WINTHROP — Rotarians, students and others volunteered this week at Winthrop Middle School to work on nearly 200 fully insulated window inserts that will go to homes in need of better heat insulation so that residents can stave off spiking energy prices.

Longtime Winthrop Rotarian and former President Patrice Putman said the Rotary Club of the Winthrop Area decided to participate in the project this past spring.

The idea came about when the club discovered WindowDressers, a group that works with volunteers to create insulated window inserts that reduce the amount of heat that leaves a home, and ultimately saves homeowners money on their fuel bills.

The WindowDressers website says its inserts have been tested and offered an example: In one home, an insert was used in one room, but not in another. After turning up the thermometer for about 15 minutes on a 29 degree day, the test showed the room with the window insert hovered at 70 degrees while the other room eventually turned much chillier, just under 50 degrees.

“We looked into it and some of us watched a build in South Portland and the club decided that we would move forward with it,” Putman said, “so we advertised.”

Once word spread, people in the Winthrop area reached out and the Rotarians soon had requests for 190 window inserts. A group went out and measured each window, and then reached out to the homeowners to see if they’d like to help volunteer with the project.


But the bulk of their volunteers have been students at the middle school. Students have been helping throughout the week, volunteering on rotating shifts at different stations in the school’s shop area.

Middle school art teacher Lisa Gilman said she had been looking for a way to involve her students in a community project.

Students Blake Gambrel, left, and Noah Audet place a mullion at the center of a wooden frame Wednesday at Winthrop Middle School. They’re building a window insert that helps a home retain heat and make it more energy efficient. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

She said she and Superintendent Jim Hodgkin, after attending WindowDresser build sessions, felt that the process was easy enough that students could participate and lend a hand.

“I knew immediately what I could have the kids do,” she said.

Some of her students have already asked to come down and help during future workshops.

Before attending a few builds in person, Hodgkin said he and school staff were concerned if students could take on the work, but he said the student reception to the project has been “unbelievable.”


Once they hit their stride, Hodgkin said some students were easily working their stations by themselves.

“And they don’t have to be here,” he said. “If they don’t want to be doing this, they don’t have to.”

Aside from Rotarians and students, some of the volunteers were community members who requested windows through the project.

Putman said the rotary is spending about $8,000 of its own money on the project.

“It’s a little bit of a challenge to figure out how to finance this, but we hope to do it again,” Putman said. “We already have a waiting list for next year.”

Related Headlines

Comments are no longer available on this story