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The 2014 Sharing Project

The 2014 Sharing Project of the Caring Fund raised $15,000 to provide free window inserts to 135 needy families, primarily from the Belfast, ME, area, enabling the beneficiaries to save a total of almost $44,000 in fuel expenses per heating season -- real savings that they can spend on other necessities.

The 2014 Sharing Project started from the premise that poverty is not limited to far-away countries: People right in our midst struggle to keep financially above water. A severe winter adds to their burden. Often they must choose between keeping warm and eating, filling prescriptions, buying children’s clothes and other necessities.

A local organization, WindowDressers manufactures high-quality inserts for windows that significantly reduce heat loss through drafty windows. An average family in an average Maine house can save fuel expenses of $325 per heating season in an average winter (and the 2013/14 winter was not ‘average’), and $3,250 over the life of the inserts.

Few charitable projects have as large, as real and as immediate benefits: savings of almost three times the cost of the investment in a single heating season -- and almost 30 times over the life of the investment -- are rare indeed.

Add to that the environmental savings in CO2 emissions resulting from the reduction of heat loss -- about 220 lbs per house, 29,700 lbs per season for all beneficiaries, and 297,000 lbs over the life of the Project -- and the size of the Project benefits is almost unique for a neighborhood project.

An Update from Window Dressers:

In April of 2013, representatives from the Belfast Unitarian-Universalist Church, the Belfast United Methodist Church, St. Francis Roman Catholic Church, and St. Margaret's Episcopal Church met as a steering committee to organize and begin planning a week-long Build to produce 500 inserts. This was the most ambitious Build in Window Dressers' history and the first time that multiple churches had joined together in common purpose to address concerns about the environment and the provision of storm window inserts to make Maine's aging housing stock more comfortable for people in winter. Each church agreed to recruit workers for the Build from their congregations and to identify recipients for the inserts, remembering to pay special attention to targeting at least 25% of the total for low income families. In a greatly appreciated show of support and collaboration, the City Council of Belfast offered the use of its large public meeting space in the Belfast Boathouse as a production site.

After identifying insert recipients, two teams of trained local volunteers spent three days in July measuring houses in Belfast and various nearby towns where customers resided. Meanwhile, other volunteers created a database to register workers and then recruited crew leaders and 8-10 insert builders for each of the 14 four hour construction sessions planned for the Boathouse,

including two evening periods for those whose day jobs precluded participation. Still other volunteers organized the donation of food and drink for snack breaks and daily lunches. Finally, in late summer and early autumn, crew leaders apprenticed at frame construction sessions and at Community Builds in Rockland to hone their insert skills.

By the time that the big Build week arrived in November, over 110 volunteers had been recruited. They came not only from the four sponsoring churches, but also from various local nonprofit community organizations including the Maine Coastal Regional Re-Entry Center, and the Waldo County Technical Center. As it turned out, this diverse group of volunteers was so efficient that after just five and half days, the 500 window insert production quota had been surpassed by 10 and the Build was finished. In the end, over 40 Belfast area families received inserts, including 17 low income families. As word of the Boathouse Build spread in the newspapers and by word of mouth, additional people in the community asked to be put on a waiting list for 2014 in case another Build might take place.

While the 2013 Belfast Build broke all Window Dressers totals for number of inserts produced in a single Community Build, perhaps just as significantly it had also created a multifaceted inter-faith experience of community building for those who participated. Members from the four churches not only got to know each other better, but they also had an opportunity to meet and work along side diverse volunteers from among the clients and staff from several local social service

agencies. All came away hoping that there would be another big Build the following year. And

when the Belfast City Council offered to reserve the Boathouse facility for an expanded two week Phase Two Build in 2014, the four church steering committee committed to an even greater effort for the following year.