In October 2010, the Universalist Church of Rockland, ME conducted an extensive energy audit that identified leaky aluminum-clad windows in its sanctuary as a major cause of heat loss. In response, Richard Cadwgan, a friend of the Church, attended a workshop on the construction of insulating window inserts according to a design originated by Topher Belnap. Cadwgan built and donated twenty-six new inserts to the church shortly before Christmas 2010. The effect was a warmer church, lower heating bills, and reduced CO2 emissions.
The new inserts attracted the attention of parishioners who inquired whether they might work in their houses. In the following months, Cadwgan teamed up with former congregation president Frank Mundo to take orders for a total of 185 inserts, which they built in their basement workshops.
The following winter, the church offered the duo a short-term $2,000 inventory loan to be repaid from insert sales. Cadwgan and Mundo produced 1,231 inserts that season, repaid the loan, and developed the model and goals that continue to guide WindowDressers:
- Help Mainers reduce their fuel oil consumption significantly, thereby reducing fuel bills and conserving a scarce resource.
- Promote community outreach and harness the power of volunteerism.
- Donate window inserts to those unable to afford them.
- Reduce CO2 emissions to the environment by reducing need for heating.
Over the next year, the fledgling organization acquired better jigs, improved frame assembly techniques, and switched to laser-measuring to improve accuracy. At the same time, Cadwgan and Mundo developed a network of dependable suppliers and began to secure bulk-purchase discounts. Wherever possible, they favored Maine businesses.
Equally important, they developed the concept of Community Builds. The idea originated on Islesboro, where Frank Mundo spearheaded the concept and oversaw the coordination required for measuring local homes and moving a truckload of frames and finishing supplies via ferry to the island. Enthusiastic island volunteers completed 275 inserts for 25 houses in a five-day workshop held at their Community Center – a rousing success that they duplicated in the following year and which the founders exported to other towns on the mainland.
The 2012 season saw the purchase of a computer-assisted saw system to cut frame components faster and more accurately. It was financed by a $13,000 low-interest loan to be repaid over three years. Mundo contributed software expertise to handle growing numbers of customer orders and invoices with proprietary programs. His software also allowed increasing production by computerizing orders for the new saw system.
Mundo and Cadwgan gave presentations to local church and civic groups soliciting both volunteers and donations, encouraging paying customers to ‘round up’ their bill as a donation.
In 2012 the founders incorporated the organization as The WindowDressers, Inc. and appointed a Board of Directors. In April 2014, WindowDressers was granted tax-exempt 501 (c) (3) status by the IRS as a non-profit charitable community-service organization.
The company finished the 2012/2013 season setting new records with six Community Builds and a total production of 2,224 inserts for 185 houses. WD had become the largest producer of insulating window inserts in Maine..
The 2013/2014 season produced 2,610 inserts at five Community Builds. Additionally, WindowDressers won three major awards:
- The Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence – one of five awarded to Maine businesses (see http://www.maine.gov/dep/assistance/2013awards.html);
- Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce Environmental Leader Award – recognition by the Mid-Coast business community that energy savings benefit not only residents but also businesses (http://freepressonline.com/m/Articles.aspx?ArticleID=25699)
- Interfaith Power & Light National Award for Community Involvement – one of four nationwide awards with accompanying $1,000 prize given to First Universalist Church, Rockland, ME
2014 – present
Over the last five years, WindowDressers has continued its strong growth and development as a community-based nonprofit organization. In 2018, over 1,000 volunteers worked together to build 7,597 inserts at 33 Community Builds across the state. In 2018, 34% of our inserts went for free to low income households.
Since its inception, WindowDressers insulating window inserts have saved an estimated 880,000 gallons of heating fuel and over $2.2 million at today’s fuel prices.*
*Based on Professor Daniel Mistro’s findings of an average of 10.5 gallons of heating fuel saved per insert and a cost of $2.57/ gallon.