Josh Marquis, left, Hannah Poulin, Jade Harmon, Lexi Harmon and teacher Marie Reidman work at a Raymond Village Community Church meal in October. Courtesy photo

RAYMOND — Windham High School’s Katahdin Program will prepare a community meal at Raymond Village Community Church next week.

This is the second community meal that the program has prepared, and director Craig Haims said the students “enjoy doing real work that has an impact in the community.”

The Katahdin Program is “a school within a school” that serves 22 students from RSU 14, and its alternative education approach is geared toward those who “have yet to find a lot of success in a mainstream environment,” Haims said. 

“Those kids are great. They are the most hardworking kids. It’s wonderful,” said the Rev. Nancy Foran of the RVCC. 

When the Katahdin Program students volunteered at a community meal in October, they cooked the food, but Foran said that for this community meal, on Thursday, Dec. 12, they also helped plan the menu and shop for the food and will decorate and clean up afterwards. The meal is funded through donations and the church’s missions fund.

Parishioner and Portland firefighter Craig Messinger, who has been a member of the church for 10 years, will prepare fish chowder, and the students will make vegetarian minestrone, bread, salad with a homemade dressing and carrot cake.

Marie Reidman, a teacher with the Katahdin Program, said that many of the students love to cook.

Throughout the years of our program, food has always been a way of all of us coming together. (The students) enjoy doing it so they can cook at home. It’s just always been a nice part of our program, a way to do something together and then share in the meal,” Reidman said.

That feels good inherently to know that you’re providing food to folks that are benefiting from it,” Haims said. 

In addition, Messinger said, the meals bring “out people that normally wouldn’t come out and get together. It’s a really good way of having folks come out and offer a meal and some socialization.” 

The community meals mark the first time that the Katahdin Program has collaborated with the church, but Reidman said the students do a variety of work in nearby towns, adding, “We try to get out into the community.”

Groups of students volunteer weekly at Gorham House, an assisted living facility in Gorham, and Loon Echo Land Trust, a nonprofit organization in Bridgton.

Foran and Messinger hope that there will be more opportunities for the church to collaborate with the Katahdin Program in the future.

Things like this really are needed and of great benefit to the community,” Foran said. The community meals often attract between 50 and 70 people, and “what I think is wonderful about these meals is people don’t just come in and eat and leave. They stay and chat with neighbors and friends, so there’s a real community building aspect to it.” 

The RVCC holds community meals approximately every six weeks at the church, located at 27 Main St., and they are free and open to the community. The next meal will be held from 5-6 p.m. Dec. 12.

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