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This week’s edition!

Wreaths Across America places 1.7 million veterans’ wreaths

From WAA

COLUMBIA FALLS, Maine – Last Saturday, on National Wreaths Across America Day at 2,557 participating locations, dedicated Americans in every state honored our nation’s heroes by safely placing a total of 1.7 million veterans’ wreaths on their headstones and remembering them, by saying each name out loud.

 “The 2020 theme for Wreaths Across America has been ‘Be an American worth fighting for,’ and this year I have been blessed to see my fair share,” said Karen Worcester, executive director of Wreaths Across America. “The determination of the American people and their commitment to the mission to Remember, Honor, Teach, made it possible for us to move forward this year, safely. We are humbled, and forever grateful for the outpouring of support from all across the country.”

 Wreaths Across America would like to thank the dedicated volunteers in every state for overcoming the many obstacles presented and remaining focused on the mission over the last year. From the individual Location Coordinators working with local officials on modified wreath placement plans, to the professional truck drivers who have been keeping this country moving but found time to help deliver these truckloads of respect, each person has played an important a part in the mission to Remember the fallen, Honor those that serve and their families, and Teach the next generation the value of freedom.

A girl says a brief prayer after placing a wreath at the grave of a military veteran as part of National Wreaths Across America Day last Saturday.
(Photo courtesy of WAA)

 Each live, balsam veteran’s wreath is a gift of respect and appreciation, donated by a private citizen or organization and it is placed on graves by volunteers as a small gesture of gratitude for the freedoms Americans enjoy. For centuries, fresh evergreens have been used as a symbol of honor and have served as a living tribute renewed annually.

Wreaths Across America believes the tradition represents a living memorial that honors veterans, active duty military and their families and when volunteers say the name of a veteran out loud, when placing a wreath, it ensures they live on in our memory.

A Maine state police trooper takes a moment to honor a veteran after placing a wreath as part of National Wreaths Across America Day last Saturday. About 1.7 million wreaths were placed at 2,557 locations across the United States.
(Photo courtesy of WAA)

For more information, visit

Wreaths Across America is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded to continue and expand the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery begun by Maine businessman Morrill Worcester in 1992. The organization’s mission – Remember, Honor, Teach – is carried out in part each year by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies in December at Arlington, as well as at thousands of veterans’ cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states and beyond. 

Auburn holiday meal

From City of Auburn

AUBURN – Auburn’s Age-Friendly Community Committee, together with the Auburn Recreation Department and Auburn resident Matt Leonard invite Auburn residents to enjoy a “Special Christmas and New Year’s Meal.”

The free, delicious meal – which will be comprised of three finger rolls (chicken, egg, or ham), chips, a Bismarck pastry, and a water – will be take place from noon-3 p.m. on Wednesday Dec. 30 and will be a “pick-up” only event.

Pre-order is required no later than Dec. 28 and can be done by contacting Jamie Longley at Auburn Recreation at 333-6601 x 2108 or

The meal is free, although donations of any size are welcome.

Teaching “Peaceful Way” makes dojo the Best of Best

Phoenix Academy earns title for third year in a row

By Nathan Tsukroff

AUBURN – For the third year in a row, Phoenix Academy of Martial Arts has been voted Best of the Best for providing the Best Martial Arts Instruction in the Lewiston-Auburn area.

The voting was conducted online by Marketing Surveys of America from Dover, NH, and Phoenix Academy received a substantially higher vote count than last year, said Donna Harris, who owns the school with her husband, Harry. She believes this strong rating is a result of the school’s approach to teaching karate as a way of life, not just a sport.

The school, referred to as a “dojo” – a place for immersive learning or meditation – is located on Center Street in Auburn, and teaches a style of karate called Pinan-Do, which translates to Peaceful Way.

Donna Harris said this style was created by a group of karate practitioners in 2009 who agreed that they felt the need to return to a style of martial arts that goes back to the original roots of karate. Members of the group included the Harrises along with Tony Bennett, Mark Fryover, Randy Martin, and Bill Parquette. They are referred to as “Sosai”, which roughly translates to “founder”.

Donna Harris, a Sosai (“founder”) at Phoenix Academy of Martial Arts on Center Street in Auburn, practices an elboy strike with Tetsudai (“helper”) Tim Doyon as part of her continuing education in karate. Harris has been learning karate for 23 years, and now shares her knowledge with students at her school. (Tsukroff photo)

The martial art we know as karate was developed in the Ryukyu Kingdom (1429-1879) under the influence of Kung Fu, particularly the Fujian White Crane style. The kingdom was located on the Ryukyu islands and was ruled as a tributary state of imperial China before being invaded by Japan in 1609. It was dissolved in 1879 to form the present-day Okinawa Prefecture.

Gichin Funakoshi (1868-1957) was an Okinawan who brought karate to Japan in 1922 and is accepted as the father of modern karate. He changed the art’s name to mean “way of the empty hand”, and taught karate as a path to self-knowledge, not just a study of the technical aspects of fighting.

The Pinan kata are a series of five empty hand forms taught in many karate styles. A kata is a detailed choreographed pattern of martial arts movements made to be practiced alone.

While modern karate is now considered a striking art using punching, kicking, knee strikes, elbow strikes and open-hand techniques, the Harrises and their group wanted to steer students back to the philosophy of self-development. Adding the suffix “-do” (pronounced “daw”), which means “the way/path”, implies that karate-do is a total way of life that goes well beyond self-defense. Pinan-do teaches students to compete and strive to excel against themselves.

Students at Phoenix Academy range from two-year-olds to fifty-year-olds, with many families involved, Donna Harris said. “We are a very family-oriented school.”

   She said she thinks the reason her school was voted Best of the Best “is based overall on people’s reflection of what we do here, and the quality of instruction that we give, and the fact that our instruction goes beyond just the martial arts. It’s more about building the entire person – helping you discover who you are, from the inside out.”

Harris said she thinks the success of the teaching at the dogo is due in part to “the variety of instructors that we have, that offer skills and a mindset that is unmeasurable.”

Sosai Mark Fryover is one of the instructors, along with the Harrises. And then “we are fortunate enough to have our own instructor (Tetsudai (“helper”) Tim Doyon) in-house who helps us to further our education,” she said. “And he is also donating his talents to help bring the next generation of students up, as well.”

 Donna Harris, a Sosai (“founder”) at Phoenix Academy of Martial Arts on Center Street in Auburn, practices moves with Tetsudai (“helper”) Tim Doyon as part her continuing learning of karate. (Tsukroff photo)

Harris said she has been a martial artist for 23 years, but never stops learning, even from new students. “I have to learn how to teach them,” she said. Harris has been learning moves, techniques and philosophy from Doyon for the past three years.

 “As a martial artist, training never ends. There’s always more to learn, there’s always more to discover about the art. Martial arts is an art, and it’s not something that you just read about. It’s something that you discover more and more,” she said. “As you practice it, you discover why the katas were written the way that they were written – what defense techniques were actually anticipated in the writing of the kata.”

With the martial arts moves if the 1960s and 1970s increasing the popularity of martial arts around the world, karate was pursued by some students only for its fighting techniques. Harris’ school promotes karate as a defensive technique, with a holistic approach that teaches students to look inward to improve themselves.

Harris spent several hours training with Doyon last Friday afternoon. Constant learning is important, Doyon said, because “everything is perishable, everything fades.” To achieve a level of expertise “you have to keep up that constant level of practice all the time to be at that level.”

“My master used to always say, people often feel that when you get to a point where you feel you’re enlightened, that you’re at that place forever. But that’s not the truth,” Doyon said. “It’s just a marker on the road. Really, whatever got you to that point of enlightenment, you have to keep up that practice.”

Harris echoed that sentiment, explaining that this is why she continues to train and learn.

When asked about her level as a black belt, Harris said that in many styles of karate, “it’s all about rank. In our (Pinan-do) style, it’s not about rank. We’re really not worried so much about the rank,” but about the knowledge she and her students have about this martial art. The school is more interested in the growth of students, she said.

“So I’ve been practicing for 23 years, and therefore I have 23 years more experience than a student coming in off the street. So is that a rank? That’s what classifies me as having more experience,” than a new student, she said.

The belt system at Phoneix Academy is intended to recognize a student having learned a certain number of moves. As they memorize more moves, they move up in the belt system. But the ranking of a belt color should be “more of a personal thing,” Doyon said. Rank “isn’t something to be displayed and held above peoples’ heads.”

Harris and Doyon both emphasized that the importance of their levels of knowledge is not in achieving a title, but in being able to share their knowledge with others. “The reward is in passing on the knowledge,” Doyon said, while the title is only important in that it lets the student know what they have learned.

 “And I think that is one of the reasons that we win this award year after year,” Harris said. Parents will initially come to the school with the mindset that “I want to teach my child discipline, or my kid has watched ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ and wants to learn karate. And then they shortly discover that it’s so much more than that.”

“They see how we’re interacting with the children. It’s not just, ‘Hey, I’m teaching you how to do pushups. I’m teaching you to be fearful of me.’ It’s more, ‘So I have something to share, and I have as much to learn from you as you do from me, and we’re here to learn together.’,” Harris said.

“There’s something to learn from everyone,” she said. With new students who are just beginning,  “I can learn patience. I can learn kindness. I can learn how to interact, how to pass my knowledge on to somebody.” Every student is different, and she learns what is needed to help each of those students.

Donna Harris, co-owner of Phoenix Academy of Martial Arts on Center Street in Auburn, shows off the first two awards her school received as Best of the Best for providing the Best Martial Arts Instruction in the Lewiston-Auburn area. Phoenix Academy was recently named Best of the Best for the third consecutive year. (Tsukroff photo)

Harris said she is excited about 2021 because the school is evaluating how it teaches its students and will be changing its curriculum for a more focused approach to learning karate. “We will be evolving it to reflect what we’ve discovered. We’re actually going to be taking out a lot of the things that we have that didn’t really have the values that we want to share. And we’d rather have less material, stronger, and have our students have a complete understanding of why they’re learning what they’re learning.”

The school will look at teaching students what the (karate) moves mean, how to execute them, how to use them to defend themselves, and how to use those moves and that knowledge in their everyday life “to move forward and be a better person,” she said.

First snowstorm of winter

Out and About

By Rachel Morin

Our first snowstorm of winter started Saturday afternoon, Dec. 5, with big snowflakes melting immediately upon hitting the ground.

I watched diligently between checking off items on my To Do List. We had periodic TV announcements of an anticipated snow drop of 10 inches.

The snowy landscape in the woods behind the main building at Schooner Estates in Auburn. (Morin photo)

As the afternoon wore on, a wind picked up and snow started accumulating. Towards 8 p.m. or so, we lost power. Looking out my backyard window, with the aid of a flashlight, I could make out my tall scarlet flowered rhododendron bush swaying back and forth under a strong wind.

The wind increased and I went to bed and was lulled to sleep by the wind whipping around. I slept all night. Waking the next morning, I looked out the window to check on the rhododendron. Yes, it was there standing, tall and straight, as usual. And a beautiful thick carpet of white snow covered the back yard and draped the beautiful trees in the thick woods beyond.

The accumulation did fall short of the 10 inch prediction, but I don’t know the actual amount that fell.

The Schooner Estates Main Entrance in winter dress. (Morin photo)

Seeing the neighbors walking by later, they advised me that the power came on at 1 am. And I thought of the dedicated CMP workers, always there in times like these, working on the lines to restore power to as many customers as possible, in numbing cold weather.

I am a Mainer and love the four seasons of Maine. My least favorite season is Winter. It starts the year in January and ends the year in December. It seems to be the longest season! My favorite season is Autumn. The fall flowers last in my garden through mid- November many times.

When December comes, I think of my favorite winter poem by Oliver Herford—

I heard a bird sing

In the dark of December.

We are nearer to spring

Than we were in September!

I like the beauty of the first snowfall and appreciate the finality of the last snowfall.

The very next day after our storm, I dressed appropriately and toured the grounds of Schooner Estates Retirement Community, camera in hand, to enjoy the beauty of the grounds, and the quietness and solitude everywhere. No one was about. The Maintenance Crew had long completed clearing away the snow from the roads and were busy inside the buildings on other chores.

A lone shoveler, Bob Lindahl, was touching up the parking lot and walkways at the Memory Care Building. He was the only person about that morning and said he took care of what needed to be done at The Memory Care Building.

I took a few more days to take more pictures and was pleased to notice the return of the wild turkeys in back of the buildings. We hadn’t seen them around in ever so long. It was like seeing old friends as they paraded out back next to the thick woods. I think you will like seeing their pictures.

I also returned at night to capture a few night scenes and the Christmas lights on campus.

The Courtyard has Christmas Lights every year. (Morin photo)

Swearing-in day, and business grants are available

Guest Column

By Sen. Nate Libby

We’ve officially begun a new legislative term. Two weeks ago, state senators and house representatives were sworn in to the 130th Maine Legislature. I’m grateful for and humbled by the opportunity to again represent you in Augusta.

Normally, swearing-in day is held at the State House, and family and friends fill the Chamber and halls to support lawmakers as we take our oath of office. This year was different, of course, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We gathered at the Augusta Civic Center to maintain physical distancing, and our family and friends had to tune in from home via livestream. Still, it was a solemn reminder of the importance of the work we all do for the people of Maine. I know many challenges are ahead of us, but I’m eager to get to work.

If you have any questions, concerns or ideas, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at or 207-287-1515.

Business grants

On November 30, Governor Janet Mills announced an economic recovery grant program to support Maine’s tourism, hospitality and retail small businesses. Backed by $40 million in Federal CARES Act funds, the Tourism, Hospitality & Retail Recovery Grant Program is focused specifically on supporting Maine’s service sector small businesses, such as restaurants, bars, tasting rooms, lodging and retail shops, which have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and now face additional challenges with the coming winter months.

The Maine Department of Economic and Community Development will again partner with some of the Economic Development Districts to administer the program. Grants will be awarded on a first come, first serve basis that will allow for funding to be dispersed as applications are received and reviewed. The application portal opened Wednesday, Dec. 2, on DECD’s website and will remain open until funds are depleted. The application is expected to take about ten minutes to complete. Funds must be committed by Dec. 30, per guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department.

Public transportation survey

The Androscoggin Transportation Resource Center is conducting a survey about public transportation in the Lewiston/Auburn area. This study will help leaders in public transportation know what residents’ wants and needs are, as well as better understand conditions on the ground. The information gathered in the survey will allow officials to design the most effective, efficient transit system for the region. You don’t have to be a current CityLink customer to take the survey. You can take the survey online at

Sen. Nate Libby (D-Androscoggin) represents Maine Senate District 21, which comprises the City of Lewiston.

Ghost kitchens brings the restaurant home

By Nathan Tsukroff

GORHAM – “We’re bringing a restaurant experience to your home and your table.”

That’s how Karen Nason describes her new Ghost Karen’s Kitchens that will be offering gourmet-style foods from six different menus for delivery or pickup in the Gorham area.

Touted as “Six amazing menus under one roof”, the ghost kitchen at 29 School Street was Nason’s response to having her other venue, Grand Central Wine Bar at 7 Railroad Avenue, shut down for nearly seven months under Maine’s COVID-19 restrictions.

David Robinson puts toppings on a pizza under the watchful eye of co-chef Trent Seib and Ghost Karen’s Kitchens owner Karen Nason. The ghost kitchen will bring a “restaurant experience to your home and your table,” Nason said. (Tsukroff photo)

Nason said ghost kitchens is “a trend going across the country right now. It began in Boston, New York City and San Francisco.”

 “The good thing about ghost kitchens is that nobody’s coming in. No one’s going to complain about the wait staff. Nobody’s complaining about the parking. No one’s complaining about the décor . . . because you’re not coming in here, only to pick up. And we’re going to deliver to you.” 

According to Wikipedia, A ghost kitchen is a professional food preparation and cooking facility set up for the preparation of delivery-only meals.

Ghost Karen’s Kitchens prepares food for Brooklyn Benny’s, with pizza and submarine sandwiches; Bliss Bowl, offering gyoza, which are similar to dumplings with a thinner dumpling wrapper and more finely chopped stuffing; Soup Dogg & Salad, featuring a variety of soups and salads; Mykonos Mediterranean, that has Mediterranean styled meals and sandwiches; Backyard Burger, with a variety of burgers with toppings from countries around the world; and My Thai, with Pad Thai, Coconut Curry Bowl, and a Spicy Beef Rice Bowl on its menu.

“So your daughter wants pizza. You’ve decided you want My Thai food (it’s called My Thai!), and your wife would like our Bliss Bowl,” Nason said. “Well, there are six menus here. So consider it six different restaurants with 10 chefs.”

Chefs at the ghost kitchen have been furloughed or are out of work because of the pandemic. “So all these chefs that are out of work are coming here . . . these amazing chefs . . . and we’re creating this experience. It’s not takeout food that you’re used to,” Nason said.

“So all of these wonderful menus and desserts can be delivered to your home, with your wine choices and your beer, and you don’t have to move!” she said. Housed in a former bar/restaurant space, the kitchen is stocked with a selection of wines and craft beers curated by Nason. The handsome wood bar itself is no longer used for guests, but for lining up orders for delivery.

 Nason said the ghost kitchens are important because the COVID-19 pandemic “has already changed how you’re going out now. A lot of people aren’t going out at all.” 

The ghost kitchen is really a concept introduced by Domino’s Pizza decades ago. “You never went to Domino’s to sit down. You just wanted Domino’s to deliver,” she said. “They were  really the official first ghost kitchen, and they’re one of the few people that  have successfully done well” during the pandemic.

 “It’s like having Thanksgiving dinner” each night, because each person can have their choice of special food, Nason said.  So with “COVID stopping the restaurant experience, we’re going to bring it to you.”

Nason sees a positive side to the pandemic restrictions with families spending more time together. “I think we’ve learned to like eating at home with each other, which has been lacking for a very long time. Kind of our social graces kind of got lost along the way. You know, it’s nice to sit around the table and have dinner.”

Nason’s Grand Central Station Wine Bar is considered to be a lounge, not a restaurant, she said, and it offers a limited menu. Now, guests will be able to order a variety of meals to be delivered right to the wine bar for them to enjoy.

Nason graduated from Gorham High School in 1982, and moved from Gorham to New York City when she was 21 to pursue her singing dreams. She eventually owned a jazz bar and plant shop in New York City and a café in Hoboken. She returned to Maine with her attorney husband Frank DeGrim and calls Gorham home again.

David Robinson, one of the co-chefs in the ghost kitchen, is a fellow Gorham classmate and graduate. He was found in the kitchen recently creating the dough for the New York style pizzas found on the Brooklyn Benny’s menu. The pizza dough takes three days to get it ready for the oven, he said. Pizzas are baked in a brick-lined oven at about  600 degrees. The result is a thin, crunchy crust that enhances the flavor of the pizza toppings.

Just a block or two from the campus of the University of Southern Maine campus in Gorham, Ghost Karen’s Kitchens offers the students remaining on campus a variety of meals that are not found in the school’s food services.

Delivery of meals to the college will be by e-bike, Nason said. The bike has huge tires for a safe ride in inclement weather, and the built-in electric motor powers it at up to 20 mph. About 100 students remain on campus.

Other deliveries will be made by drivers working for the kitchen, or through outside services that include GrubHub and DoorDash.

Pickup of ordered meals can be made right in the lobby, using a special temperature controlled locker system with individual compartments. The kitchen will send a passcode to the customer to be used to open the compartment door with their meal or meals inside.

Bottles of wine are $24 each.

Ghost Karen’s Kitchens at 29 School Street, Gorham, is a take-out and delivery-only restaurant with six different menus. It opened this week with both delivery and pickup service. (Tsukroff photo)

Menus may be found at Consumers may place orders online or by calling (207) 222-2121.

Annual Escort of Wreaths and Virtual Convoy

From WAA 

COLUMBIA FALLS – The annual Wreaths Across America escort will run from Dec. 15 to Dec. 19.

Wreaths Across America (WAA), is a national non-profit whose Mission to Remember, Honor, and Teach, is in part carried out with the placement of sponsored veterans’ wreaths at 2500 participating locations across America, most notably, at Arlington National Cemetery, each December. Another highly anticipated piece of this annual event is the weeklong, miles-long parade of tractor trailers, wrapped vehicles carrying veterans and Gold Star Families, law enforcement and motorcycle riders, leading the escort of wreaths to Arlington for placement.

 This year’s annual escort of wreaths will have a different look and feel due to the necessary changes being made throughout the country for health and safety. The physical journey – which will include one tractor trailer load of wreaths hauled by Gully Transportation professional driver JD Walker, who is also a Gold Star Father and NAVY Veteran, 11 wrapped CHEVY vehicles carrying Gold Star Families, and nine police cruisers – will take place from Tuesday, Dec. 15, through National Wreaths Across America Day, Saturday, Dec. 19.

 “For those who have had the opportunity to participate in the escort of wreaths over the years, it is truly an experience of a lifetime,” said Karen Worcester, executive director, WAA. “The way we have been welcomed into communities, over the years, with flags waving and streets lined with children and veterans, is something we always wished every American could witness. And now, thanks to PenFed’s support, we’ll be able to offer this incredible journey to all those who wish to participate. We are both grateful and excited to safely share the mission with all who want to participate.”

 In partnership with PenFed Credit Union’s digital media content team, PenFed Digital, this year’s escort will also be shared virtually for the nation to join along from the safety of their own homes. PenFed Digital and WAA are overcoming pandemic-related challenges to ensure fallen heroes are honored safely. During the escort and leading up to its departure, viewers can follow along, learning about the mission and hearing stories from the people it impacts on Wreaths Across America’s Facebook and PenFed’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn pages. From the professional truck drivers hauling this precious cargo to the hard-working, dedicated volunteers receiving them on the other side of the country, we are going to share their journeys too!

 “We are proud to partner with Wreaths Across America to tell the stories of our nation’s veterans – the men and women who served to protect our freedoms,” said James Schenck, CEO of PenFed Credit Union and PenFed Foundation. “It’s even more important that we continue to support the military community and give back during these uncertain times. This year is going to be especially memorable with both in-person events and the sharing of many incredible stories via social media with those at home. Everyone needs patriotism this holiday season and PenFed is proud to support Wreaths Across America’s mission to remember, honor and teach.”

 The WAA escort will down the northeast portion of the country and invites people to come out and wave flags and share signs and cheers of encouragement.


Dec. 15

9:00AM Coastal Washington County Institute of Technology

12 Addison Rd., Columbia, ME 04330

10 am Parade through downtown Ellsworth, ME

12:45PM Arrive at Central Maine Veterans’ Memorial Park

Roderick Rd, Winslow, ME 04901

3:15PM – Arrive at Ocean Gateway, Portland ME

14 Ocean Gateway Pier, Portland, ME 04101


Dec. 16

8:00AM Leave Portland (small detour through York Village)

10:10AM Arrive at MA State Line

12:30PM Parade through portion of Worcester, MA

3:30PM Arrives at Regal Cinemas, Branford, CT

325 E. Main St. Branford, CT 

7:30PM Cross the George Washington Bridge


Dec. 17

9:45AM Arrive at Vietnam Veterans’ Museum, Holmdel, NJ

1 Memorial Ln, Holmdel, NJ 07733 

1:30PM Arrive at Holy Rosary Church (The Guardian of the Defenders Memorial) 

3200 Philadelphia Pike, Claymont, DE 19703

3:30PM Arrive at Whitehall Village

801 Mapleton Ave., Middletown, DE 19709

6:00PM Arrive at American Legion Post 278 Kent Island

800 Romancoke Rd, Stevensville, MD 21666


Dec. 18

Virtual Event 6:30-8:30PM – Watch LIVE on Wreaths Across America Official Facebook Page

 These stops will take place with safety in mind, and citizens can tune in to various radio stations to hear real-time updates from Wreaths Across America Radio who will be traveling in the escort.


Ellsworth, Maine (parade through town) – 98.5 FM

Central Maine Veterans Memorial, Winslow, ME- 91.9 FM

Ocean Gateway, Portland, Maine – 90.7 FM


Parade through portion of Worcester, MA -97.1 FM


Branford, CT Regal Cinemas – 91.9 FM

New Jersey

Vietnam Veterans Museum, Liberty Park, NJ – 91.9 FM


Holy Rosary Church, Guardians of the Defenders Memorial, Claymont, DE – 90.5 FM

Whitehall Village, Middletown, DE – 90.5 FM


American Legion Post 278 Kent Island, Stevensville, MD – 90.3 FM

Washington DC – 90.5 FM

 PenFed Digital is the only group following Wreaths Across America’s escort from Maine, where the wreaths are assembled, to the laying of the wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery and around the entire country.

To find a cemetery near you to support or to learn how local events are being modified for safety in your community click here.

You can sponsor a wreath for $15 at Each sponsorship goes toward a fresh balsam veteran’s wreath that will be placed on the headstone of an American hero as we endeavor to honor all veterans laid to rest on Saturday, Dec. 19 as part of National Wreaths Across America Day. You can text WREATH to 20222 to sponsor a wreath for Arlington National Cemetery right from your phone.

Wreaths Across America is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded to continue and expand the annual wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery begun by Maine businessman Morrill Worcester in 1992. The organization’s mission – Remember, Honor, Teach – is carried out in part each year by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies in December at Arlington, as well as at thousands of veterans’ cemeteries and other locations in all 50 states and beyond. For more information or to sponsor a wreath, visit

Swearing-in day — a sign of things to come

Guest Column

By Sen. Ned Claxton

AUBURN – On Wednesday, Dec. 2, the 130th Maine Legislature was sworn into office.

Swearing-in day, which falls on the first Wednesday of December every two years, has become a memorable tradition for legislators, their families and friends.

Sen. Ned Claxton (D-Androscoggin), Maine District 20, Auburn, Mechanic Falls, Minot, New Gloucester, and Poland (Photo courtesy of Sen. Claxton)

In a normal time, this day would be a celebration, with legislators gathering in their respective House or Senate Chamber in the State House accompanied by loved ones. But I don’t need to tell you that this year is anything but normal, and Wednesday’s swearing-in ceremony reflected that.

The biggest difference was where the ceremony took place. Because the Legislature has so many members — 186 of us between the House and Senate — the Augusta Civic Center was used in order for us to maintain social distancing.

I, along with 31 of my Senate colleagues who were in attendance that day, took one room in the civic center, and the House of Representatives used the main auditorium. Every legislator was seated at least six feet apart from one another, and we wore masks for the duration of our session. Once we were sworn in and voted on some administrative measures in the morning, the Senate moved down the hall to the main arena for a joint convention with the House. We then voted on the positions of Secretary of State, Attorney General, Treasurer and State Auditor, and our day was complete.

Although Wednesday was unique in that it only happens once every two years, it was also a sign of things to come. In order to keep folks safe, in-person attendance at the Civic Center was limited to legislators, staff and the press. This was an unfortunate but necessary requirement. Despite this, the entirety of the day’s proceedings were streamed live online on the Legislature’s website at Even Gov.

Janet Mills, who was forced to quarantine after coming into contact with a member of her security team who tested positive for COVID-19, joined us virtually, pre-recording a welcome message to the new Legislature. Virtual legislative meetings will continue for the foreseeable future, with the State House and committee rooms remaining closed to the general public.

While conducting our business this way is an unfortunate necessity, it has raised questions for me about how we make sure the public still has access to our work.

Making sure the Legislature is accessible to the general public is absolutely critical, no matter the circumstances we find ourselves in. Folks not only have the right to watch government in action and participate in it; the public’s participation also helps form policy and holds elected officials accountable. Thankfully, staff have been working since the pandemic first began to make sure the general public can still be a part of the process.

When our legislative session officially kicks off in the new year, members of the public will be able to listen to all committee meetings and watch sessions live as they happen, as well as being able to testify in committee, both live on video and by submitting written testimony. There’s no doubt we’ll have challenges when conducting business, but we won’t let it affect access or the quality of work we do. Every step of the way, I’ll do what I can to make sure that everyone who wants to participate in government has the opportunity to do so.

As a reminder, you can always contact me if you have a question, concern or just want to make your voice heard. You can send me an email at or call my office at 287-1515.

Sen. Ned Claxton (D-Androscoggin) represents Maine Senate District 20, which includes Auburn, Mechanic Falls, Minot, New Gloucester, and Poland.

Youth are homeless in Maine for variety of reasons

New Beginnings provides outreach and support

By Nathan Tsukroff

LEWISTON – While there is not a specific reason youth in Maine are homeless, a survey in late 2017 indicated that some 40% of homeless youth are LGBTG+, compared to just 15% of their in-school peers.

Although sexual orientation may be a factor in leaving their homes for some of the homeless youth, others may be trying to escape a dangerous or abusive family situation, according to Kris Pitts, Community Services Director for New Beginnings, an agency based in Lewiston that serves adolescents and young adults from across Maine at its program sites in Androscoggin, Kennebec and Franklin counties. The decision to leave a home is often not due to a single factor, she said, but is usually the result of a combination of factors.

New Beginnings began with an emergency shelter in Greene, ME, in 1980, which was moved its current location in Lewiston in 1986. The agency began its street outreach program in 1990, and connected with just over 4,500 youth in 2019, the latest year for which it has statistics.

Some 758 youth were helped at the Lewiston drop-in center in 2019, and 911 youth and families were served by New Beginnings that year.

Being homeless leads to higher levels of interpersonal violence, suicide and trauma for adolescents and young adults, compared to their in-school peers, New Beginnings learned in its 2017 survey. Some 46% of the homeless survey respondents reported three or more adverse childhood experiences while living in their homes, which is twice as much as reported by their in-school peers and more than four times the national average of 10%.

Outreach staff from New Beginnings provide guidance and support for homeless youth in Androscoggin, Kennebec and Franklin counties. Adolescents and young adults can find temporary shelter, food and hygiene supplies, along with advice and referrals at the agency’s drop-in center on College Street in Lewiston. (Photo courtesy of New Beginnings)

Nearly 1 in 5 homeless youth reported being physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend the previous year, with 30% reporting they were physically forced to have sexual intercourse again their will, compared to 8.4% of high school seniors. Overall, Maine ranks in the lower third of states, with some 4% of males and 10.4% of females reporting forced intercourse at some point in their lives, according to a national survey, also from 2017.

New Beginnings helps youth who don’t have stable family support by providing a safety net of food, clothing, shelter, housing and referrals.

Besides the drop-in center at 134 College Street in Lewiston, adolescents and young adults can be guided to an emergency shelter and to a transitional living program run by the agency. The Lewiston facility provides help with finding housing, emergency food and hygiene supplies, and meals. More than 11,000 meals were served at New Beginnings’ shelter and drop-in center in 2019.

The emergency shelter serves as a safe place for youth to stay temporarily if they need to escape a dangerous situation at home, Pitts said. Other youth may be asked to leave or are locked out of their home by a caregiver. “We obviously want to work for reunification if we can, for young people,” Pitts said. About 80% of youth served by the agency in 2019 reunified with family or acquired safe housing.

New Beginnings has transitional living programs in Lewiston, Augusta and Farmington that provide housing for up to 18 months as youth are taught the skills they need to live on their own. Services include case management, independent living skills instruction, referrals, and follow-up support. More than 8,980 nights of housing were provided by the agency in 2019.

Members of the New Beginnings outreach staff speak with a homeless youth about options for resolving his situation. The agency provides an emergency shelter, transitional housing, and counseling and referrals for homeless adolescents and young adults throughout central and southern Maine. (Photo courtesy of New Beginnings)

The need for help for homeless youth “is much larger than I think a lot of people would either anticipate, or are comfortable recognizing sometimes,” Pitts said.

More information about New Beginnings and its programs may be found at:

A special day on stormy South Moat

Seniors Not Acting Their Age

By Ron Chase

When I announced a Penobscot Paddle and Chowder Society mountain hike on either Mount Chocorua or South Moat Mountain in New Hampshire, my friends Shweta and Ryan Galway immediately agreed to join me.  Frequent outdoor companions and young enough to be my daughter and son; they’re testament to the fact that not all my friends are old geezers like me.  An added benefit of having young people around, they often look out for me.  Rapidly faltering, I’ll take any help I can get.  Unknown to me, the hike was on a special day for them.

Since the weather forecast was a good one, the initial plan was Chocorua, a longer more spectacular hike.  The night before, the prognostication suffered a reversal with snow showers predicted.   Evaluating our options, including cancelling the trip, the consensus was South Moat, a shorter lower elevation trek. 

Located a short distance southwest of North Conway, the 2,749 foot open summit overlooks Mount Washington Valley and offers exceptional views of the surrounding White Mountains.  The 5.5 mile roundtrip outing with over two thousand feet of elevation gain is one of my favorites and included in my mountain guidebook, Mountains for Mortals – New England.  The guidebook features the 30 most scenic mountain hikes in New England.  South Moat certainly qualifies. 

Snowing when we met at the Passaconaway Road trailhead a little west of Conway, several cars in the parking lot seemed to validate our otherwise dubious decision to hike.  Situated in White Mountain National Forest, a parking fee or a National Park Pass is required.  A benefit of old age, I have a senior park pass acquired for a pittance and good for the remainder of my life.  I’ve been paying federal taxes for almost sixty years and was conscripted into the Army at age nineteen, so this arrangement seems a reasonable exchange.

Freeport residents Shweta and Ryan hike through a blanket of snow that covers the summit of South Moat Mountain. (Photo courtesy of Ron Chase)

Despite steady light snow, the lower elevation trail conditions were good.  Wet fallen leaves cluttered much of the trail while proceeding in a mixed deciduous and conifer forest.  Initially advancing through a narrow hilly section, the path then widened and rose gradually.  After declining to cross a tiny freshet, we climbed more steadily to a remarkably durable wooden bridge spanning Dry Brook.  That’s when I learned my friends were observing their 20th wedding anniversary.  Multiple photos of the handsome happy couple were taken at the scenic location. 

At 1.5 miles, the trail turned abruptly left and steepened.  Falling snow persisted while maneuvering precipitous ledges.  Negotiating one particularly confusing escarpment, two descending older hikers informed us slippery conditions had turned them back below the summit.  Since they were skeptically perusing me, I reassured them I’d be safe with my young friends.

Soon after, a series of long sloping ledges were encountered.  On a clear day, this vantage point provides exceptional views southwest.  Not on that stormy occasion.  Carefully following cairns and sporadic yellow blazes in sparse stunted vegetation, the wet slippery ledges were guardedly traversed.

Emerging above tree line, a patchy blanket of snow covered the rugged terrain.  Scrambling over and around large boulders and slick oblique ledges in thick clouds on the southern shoulder of the mountain, Team Stormy arrived at the summit.  Instead of the usual panoramic vistas, visibility was limited to about one hundred feet.  Regardless, the mountaintop enveloped in clouds had a unique funereal allure. 

Completing an exploration of the murky summit area, our descent began.  Two more intrepid hikers were encountered in the boulder garden just below the top. Cautiously navigating down treacherous ledges, a momentary view of nearby Eagle Ledge materialized.  Swirling clouds quickly eclipsed the welcomed scene.

An area sheltered from the snow under a thick canopy of conifer trees was chosen for a lunch site.  A pastry junkie, my reward for organizing the tempestuous excursion was a package of delicious Swiss Chocolate Rolls. The snow unrelentingly continued.  Just before reaching the parking area, snow turned to light rain.

Notwithstanding the lack of views and inclement weather, all of us agreed our trek had been an exhilarating adventuresome escapade.  Selecting the shorter outing was definitely the wiser choice.  Their first ascent of South Moat, my companions resolved to return on a clear day.  Had we known the actual conditions in advance, would we have chosen to hike?  It’s doubtful. 

Ryan Galway Reaches the Very Top of South Moat Mountain (Photo courtesy of Ron Chase)

Ryan and Shweta remained in the North Conway area to continue celebrating their special day.  I returned home to find the weather had been partly sunny in Topsham.

Author of “The Great Mars Hill Bank Robbery” and “Mountains for Mortals – New England,” Ron Chase resides in Topsham.  His latest book, “The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine” is scheduled to be released by North Country Press in 2021.  Visit his website at or he can be reached at 

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