In 2010, the Belfast Union Church was losing a lot of heat through thin aluminum windows. A local man measured, built and installed custom window inserts that made the church so much warmer that parishioners wanted inserts for their own homes.  185 more inserts were made that year.  Word spread and 1231 inserts were made the next year.  And that was just the beginning.
In 2012, WindowDressers was incorporated with a Board of Directors. That year they made 2200 insets across six community workshops. The organization is now based out of a well-equipped space at the Lincoln Street Center in Rockland.  Laura Seaton, Director, was our speaker on February 9, 2021 and shared details about how the organization works.
A small staff at WindowDressers recruits, trains, and provides materials and support to community volunteers. The process starts with volunteers going house to house to measure windows.  These measurements are fed into WindowDresser software and materials are cut to order in Rockland.  Volunteers pick up the materials and transport them to “pop up” community workshops where local volunteers assemble the inserts in large donated spaces.
The inserts slide in and out easily and, if stored properly, can last up to 10 years.  They are far less costly to provide than replacement windows. January 20, 2020 was the last “build” prior to the pandemic, but they are hoping to restart by fall 2021.  Thru that date, 43,000 inserts had been installed all over Maine, saving 2M gallons of heating oil as a result.
The organization is funded through grants and donations which allows about 25% of projects to be given to low-income families. People receiving inserts can join the builds and are asked to volunteer hours based on the number of insets they will be receiving.  Volunteers work in 4-hour shifts, which most find well-organized, fun, fulfilling and rewarding. It’s a great way to get kids involved in a service project with its low skill requirement and opportunities to help for all ages.
They do a lot of outreach to identify people who could use the inserts.  These include articles in local papers, flyers at food cupboards, and word of mouth.  They hand out cards at community centers and other locations where people gather and have engaged professionals, like energy auditors and realtors, who can suggest these inserts as an option. Timing of communication is important as folks usually don’t start thinking about the winter heating season until September.
In our area, South Portland has conducted two builds at SMCC and there have been three builds in Gorham, the first in 2017 at Moody’s.  The other two in Gorham were done at the Baptist Church.  The folks from Gorham who led these efforts are interested in running another build as soon as it is safe to do so.
To watch a short video about this organization and their process:
To learn more about the organization: