innovations such as the National Nutrition Month event in March “Eat Your Way through the Alphabet,” which introduced RSU 14 students and their families to a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and gave them the opportunity to try new flavors and recipes and promote healthy eating. The school district also operated an emergency food pantry through their backpack program during the pandemic for students who were remotely learning from home.

Every day the RSU 14 School Nutrition Program serves more than 2,000 healthy, nutritious meals to students, staff, and visitors at six different schools in Windham and Raymond. All school menus meet USDA requirements for Calories, Fat, Protein, Calcium, Iron, and Vitamins A and D. <

Raymond residents mourn loss of longtime lakes protector Turner

By Nancy Crilly Kirk
Special to The Windham Eagle

“Take the Afternoon Off,” lakes volunteer Charlie Turner would frequently say to others. But he never did.

Charlie Turner of Raymond has died at
age 88. He was a longtime president
of the Raymond Protective Waterways
Association and a staunch advocate for
monitoring lake water quality locally, 
requiring shoreland and boating
regulations, and protecting local lakes
and waterways from invasive plants
such as milfoil. COURTESY PHOTO
Turner, a longtime lake steward and one of the early presidents of the Raymond Waterways Protective Association, died July 9. He was 88 and left behind his son, Chuck, and Chuck’s wife, Susan.

Charles “Charlie” Turner grew up in Portland, graduated from Deering High, and became a music and history teacher for 38 years in Westbrook. As various former students remembered him on his obituary site, he was a gifted and extraordinary teacher who could connect Renaissance music to the Fifth Dimension from the 1970s, and someone who could create a planetarium in his classroom using garbage bags over the windows and a globe lamp pricked with a needle to show the constellations.

Turner was also praised as a terrifically nice guy, always appreciative, as Jonnie Maloney of the Lake Stewards of Maine recalled.

“He was a warm and wonderful soul, a genuinely good, kind, caring and funny human being,” Maloney said.

As several people remembered, he was always exhorting everyone whom he talked to, “to take the rest of the afternoon off” and it became synonymous with him.

In 1967, Charlie and his wife, Dorothy “Dottie” Raynor Turner, bought a place on Panther Pond and moved there with their son, Charles, Jr. Soon, his great work on behalf of the Raymond lakes began.

In the 1960s and 1970s, lakefront owners washed and shampooed in the lakes, and often neglected to maintain their septic tanks. Lake users ran boats with two-stroke engines that dumped 25 percent of their oil and gas into the water. The lack of “no-wake zone” regulations allowed motorboats to churn up lake bottoms in shallow water, exposing phosphorous, which caused algae blooms to appear on the lake surface.

Charlie’s first and lasting gift to the lakes was monitoring water quality, a crucial first step to requiring and maintaining new shoreland and boating regulations. From 1976 to 2016, twice a week, when the water was accessible, using a standard measure of water transparency, the secchi disc, a round, white and black-colored disc that is lowered into the water, the depth of its visibility was measured. Charlie and Dottie patrolled Panther Pond and often Raymond Pond, supplying data to the now Lake Stewards of Maine Association.

“He also measured dissolved oxygen and temperature, and served as Regional Coordinator, helped us with logistics on workshops and studied invasive plants,” Maloney said.

Peg Jensen, President of the Raymond Protective Waterways Association said that Charlie himself said he did not start the RWPA, but he was involved early on, and was president for many years.

“Besides patrolling, he put out an annual letter, finding the cheapest printer in the area, that was four pages long,” Jensen said. “He always included a plea for Raymond folks to have their septic tanks pumped every few years.”

Bob Chapin, past president of the RWPA, praised Turner for his devotion to keeping the lakes clean.

“Charlie was always interested in doing what he could to help out, even with the scut work like pulling benthic barriers and moving bins of collected milfoil,” Chapin said. “I remember him as being most pleasant and helpful to new IPPers [Invasive Plant Patrollers] and pleased when they got off to a good start.”

Forty-seven years after Charlie began his work, progress has been made, but challenges remain. Septic tanks are now better and more often cleaned, two-stroke motorboat engines have been replaced by more efficient four-stroke engines, and more shoreland regulations have helped the lakes.

But, as Neil Jensen of the RWPA points out, “Continued construction, with attendant loss of forest cover, plus climate change with its increased temperatures, decreased ice cover, and heavier rain events, have exacerbated the phosphorous recycling which encourages algae growth and cyanobacteria problems.”

Cyanobacteria is a form of algae that can harm human and pet health.

Anyone who is interested in honoring Charlie Turner’s long work of taking care of Raymond lakes by continuing his work, can contact RWPA ( to learn more about becoming a volunteer. <

August 4, 2023

In the public eye: Exceptional customer service motivates Windham Deputy Town Clerk

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

By Ed Pierce

Anthony Blasi believes that the price of success is hard work and dedication to the job at hand and that’s how he approaches each day as a key member of the Windham Town Clerk’s Office.

Anthony Blasi has worked for the Town of Windham for the
past  year and a half as a Deputy Town Clerk and is a
graduate of the University of Maine Farmington. He 
previously served as the Town Clerk in Woolwich.
Blasi serves as the Deputy Town Clerk in Windham and assists Windham Town Clerk Linda Morrell and other Town Clerk employees in preparing for elections, issuing vital records, business permits, dog licenses, and issuing and renewing car registrations. He’s been working for the Town of Windham for the past year and a half and says although the job is challenging, he’s proud of what he’s been able to accomplish so far.

“I love how every day is different, with new tasks and experiences. There is never a dull moment and I enjoy that,” Blasi said. “There are times of year that are busier than others, but there is not one thing that I find too challenging. Approaching tasks with patience and fortitude are key.”

To perform his duties, Blasi must be able to organize work quickly and set priorities. He’s responsible for accuracy, timeliness and thoroughness of his work and must perform tasks in accordance with legal, procedural, and policy guidelines established by the state and the town. The Deputy Town Clerk position requires strong customer service skills include being able to stay calm and polite when dealing with upset customers, working under very busy circumstances at times, the ability to multi-task, exhibiting degrees of flexibility, and able to work with unexpected interruptions.

“People may be surprised by the number of compilations and reports that go into the work,” Blasi said. “One person’s business permit or hunting license joins many others. As clerks, we need to make sure the right reports, funds, and information goes to the right agencies. There is a lot of behind-the-scenes paperwork.”

He’s originally from Auburn and graduated in 2015 from Edward Little High School. Blasi then earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Maine Farmington in 2019.

Before coming to work in Windham, Blasi served as the Town Clerk of Woolwich for about a year and a half, and he applied for the Windham job because it posed more of a challenge.

“I was looking for work in a larger town with a more fast-paced environment,” Blasi said. “My mom is from Windham, so I was very interested when I saw they were hiring. Once I met Linda and the others, I knew it was a perfect fit for me.”

It’s a big job as the Town Clerk’s Office handles many different tasks daily including dog licensing; hunting and fishing licensing; business licenses and permits; election management; notary service; records minutes at every Windham Town Council meeting; keeps track of vital records; assists in the tax collection of auto registrations, boat registrations, ATV registrations and issuing marriage licenses.

Blasi said he cannot single out one time or situation above others as his favorite while working for the Windham Town Clerk’s Office, but he’s come to value and appreciate everyone he works with.

“I cannot think of one memorable moment in particular but every day is so much fun thanks to my coworkers,” he said. “They are all great, special people.”

He said that his family is both happy and proud of him and they’re grateful that they call upon him to answer questions about car registrations and other town services because of his job.

According to Blasi, Windham Town Clerk employees are happy to have customers as prepared as possible when visiting their office at Town Hall to make a transaction.

“We really appreciate the prep work that our customers do,” he said. “The more information you gather and forms you fill out before you come in helps speed up your time with us here, as well as ensuring the best possible outcome in your transactions. This is especially true of car and recreational vehicle registrations.”

Preparation is the most important thing that Blasi says he has learned while working for the Windham Town Clerk’s Office.

“I feel that in this field there is no end to training,” he said. “There are always new facts and processes to learn, which keeps you on your toes.” <

Windham’s National Night Out evidence of positive connections between police and residents

By Matt Pascarella

Since it began in 1984, National Night Out has been an excellent way for the community to establish relationships with police departments. This year marked the 40th anniversary of the event nationwide and the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department and Windham Police Department were among the cities in the nation participating on Tuesday, Aug. 1 at Windham High School. There was free food, fire trucks, a dive boat, police cars and motorcycles, a K-9 demonstration, a mobile command center and drone demonstration along with the opportunity for the town to speak with law enforcement in a casual setting while also connecting with other Windham residents.

Windham first grader Harrison Villacci, left, gets help zipping 
up his life jacket from Maine Game Warden Peter Herring at
the National Night Out at Windham High School on
Tuesday, Aug. 1. The event was hosted by the Windham
Police Department and Cumberland County Sheriff's
“It’s a great time to talk to people and ask questions,” said Windham Chief of Police Kevin Schofield. “We bring in some of our equipment; I hear about kids who want to sit in a fire truck, well this is a great time to do that or sit in a cruiser, sit on a motorcycle – it’s very laidback and it allows us to interact with people in a non-confrontational manner.”

First introduced in August 1984 and always held on the first Tuesday in August, National Night Out promotes police-community partnerships and comradery to make neighborhoods around the country safer, and more compassionate places to live. Apart from Windham, 20 other cities across the state participated in the event.

Each year since the Town of Windham, the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office and the Windham Police Department began hosting National Night Out events several years ago, it’s gotten bigger and bigger and Chief Schofield hopes to have it get even larger in the future.

All the equipment and technology they had with them was purchased by the citizens of Cumberland County and Windham. Law enforcement doesn’t exist without the citizens and the public can’t exist without law enforcement, Schofield said.

“Sometimes, just in normal conversation you’ll find out something you didn’t know about crime occurring in someone’s neighborhood,” said Chief Schofield. “Often times, some of these folks would never call us because they don’t want to bother us; I tell people – our job is to be bothered 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This a great opportunity to bridge that gap. It's a great time to kneel down, and talk to a kid face-to-face as opposed to towering over them and acting like this authoritative person, often times, we look it, but we’re people too.”

Windham resident Abby Jacobs said her son Corbin loves anything to do with police or fire vehicles. They attended last year’s National Night Out, and their son enjoyed it so much, they decided to come back this year.

“It’s a wonderful experience for them to see the officers and not be afraid,” said Jacobs. “Everyone has been so lovely to them; it’s been an experience he’ll remember for a while.”

Windham residents Jaime Irwin and Rusty Davis also brought their kids last year and returned again this year. Davis said National Night Out is nice because you get to see all the officers and their families and experience the opportunity to interact with them in a nice way.

Richey Vickers, the Instructional Technology Leader for Windham Middle School, said he loves technology and was impressed by the drone demonstrations as well as the mobile command center that could run the entire Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office from anywhere in the state. He thought it was helpful to have so many people in uniform interacting with kids and adults.

Sergeant Kyle Hladik with the Maine Warden Service said that National Night Out is a great opportunity to interact with people from the community, especially kids and learn what we do and have a good time. It’s all about being part of the community and getting to reach out in a positive, fun environment.

“The National Night Out is a very good way of demonstrating some of the things, the expertise that we have, letting people that allowed us to purchase the equipment we have, see it, touch it, and in some cases experience it,” said Chief Schofield. “This is one of our favorite events of the year. It’s a good event for us and we really enjoy interacting with the public.” <

Family Fun Fitness and Film Festival nears in Windham

 By Kaysa Jalbert

As the end of the summer season approaches and a new school year nears, the Family, Fun, Fitness and Film Festival promises a free opportunity for families to gather and celebrate with friends in Windham.

The 4th Annual Family Fun Fitness and
Film Festival will be held at 6:30 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 17 at Dundee Park in
Windham. The free event features
bounce houses, games, vendors,
food, music, helpful information,
and a movie for children.

For the fourth consecutive year, the Family, Fun, Fitness and Film Festival will be held at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 17 at Dundee Park in Windham and is a collaborative effort between the Be The Influence Coalition and the Windham and Raymond Parks and Recreation Departments as an avenue to reduce stress in the community.

This year the event will include sponsorship by Sabre Yachts, allowing them to expand spending for the event. The Sebago Lake Region of Commerce, one of the event’s in-kind sponsors, also has helped to solicit corporate sponsors to cover festival costs.

“Since this is a community event, any sponsor helps to bring attention to it and alert their members that it is an option for fun,” said Laura Morris, Project Director for the Be The Influence Coalition.

She said that the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber connects the festival to the business community and in return, the Chamber receives free sponsorship from BTI.

“It’s just lovely to have a Chamber of Commerce and a business community that stands behind what we do,” Morris says.

During and after the Covid-19 pandemic, Morris said the coalition noticed a huge increase in substance misuse and mental health issues. In response to that, this festival was created and is designed to help families, youth and community members to enjoy healthy ways to engage and to connect them with important resources.

“Be The Influence and both Parks and Rec Departments wanted to provide an outdoor, health outlet for the community that would encourage healthy ways to cope as well as provide resources for those that may need them,” said Morris.

New this year, the event will be featuring two can’t miss characters, the Ice Queen from Frozen, and Spiderman. In addition, there has been an increase in resources that will include three exciting Grand Prizes for an all-participant drawing, Basketball Toss Tournaments, bouncy houses, face painting and Zumba.

“We are encouraging more attendance through the giveaways, interactive events, the popular movie “Super Mario Brothers” and all taking place in a gorgeous spot,” says Morris.

This will be the Fourth time that the Family, Fun, Fitness and Film Festival will be staged by Be The Influence and the Windham Parks and Recreation Department. As always, admission to the event is free for residents, including families and children, with the intent being to provide resources for living a healthy lifestyle and for participants to connect, socialize and have fun.

The event takes place each year in August before the school year begins as the summer is too busy and it is the perfect time for families to connect before the youth get too over committed with school, said Morris.

Be The Influence began in March 2014 as a collaborative effort of Windham and Raymond community members who joined together to raise awareness and address concerns caused by substance abuse in local communities.

“My mission is to create healthy ways for youth and community members to live without resorting to alcohol, marijuana, tobacco and pills,” said Morris. “Together we created this event, secured sponsors, partnered with area resources and youth groups.”

The coalition currently has about 200 members from all over the community, including the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Robin Mullins, who volunteers at the festival registration table during the event.

Morris says that Mullins is a very important part of this coalition and is a big supporter of the festival and BTI.

The festival vision is to provide support and resources to the youth and residents by promoting drug-free messages and reminding everyone that they live in a community that cares about them. <

True crime podcaster to make Windham Public Library appearance

By Nicole Levine

An exciting opportunity for fans of true crime and an interest in podcasts will be coming to the Windham Public Library at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 8. The library will be hosting a presentation by podcast creator, producer, and host Kylie Low of her show Dark Downeast: Maine and New England’s True Crime Podcast.

Creator, producer, and host Kylie Low of
the Dark Downeast: Maine and New
England's True Crime Podcast
will give
a presentation in-person and on ZOOM 
about the inner workings of the
podcasting industry and her show at the
Windham Public Library at 3 p.m. 
Tuesday, Aug. 8.
The event will be held in-person and listeners will also have the opportunity to attend virtually through Zoom. Throughout this presentation, Low will offer insight into the podcasting industry and share the inner workings of her own show.

Low’s presentation will demonstrate a variety of tips and tricks to beginning a podcast and will reveal industry secrets that she learned throughout her journey in podcasting. She aims to demonstrate the accessibility of podcasting in order to help alleviate the initial intimidation of beginning one’s own show, and to inspire more content creators.

She explained how everyone has their own unique voice and can tailor their content to their specific niche, when creating a podcast.

“There is value in your voice and in your vision. I want people to feel empowered to take action and start their show,” says Low.

Low's educational background and experience has helped support her skills when creating her podcast. She graduated from the University of Maine with a degree in journalism, with an interest specifically in investigative journalism.

She originally began her career as a morning radio host on the Q Morning Show with Lorri and Jeff. This experience gave her foundational experience and skills in audio storytelling. She then moved to New York City where she was introduced to the podcasting industry and found her passion within it.

In March 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic, Low unexpectedly found herself back in her hometown in Maine. Due to her new-found availability of time and space, she decided to pick up an idea she had in 2019, while she was still living in New York City. She was feeling homesick, continuously searching for Maine content. With a fascination for true crime, she decided to start her “Dark Downeast” podcast.

“Dark Downeast “consists of reviewing and investigating the facts of local unsolved deaths and disappearances in Maine. Low takes pride in “honoring the humans at the heart of each case,” while sharing the story in a way that can be lost in the traditional news media.

Oftentimes traditional news misses the core of who that person was when they were still alive, she said. Details about the death or disappearance itself are shared, but not a lot about who the person was, which is the story that Low intends to tell.

“I want to simply honor the legacy of the human whose life was lost,” she says.

While honoring the person who had lost their life, she also gives family and friends a platform to tell their side of the story, in a safe and supportive environment.

“My platform serves the families that I speak with,” she says. Her podcast is dedicated to the families who are dealing with this unsolved loss with no closure.

Low prepares for each story by conducting extensive research of each case. Typically, she looks for archival sources, such as old newspapers that are found online or in libraries, but the majority of her reporting comes from people close to the source themselves.

She often speaks with the victim’s family and friends, or investigators who are involved in the case. Ultimately, she is trying to find sources who would know the victim the best. Low is committed to only sharing the facts that she uncovers within a case, and strays away from unconfirmed information. She also has formed a relationship with the Maine State Police Unsolved Homicide Department and enjoys helping them in any way she can.

Low’s podcast is dedicated to providing a platform for those who lost someone to an unsolved crime. Her podcast stands out in a way that is meaningful to the families dealing with a loss, because of her primary focus on humanizing the victim.

She said her podcast could be considered a call to action for bringing attention to many of these overlooked stories, while honoring the person whose life was lost.

For more information about Kylie Low’s upcoming presentation at the Windham Public Library, please contact Cassandra <