Volunteer Spotlight: Make heat-saving window inserts for Thetford, Strafford homes

  • Mike Kiess, chairman of the Thetford Energy Committee and volunteer coordinator for Thetford volunteers, helps set up installation stations at for the Window Dressers project at the North Thetford Church. Beginning Saturday, volunteers are working on assembling low-cost window inserts for homeowners in Thetford and Strafford. (Bob Walker photograph) Bob Walker photograph

Valley News Calendar Editor
Published: 1/4/2020 10:43:40 PM
Modified: 1/4/2020 10:43:13 PM

THETFORD — There’s a massive volunteer effort underway in Thetford and Strafford to provide low-cost window inserts to residents to help insulate their homes.

The towns’ energy committees have teamed up with Window Dressers, a Maine-based nonprofit organization, to build and assemble 249 window inserts that will be distributed to 16 homes in Thetford, 17 homes in Strafford and the Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission Offices in Woodstock.

“It’s kind of a barn-raising effect,” said Mike Kiess, chairman of the Thetford Energy Committee and volunteer coordinator for Thetford volunteers. “It’s always wonderful when you can say, ‘Here’s something we can do as a community.’ ”

The assembly workshops began Saturday and continue through Wednesday at the North Thetford Church, located at 5470 Route 5. Shifts are from 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 1-5 p.m. each day, with a community lunch served in between.

“These are straightforward and no one is stuck doing it on their own,” Kiess said. “If you can turn a screwdriver and operate a roll of tape, you can do this.”

Kiess; Doc Bagley, chairman of the Strafford Energy Committee; and Bob Walker, a former longtime member of the Thetford committee, along with Kevin Grady and other residents in the two towns, became involved with Window Dressers after hearing about the program’s success in Glover, Vt., last year. In addition to Thetford and Strafford, the Vermont communities of Bristol, Charlotte and Montpelier are participating in Window Dressers and Glover is taking part the second year in a row.

Over the summer, the organizers in Thetford and Strafford worked to secure grant funding and donations.

“This go-round, there’s a large component of providing for income-qualified or lower-income folks to receive windows,” Bagley said.

The group received $2,500 from the Mascoma Band Foundation, $1,500 from New England Grassroots Environment Fund, and many donations from Thetford and Strafford residents, Walker said. The cost of each window insert ranges from $29.35-$69.33, depending on its size (small, medium or large) and color (pine or painted white). The frames are wrapped in plastic and then bordered by foam, allowing them to slide into existing window frames. If well-cared-for, each unit should be good for five years, Walker said.

“Even if something happens and one of the pieces of plastic is punctured, they can either be repaired with tape or a new piece of plastic put over them,” Walker said.

Some people are receiving the windows for no cost while others are paying the full amount.

But the windows aren’t free: Households that get them contribute volunteer hours, either by helping to assemble the units or prepare lunch for other volunteers.

“We ask everyone to volunteer some of their time, and if they’re able to they can take the inserts home and put them in themselves,” Kiess said.

If homeowners are unable to put the inserts in themselves, volunteers will help.

Window inserts provide additional insulation to homes and can keep heat from escaping.

“Bottom line is this is a real concrete way of pursuing reductions in greenhouse gas emissions ... and at the same time bringing comfort to homes,” Bagley said. “I think people will see the difference in their homes besides the impact on their fuel bills.”

And it’s all possible because of dedicated community members and volunteers.

“It’s one of the reasons we choose to live in this area: People in small towns who take care of each other,” Kiess said.

Editor’s note: Those who live outside of Strafford and Thetford are welcome to volunteer or visit the workshops to learn more about Window Dressers. For more information, visit https://windowdressers.org/community-workshops.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.

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