Window Dressers help to warm homes, save money, protect environment
KENNEBUNK, Maine – Maggie Bartenhagen likes that slight rattle she hears in her home in Kennebunk on cold, blustery nights during the late fall and winter.
To her, that’s a sound of warmth – of the window inserts that she and her husband, Nick, built and installed, doing their thing.
“Even with good, quality windows, you still have a little bit of leakage when you have wind,” Maggie said, referring to draughts. “These just block it.”
These are not ordinary window inserts, the kind for which you’d likely have to pay a pretty penny somewhere. These inserts were made by the Bartenhagens and other volunteers who call themselves Window Dressers.
Based in Rockland, Window Dressers is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to bring “community volunteers of all economic and social situations together to improve the warmth and comfort of interior spaces, lower heating costs, and reduce carbon dioxide pollution.” The organization pursues this goal by producing low-cost insulating inserts that work as custom storm windows that you mount from inside your home, business or facility.
The organization has a board of directors and staff, and Laura Seaton, of Searsport, serves as executive director.
Cliff Babkirk, of Sanford, is a board member and the local organizer for Window Dressers, working alongside fellow volunteers to hold what he calls “barn-raising-style community builds” every fall. At these builds, volunteers gather somewhere spacious in their community or region and spend the time it takes to assemble the number of inserts that have been ordered during recent months. Recipients of the inserts take them home and install them themselves.
Window Dressers, returning after a one-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is now accepting orders for its coming season this October. The organizations aid its volunteers will begin measuring windows in August, when vaccination rates are higher and COVID rates have dropped.
The inserts will be assembled in York County and throughout the state, as well as throughout Vermont, during a six-week season starting in October and wrapping up by Thanksgiving, according to Babkirk. That’s a shorter stretch than usual. Traditionally, the community builds start in the fall and continue into early February. The briefer time table is a health and safety measure of the pandemic.
Builds are comprised of two shifts per every day that is needed to fill all of a community’s orders – a morning one and an afternoon one, with lunch served for all in between. As many as 80 inserts can be built in a day, according to Babkirk.
In previous years, Window Dressers have provided opportunities for inserts to be built for such public places as the Kennebunk Town Hall, the Kennebunk Public Library, and the Brick Store Museum, also located in Kennebunk, according to Babkirk.
Locally, builds will take place next at the Wells Reserve at Laudholm, located on Laudholm Farm Road in Wells, and likely at a second location in either Ogunquit or York, according to Babkirk. These builds will be for recipients from Kittery to Biddeford, but also including some inland communities as well, Babkirk added.
The numbers of homes that will be serviced this time around is limited, so Babkirk and the organization encourage homeowners and other interested parties to sign up for the builds online at www.WindowDressers.org or by calling (207) 596-3073.
Inserts are priced based on their size and finish, whether natural pine or white. A medium-sized, 30-inch by 52-inch insert, for example, costs $39, plus tax, if built in the pine and $50, plus tax, in the white. However, Window Dressers offers low-income households up to 10 pine inserts at no charge.
The organization also accepts donations.
According to the organization’s website, volunteers have built more than 42,000 window inserts since 2010. Between 25% and 35% of the inserts have been provided for free to low-income families per year.
The organization describes the…