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This week’s edition!

CMCC awarded $597,000 to help at-risk students succeed

The TRIO program at Central Maine Community College has been awarded two major federal grants to help more students to succeed in college.

The U.S. Department of Education announced that Central Maine Community College (CMCC) will receive two federal Student Support Services (SSS) grants totaling $597,000 per year to help more students succeed in and graduate from college. The grants will amount to almost three million dollars for the five-year grant period and will serve 295 students every year.

While the TRIO program at CMCC has held a Student Support Services grant since 1998 and has since helped 3850 students to graduate, this is the first time the college has received a second SSS grant. The new grant focuses on helping STEM majors (students majoring in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics related degree) to graduate or transfer to a baccalaureate program.

SSS helps college students who are low income, first generation (those whose parents do not have a four-year college degree) or students with disabilities. The grant funds comprehensive services such as academic advising/tutoring, financial aid advice, and career and college mentoring. Such services enhance academic success and make it more likely that students will graduate or transfer with the lowest possible debt.

Started in 1968, SSS recognizes that students whose parents do not have a college degree have more difficulties navigating the complexity of decisions that college requires for success; it bolsters students from low income families who have not had the academic opportunities that their college peers have had, and helps students with disabilities remove obstacles preventing them from thriving academically.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the systemic inequality and financial hardship which keep promising students from succeeding in college,” said Maureen Hoyler, president of the Council for Opportunity in Education in Washington, D.C. “These funds will help make certain that deserving students at CMCC will experience increased success,” noted Terry Charlton, director of the TRIO Success Center at CMCC. “Finally something good has happened in 2020!’”

A lot has changed at Gridiron Restaurant with the pandemic

With a lack of business due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Schan Martin, who owns the Gridiron Restaurant and Pub on Lisbon Street in Lewiston with his wife, Kim, put himself on layoff to leave more working hours for his employees.

Before the pandemic, “We were busy, pretty much all the time,” Martin said. And then, “Things were going great, the pandemic hit (and) things changed a little!”

Actually, things changed a lot at Gridiron. On March 17, “We shut everything down completely, because we thought it was only going to be a two-week thing. So I was like, let’s just clean up everything, get it done. Then we’ll come back and everything will be back to normal,” he said.

However, the State of Maine increased the restrictions, and Gridiron didn’t open again until the last week of May.

“We had zero business” for the two months the restaurant was closed, Martin said.

With the reopening, he is working fewer hours because “I gave up my position for my employees, so I could keep them busy,” Martin said. “I’m not doing the physical cooking, which I really enjoy,” he said. “The kitchen is my home. That’s where I’m most comfortable! I enjoy it.”

As with other restaurants, Gridiron reopened in stages. “When we first opened up, we just opened up as take-out, because that’s what they allowed us to do,” he said. “And then when they allowed us to open to have some guests outdoors, we did that.”

“We’ve been very lucky with staff. Our staff has stuck with us,” Martin said. Employees have been very loyal, and Gridiron only lost a couple of employees, he said. Before the pandemic, about 40 people worked full- and part-time, and this has dropped to about 35 as Gridiron reopened with its limited seating.

  Martin said some employees left because of the “normal day-to-day business that would have happened” even without the pandemic restrictions, so he didn’t have to fire any staff due to the lack of business. “I couldn’t do that! We were able to just let them go and didn’t have to refill their position.”

“I have more people than I need right now, but we want to keep them going,” Martin said.

Thanks to a large parking lot, Gridiron was able to expand outdoor seating for between 50 and 70 guests at a time. “We have tables of eight,” Martin said, and Gridiron socially-distances the groups of guests as they arrive.

Overall, Gridiron has room for about 150 guests at a time, between the outdoor patio seating and the various rooms indoors.

A helpful kickstart to reopening Gridiron was the state’s permission to allow bars and restaurants to sell beer and wine for take-out in original manufacturer’s sealed containers. This “was a huge help” with the take-out busines at the restaurant, he said. “It helped keep the lights on, that’s for sure!”

Take-out sales of beer and wine have slowed down as restaurants have been allowed to open for indoor seating. Gridiron allows “some guests at the bar” with proper-social distancing, Martin said.

Business has slowed down a little during the summer, Martin said. “We went up when we opened, and now we’re starting to see a slight downturn. More restaurants are opening up, more outdoor activities are going on.”

He’s also seen more cars at private houses, which he believes are for house parties. Plus, sports are only just starting to ramp up again, and many of his older guests appear to be staying home for their own safety.

Gridiron appeals to older guests with its “volume of food, for the price they can get it at,” Martin said. But, “I don’t think a lot of people want to be out here wearing masks,” which Gridiron requires for all their guests under state mandates. A box of complimentary masks sits on a table at the front entrance.

Gridiron has not had any issues with Covid-19 contamination during the pandemic, Martin said.

Op-Ed

Collins vs Gideon – Let’s set the record straight!

By Patti Gagne

The 2020 U.S. Senate race in Maine is like nothing we have ever seen. For two years now, this race has been controlled by DC insiders and hedge fund billionaires who don’t have Maine’s best interest at heart.  Instead, the seat, currently occupied by Republican Susan Collins, is a pivotal pawn in their scheme to flip the Senate majority from red to blue and install New York Senator, and Yankees fan https://twitter.com/SenSchumer/status/1286786720843935746, Chuck Schumer as Majority Leader.

To achieve this goal, the Far Left knew it would have to try chipping away at Collins’ solid reputation and popularity in Maine early and often. They set up a dark money group https://bangordailynews.com/2019/07/04/news/new-group-uses-exploited-advocacy-rules-to-educate-mainers-about-sen-collins/, named Maine Momentum/16 Counties. To date, this supposed “social advocacy organization” has spent millions in tv/digital ads aimed squarely at Collins, trying to paint her as an out-of-touch, heartless politician who no longer cares about Maine. We know that’s not true. The Washington Post even rated one of this group’s ads“mostly false.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/08/19/dark-money-ad-claims-susan-collins-put-old-age-programs-jeopardy/. Sadly, these days, truth no longer seems to matter.

Cowbell Grill & Tap


District Manager Andrew Cessario relaxes against the bar in the main room of the Cowbell Grill & Tap. 

Story and photos by Nathan Tsukroff, PortraitEFX

Chef, bartender, waiter . . . Andrew Cessario has done it all at the Cowbell Grill & Tap at 49 Lisbon Street, Lewiston, during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

District manager of the three Cowbell restaurants – the Lewiston restaurant, the Cowbell Burger Bar in Biddeford, and the Cowbell Wood-Fired Grill in Scarborough – Cessario has been working full time at the Lewiston location to help while the restaurants deal with the changes in restaurant attendance since mid-March. 

The restaurants are high-end burger establishments, owned by Alex Markakis with business partner Jim Albert, who also owns Jimmy the Greeks in Old Orchard Beach. 

The Cowbell Burger Bar in Biddeford has been open more than four years, while the Cowbell Grill & Tap opened in Lewiston in December 2018. The Cowbell Wood-Fired Grill in Scarborough had a grand-opening the beginning of March this, was shut down about within two weeks because of the pandemic, then had a grand re-opening in June when state restrictions were eased. 

Cessario said the Lewiston restaurant and bar did not have guests inside from mid-March through mid-June. Instead, they provided take-out and delivery for their 25 “craft” burgers and other foods. Delivery is through Uber Eats and DoorDash, he said. 

Right now, Cowbell Grill & Tap is allowed to have up to 50 people indoors, socially distanced, which is about half of their normal capacity. There is seating for up to 24 guests on the six tables outside. The original outdoor seating included just three tables, but the city of Lewiston has allowed Cowbell to use both sides of the wide sidewalk in front of the building, while leaving room for pedestrians up the middle. The other two restaurants are also seeing business at about half-capacity indoors, Cessario said. 

Takeout service was minimal before the pandemic, Cessario said, but has now expanded to around 40 to 50 percent of the restaurant’s business and “has really kept us afloat” financially during the pandemic. 

While the number of guests visiting in person is reduced, Cowbell in Lewiston has seen more guests in-person than expected, he said, perhaps because people are preferring to stay in the Lewiston area during the pandemic. 

The other Cowbell restaurants have also expanded outdoor seating. At the location in Scarborough, “We’re lucky enough to have already a 50-seat patio. But we also have a large lawn, so we’ve expanded to lawn seating,” Cessario said. In Biddeford, the Cowbell Burger Bar has expanded its sidewalk seating, and “we also have a five-table patio out back.” 

The shut-down of the restaurant had a big impact on staffing, as well. About three-quarters of the staff at all three restaurants are part-timers, which is typical for restaurants and bars. This created issues with staffing as the restaurants opened up again, since some workers preferred to collect the expanded unemployment benefits provided by the federal government. Now, staff members are returning to work, helping by taking orders in person and responding to requests for take-out and delivery. 

While the Lewiston location was closed to all but takeout and delivery, Cessario and another person were the only workers, answering phones, cooking, and responding to takeout requests. Staffing is back up to about 80 percent from the level before the pandemic, he said. 

Up to 8 people work in the kitchen during the week, prepping food, cooking, and readying the finished meals. Burgers are delivered with a branded “C” on the top bun. 

Tables and chairs are sanitized, and staff “are always wearing masks,” Cessario said. “We’re starting to see a rebound . . . more and more people coming out” to the restaurant. “Obviously, having a safe place, a sanitized place . . . allows for people to feel safe when they come in the building.”  

 “I’ve seen much more preference for outdoor seating, unless it’s raining out or oppressively hot,” he said.  

Cowbell Grill & Tap opened its bar area to guests when indoor seating was allowed in mid-June. Due to the current restrictions, there is seating for 10 guests at the bar, with appropriate social distancing. 

Despite the recent issues from the Covid-19 pandemic, the restaurants have seen success to the point that the Cowbell group of restaurants “is definitely expanding,” Cessario said. “We’re looking at a couple of different markets, but yes, the goal is definitely to expand.” Markets are areas around a community, such as Lewiston or Biddeford or Scarborough, he said.

While several smaller restaurants in Portland have closed due to lost business during the pandemic, Cessario said that was due to the loss of tourists in that area. Much of the Old Port area of Portland sees crowds of visitors from cruise ships during the summer. The Lewiston and other locations are not as dependent on seasonal tourists, so business has rebounded with the lifted restrictions. 

The Lewiston Cowbell has actually seen more dine-in guests that last year, Cessario said. Instead of going to the beach or the mountains, people are staying in the area, he said. 

Cowbell’s “craft” burgers Have different toppings to go on different types of meat, such as Angus beef, waygu beef, 100-percent grass-fed beef, bison burgers, salmon, chicken, and the “Beyond Beef” vegetable burgers. Guests order their own burger on a selection of buns, cooked to order. 

Cowbell also sells 25 “craft” beers from micro breweries throughout southern Maine, mainly from the Portland area, Cessario said. The pandemic shutdowns have hurt breweries and beer vendors financially, due to the big loss in alcohol sales at restaurants.  

Click HERE to jump to the Cowbell of Lewiston website.

Out & About with Rachel Morin: A Fourth of July Parade in 2013


.   Robert Crosby, Lynn Derderian and Julia Crosby enjoyed the Strawberry Shortcake.

By Rachel Morin

During this Pandemic, we are adjusting to the many changes in our daily living.  We miss our Community Little Theatre, our Public Theatre, our Auburn Community Concert Band, our movie theaters, our Churches, Mosques and Synagogues, our Franco Heritage Center, our  Lewiston and Auburn Public Libraries and our holiday parades.             

This got me thinking of the Turner Parade of July 4, 2013. I have never seen a parade like it. Here are my memories of this  nostalgic event.

I joined my son, Gerry and his wife, Debbie of Turner, to see their town’s Annual Fourth of July Parade followed by events on The Green that they have been enjoying and raving about for years and I’m glad I did. It really was a great day. I felt as if I had stepped back in time to be a part of the camaraderie of a small country town.

VA Maine’s Caregiver Support Program Resource Fair

Veterans Administration (VA) Maine is hosting a Caregiver Support Program Drive-By Resource Fair to provide Veterans with information about VA and community programs. Veterans will be able to meet caregiver support staff and there will be promotional products and resource bags for Veterans and caregivers.

For questions, please contact Michelle Tancrede at (207) 623-8411 ext. 2969.

Preparing labs for the fall semester at CMCC

Chemistry instructors Haley Bullecks (left) and Maureen Edgerton working on a lab that can determine how much certain solids dissolve in water involving two types of filtration, gravity and vacuum.

Science instructors at Central Maine Community College have been busy preparing videos with step-by-step instructions to enable students to continue their lab work remotely in between their actual on-campus labs. Most lab science courses will be hybrid, combining online work with alternating on-campus labs. Safety protocols will be strictly observed at all times. The fall semester at CMCC opens August 31.

Out & About with Rachel Morin: A Fourth of July Parade in 2013

American Legion Post 111 Honor Guard led the parade with Veterans marching behind.

During this Pandemic, we are adjusting to the many changes in our daily living.  We miss our Community Little Theatre, our Public Theatre, our Auburn Community Concert Band, our movie theaters, our Churches, Mosques and Synagogues, our Franco Heritage Center, our  Lewiston and Auburn Public Libraries and our holiday parades.             

This got me thinking of the Turner Parade of July 4, 2013. I have never seen a parade like it. Here are my memories of this  nostalgic event.

I joined my son, Gerry and his wife, Debbie of Turner, to see their town’s Annual Fourth of July Parade followed by events on The Green that they have been enjoying and raving about for years and I’m glad I did. It really was a great day. I felt as if I had stepped back in time to be a part of the camaraderie of a small country town.

Over 1,000 spectators lined the street for the colorful parade and applauded as the American Legion Post 111 Honor Guard led the parade followed by a group of Veterans marching and a Veterans’ float. The parade’s participants included an impressive lineup of fire trucks and emergency vehicles from Buckfield, Canton, Greene, Leeds, Mechanic Falls, Turner and Wales.

     Floats, antique cars, horseback riders, horse-drawn buggies and wagons, children on bicycles and children walking, farm tractors of all models, sizes and vintages, and Kora Motor Corps vehicles added to the nearly hour-long parade.

Afterwards, crowds moved to “On the Green” to listen to the Strawberry Shortcake Band and enjoy a Strawberry Shortcake Social. Children played at outdoor games that had been set up for them. Ticket vendors sold raffle tickets for a trip to Italy and tickets to a July 27, 2013 Tour of Turner Gardens and proceeds were benefitting local community projects. A book sale at the Turner Public Library did a brisk business with proceeds  benefiting the library.

Buildings, housing the Dort Bigg Collection of stuffed animals from around the world, are opened to the public every Fourth of July for a free viewing. Many attendants viewed the huge collection.

Here are some of the dozens of pictures I took. I wish I could include the vintage cars, the tractors, the towns’ fire trucks, the many events after the parade, all depicting the beautiful town of Turner and its people.

Junction Bowl in Gorham adapts to COVID

Ben Smith in front of the outdoor patio area at Junction Bowl on Railroad Avenue in Gorham that features 10 tables for guests to enjoy proper social-distancing during the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by Nathan Tsukroff, PortraitEFX)

Story and photos by Nathan Tsukroff, PortraitEFX

Going bowling is awesome! Except when it’s not allowed . . . Big parties are so much fun! Except when they aren’t allowed . . .

The Covid-19 pandemic sweeping around the world has put a real damper on fun across the country, and right here in Gorham at the Junction Bowl at 7 Railroad Avenue, just a couple of blocks off Main Street in the center of town.

Filling the ground floor of a building that was constructed just over a year ago with the look of a classic train station, observation tower and all, Junction Bowl boasts 12 lanes of Ten-Pin bowling, an arcade, a small sports bar area, restaurant seating for more than 200 guests, and a smaller room for private parties or business meetings, complete with audio-visual equipment for presentations.

The second, third and fourth floors of the block-long building encompass 33 apartments, giving tenants easy access to the Gorham business district or the main roads for travel to Portland and surrounding towns.

Junction Bowl owner Ben Smith said, “We were very busy from the get-go,” after opening on November 18, 2019. “It wasn’t out of the ordinary to have 200 people or more here on a weekend night, and bowling going on all the time, and families here all day and all night.”

The facility also hosted children and adult birthday parties and corporate events. “And all of that is done,” Smith said. Junction Bowl closed its doors temporarily because of the pandemic just four months after opening, on March 15, 2020.

The bowling alley has reopened using alternate lanes, Smith said. Family groups are allowed, but they still can’t host the big children’s parties that were allowed before the shutdown. Other big groups are not allowed yet, either.

And local town recreation leagues that had planned to bring children to the bowling alley during the summer cancelled all their activities because of the pandemic.

Junction Bowl then provided curbside service, in anticipation of opening its doors for limited service inside starting June 1. That changed just a few days before June, so Junction Bowl “pivoted for outdoor dining,” Smith said. They scrambled to create an outdoor patio area, borrowing concrete barriers to protect the 10 picnic tables there were spaced along the road outside the building. Service was initially Thursday evenings, and Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons and evenings, but the easing of restrictions has allowed them to expand to lunch every day of the week.

Now opening at noon instead of the previous 11 a.m., “We’re just trying to figure our way back,” Smith said. “We couldn’t just turn the switch and be wide open again. I don’t think that worked for anyone. It’s a slow build-up of people’s confidence, and know that we’re open, even!”

Smith said he is promoting his business on social media, has started radio advertising again, and has live music on the weekends. Having the live music “has helped, because those performers all have their own networks that they send out to, so the word is building, it’s definitely building.”

The restrictions from the pandemic brought some interesting changes to the concept Smith had for his business. Last year, “I surely would not have said we’d have that (outdoor) patio, and be doing what we’re doing right now, which is we’ve kind of opened a whole new place out there, really. We’ve reinvented it . . . from the seating, to the lighting, to the way we service it.”

Bringing in the live music was part of that reinvention, Smith said, and was something that would not have happened without the pandemic. “And it’s turned into something that I’m going to keep and continue to do going forward. So, it’s a massive silver lining for us and I think it’s a good offering for the town.”

The building was built and is owned by Smith’s brother, Jonathan “Jon” Smith, the president of Great Falls Construction in Gorham. Jon’s wife, Cynthia, guided the design of the interior of Junction Bowl, creating multiple open spaces with classic elegance. The building has the look and feel of a building that has been in place for decades and fits well into the neighborhood of large commercial buildings.

The bowling alley at Junction Bowl features automated pinsetter machinery manufactured by the Brunswick Bowling company. Smith said he spent a week at the factory learning how to run and maintain the machines.

Behind the wall at the end of each pair of alleys is a single automatic pinsetter machine that captures pins for resetting and feeds the bowling balls onto a conveyer belt that runs them back to the bowlers. The six machines are fully automated. Smith uses a large flat automated lane-cleaning machine to prep the wooden alley surfaces. Junction Bowl is the only bowling alley in the Gorham area, Smith said, filling a gap left when another bowling alley closed many years ago.

The pandemic brought changes to the staffing of Junction Bowl as well, according to Smith. While he took advantage of the Paycheck Protection Program, some staff members decided not to return as the business started to reopen. The staff who remain helped bring in family members, creating a close-knit group of workers.

The outdoor patio features picnic tables with large umbrellas, properly separated for appropriate social-distancing. All staff members wear masks and follow safety protocols, and guests are asked to wear masks unless seated at one of the tables. Smith said “I think I’ve lost 15 ‘Covid pounds’” from walking up and down the patio to serve his guests. Smith said he has had concessions from his brother for the property rent these past months, and he sees business continuing to improve as the state allows businesses to expand their reopenings.

Senior dogs at GAHS Fetch grant

Old dogs have something to wag about this summer, as The Grey Muzzle Organization announces the recipients of its annual grants, and dogs at the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society (GAHS) are among the winners.    

GAHS in Lewiston is one of sixty-four animal welfare groups chosen from two hundred eighty-eight applicants to receive a grant to help local senior dogs. The winning groups received more than $510,000 in grants to help save or improve the lives of at-risk old dogs in their communities. 

“Senior dogs deserve the best in life but often need extra medical care, which can be a strain on shelter resources that are already stretched thin. We are so thankful for the Grey Muzzle Organization, for supporting us to help senior dogs thrive in our community” said Katie Lisnik, Executive Director of the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society. “This grant helped us give senior dogs like 8-year-old Wanda, the veterinary and dental care she needed; so she is now ready to go to her forever home,” said Lisnik. “No one is more grateful or loving than an old dog, and we’re looking forward to helping more senior dogs get the second chance they all deserve.”

Over the past twelve years, the national nonprofit Grey Muzzle Organization has provided $2.5 million in grants to support its vision of “a world where no old dog dies alone and afraid.”

“Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we’re delighted to help deserving organizations like the GAHS make a difference in the lives of dogs and people in their communities,” Grey Muzzle’s Executive Director Lisa Lunghofer said. “Many senior dogs in Androscoggin County are enjoying their golden years in loving homes thanks to the wonderful work of GAHS.”

The Greater Androscoggin Humane Society provides a safe haven for over 3,500 sick, homeless and abused animals in the greater Androscoggin area per year. The primary support for the Shelter comes from fundraising events and donations of concerned citizens.

The Humane Society is located at 55 Strawberry Avenue in Lewiston. If you are interested in learning more about volunteering at the shelter or adopting an animal call the Shelter at (207)783-2311 or visit the website at www.SavingPetsInMaine.org. You can also join them on www.facebook/GAHumane.

The national nonprofit The Grey Muzzle Organization improves the lives of at-risk senior dogs by providing funding and resources to animal shelters, rescue organizations, sanctuaries, and other nonprofit groups nationwide. For details, please visit www.greymuzzle.org https://www.greymuzzle.org 

Wanda is a sweet senior gal available for adoption at the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society. For more information, please visit www.SavingPetsInMaine.org or call: 207-783-2311.


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