La Vida Local: Irregular Notes on West End Life
Window Dressers – A Chance to DO Something
by Rosanne Graef
Help the environment, make homes more comfortable, save money, assist your neighbors, build community. When it comes to feeding many birds with one seed, it’s hard to beat the Maine-based non-profit volunteer organization, Window Dressers. They will be sponsoring a Portland – WENA build of economical and environment-friendly window inserts, and they need you!
Working out of Rockland, Window Dressers makes low-cost, made-to-measure, interior insulating window inserts. These are made available to residents, organizations and businesses using Community Builds (think barn-raising) throughout the state. Window Dressers has been around for six years, conducting builds in Brunswick, Peaks Island, Cumberland and throughout the Midcoast area. In 2016, they built 6200 window inserts and hope to surpass that number this year.
Elissa Armstrong is heading up the 2017 Portland – WENA build. She aims to get West Enders involved as volunteers and as customers. Armstrong came to Portland’s East End in 1968 as a Vista Volunteer. Later, in 1972, she returned for good to live in the West End. Fast forward forty-five years and she’s still a volunteer.
Elissa is involved now with the Portland Climate Action Team (PCAT). They are one of several teams formed in 2015 by the Maine Sierra Club to fulfill its vision of helping citizens address environmental issues at the local level. Along with its goals of installing solar panels at King Middle School and locating a municipal solar farm on the closed Ocean Avenue landfill, PCAT has teamed with the West End Neighborhood Association (WENA) to sponsor a Window Dressers Community Build this fall.
What Is the Insert and How Does the Program Work?
The window insert consists of a pine frame shrink-wrapped on both sides in clear plastic and edged all around with a foam strip. A volunteer team visits each customer’s home in the spring and measures all the windows that need inserts. Over the summer, the frames are cut in Rockland. In the fall, the various Community Builds put together the frames, wrap them and assemble the customers’ orders for pick-up and installation.
How to Get Involved in the Portland – WENA Build 2017
Armstrong has a goal of 500 window inserts for the Portland – WENA Build. So there’s lots to be done! First is the recruitment of volunteers to produce and customers to purchase the inserts. Also, customers may volunteer some of their time toward the build. So then they’ll have first-hand knowledge of the project and will experience the entire range of benefits of participation. However, you don’t have to purchase inserts yourself to participate as a volunteer.
There are many types of tasks to do to get the word out. These include: tabling, going door to door, presenting to area organizations and neighborhood groups. Also, there’s organizing and scheduling the measuring teams, taking orders, visiting customers and making window measurements through the end of June.
The build itself will be for twelve days at the Maine Irish Heritage Center on Gray Street. Proposed dates are October 15th through 26th, but watch for definite details. The volunteers will work four-hour shifts to screw together the frames, tape, apply and heat-shrink the plastic covering, apply the foam stripping, do quality control and bundle customers’ orders.
And, of course, we’ll need folks to help with the care and feeding of the volunteers during the build. As you can see, there is pretty much something for everyone from their late teens onward. Together, let’s make the Portland – WENA Build 2017 a multi-faceted success story!