Letter from the WindowDressers President

Alexis de Tocqueville, a young French political philosopher and historian, traveled for nine months in the United States in 1831. A few years later he published the well-known two-volume report on American society titled Democracy in America.

One aspect of American life that drew his attention was the tendency of the people to form associations. “Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all dispositions constantly form associations. They have not only commercial and manufacturing companies, in which all take part, but associations of a thousand other kinds, religious, moral, serious, futile, general or restricted, enormous or diminutive. . . .I have often admired the extreme skill with which inhabitants of the United States succeed in proposing a common object for the exertions of a great many men (sic) and inducing them voluntarily to pursue it”.

Two centuries later we have 10,152 nonprofit organizations in Maine, 9,064 in New Hampshire, and 6,383 in Vermont; that is one nonprofit organization for every 134 people in these three states. These vary greatly in size from “enormous” healthcare and educational institutions employing and serving thousands of people to “diminutive” nonprofits such as volunteer fire and ambulance companies, or food shelves and senior meals projects. De Tocqueville theorized that it was the greater equality among citizens that led Americans to form associations whereas in aristocratic Europe a single or a few individuals of means could more easily attain their own ends without involving the community.

One of WindowDressers’ board members likes to characterize WD as an “unlikely organization”. I would suggest that once two or three New Englanders had the idea of bringing the benefits of an open source DIY interior storm window that saves heating fuel, reduces emissions, and increases home comfort to their neighbors, it was likely that they would form an association. The challenge now is to keep that organization active and thriving.

WindowDressers depends on volunteers at many levels from community build participants, to local coordinators and measuring teams, to the board of directors. With the vast number of regional and national nonprofits competing, in a sense, for volunteers, donations, and staff it is not a given that all will succeed. WD has so far succeeded in attracting excellent volunteers and staff at all levels to pursue our mission, our vision, and our values https://windowdressers.org/about-windowdressers/.

I would like to thank retiring board members Heidi Clark and Cliff Babkirk, both of whom have generously shared their energies and expertise on the WD board of directors over the years. They will both continue to be involved in their respective community builds.

I would like to welcome two new board members – Jenevra Wetmore from Vermont and Luke Truman from Maine. I thank them for their willingness to serve WD and I look forward to working with them. Miriam Rubin of Buxton, Maine has returned to the board after an absence of several years. Welcome back, Miriam.

I would also like to acknowledge Jessica Williams who has now served as WindowDressers’ executive director for this last year. Jessica’s intelligence, energy, and commitment have set a high standard. I thank her!

And I thank WindowDressers volunteers at all levels. Nothing would happen without you!

Jack Sumberg