VASSALBORO — In a region filled with old, drafty housing stock, many residents living modestly could use some help to keep their homes warm through the harsh winter.

To that end, a local committee – Friends Advocating for Vassalboro’s Older Residents – and other volunteers have been busy at Ray Breton’s Olde Mill Place, creating window inserts for those drafty places.

Vassalboro Town Manager Mary Sabins on Saturday said the group, known as FAVOR, has been working with a Rockland-based nonprofit group, WindowDressers, to build window inserts that go on the insides of windows.

“It’s for everyone who has drafty windows,” Sabins said.

Volunteers built the inserts on Saturday and Sunday, working two separate four-hour shifts each day.

Walking around the section of the mill where the volunteers worked, Sabins showed how each station was part of a well-coordinated process. At one station, volunteers applied double-sided tape to the wooden frames, which were then transferred to a new station to get wrapped with plastic. Then the process was repeated at new stations. Then the frames wrapped in plastic went through a heating station to ensure they were wrinkle-free and ready to go. Finally, a layer of clear tape was placed around the perimeter of the frames to keep all the elements together.

All told, FAVOR made 267 frames for 26 customers. Volunteers went to every home whose inhabitants had placed an order, to measure the windows for the inserts. Many of those who ordered inserts were older residents.

“All the inserts are either ready to be wrapped or are wrapped,” Sabins said, initially estimating that volunteers could finish around 60 frames a day.

WindowDressers uses a volunteer model that helps keep the cost of the inserts low, making it viable for seniors or other residents on fixed or low incomes. An insert of average size is $25 for a pine finish and $31 for a white finish, but are also priced according to a person’s circumstances; those unable to pay can receive up to 10.

Inserts that were put together incorrectly are fixed free of charge. Those scratched by pets or otherwise damaged can be rewrapped for $10.

Sabins said WindowDressers came and helped them set up the stations at the Olde Mill.

According to its website, WindowDressers is a group dedicated to helping Maine residents reduce heating costs, fossil fuel consumption, and CO2 emissions by lowering the amount of heat loss through windows. Citing Maine as having the oldest housing stock in the nation, the group targets leaky windows and estimates that their customers save 10 to 20 percent on fuel consumption. The group donates 22 percent of its inserts to low-income families who otherwise can’t afford them.

Laura Seaton, the director of community builds for WindowDressers, said the town of Vassalboro reached out to them. This is typically a late time in the organization’s season, but Seaton said they had one spot left for a community build, so Vassalboro got it.

She said they will have done 27 community builds this season, which runs from September into January. She estimated they will have made over 6,000 inserts this year. She said WindowDressers helps construct inserts all across the state, from Wells to Mount Desert Island, with plans to keep growing.

“We’re going to be even more places next year,” she said.

FAST WORK

Seaton praised the volunteers in Vassalboro, as they were able to finish their build well ahead of schedule. Typically, a build lasts four or five days, and Vassalboro had scheduled four days at the mill. But because of the number of volunteers and how well they were coordinated, Vassalboro was able to wrap up in two days.

“They were exceptionally well organized,” Seaton said.

Sabins said one of the largest customers the town had was the Historical Society, which occupies the former East Vassalboro Grammar School, a big red building in the East Village area. The Historical Society was founded in 1963, but the building it calls home was built before then and has drafty windows.

“They’re excited about this opportunity,” Sabins said.

Once inserts are complete, customers pick them up. They are given instructions on how to install them and then how to take them out again in the spring and store them when not in use. If properly taken care of, the inserts are estimated to last about 10 years, Sabins said. They can also be rewrapped if needed.

Some customers paid for the inserts, but Sabins said others did not. If a resident can’t afford the cost, he or she is given 10 free pine inserts. Paying customers send their money to WindowDressers. If customers can’t pay the full price, they are asked to give a donation they are comfortable with. All are asked to volunteer in some capacity. On Saturday, about 15 volunteers worked in the old mill, making the stations run like clockwork, with each station fully occupied.

“All are asked to contribute something,” Sabins said.

Sabins said other town committees were asked to provide volunteers as well.

FAVOR had hoped to get around 10 customers in the first year, but the 26 the committee attracted is much closer to the usual size at WindowDressers builds, which are usually between 30 and 40. WindowDressers, which was started in a church in Rockland years ago, trains community members to measure customers’ windows and take orders, as well as build the final product. The frames are cut and put together in Rockland, where Vassalboro volunteers went to pick them up prior to the build.

Once word gets around town about the event and more interest arises, Sabins said she expects there may be future window-insert builds. Vassalboro, with FAVOR’s backing, needed only two months of planning to get ready for the build, Sabins said.

Colin Ellis can be contacted at 861-9253 or at:

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