Fosters Efficient Sustainability by Low-Cost Insulating Window Inserts
by Toby Martin
On August 27, 2021, in Searsmont, Maine, despite a two-year pandemic-driven halt, WindowDressers founders, past and present board members, staff and volunteers gathered to celebrate ten years of mission-driven success and dedicate their new production facility in honor of the life and service of their founding trustee and treasurer, Karl Kehler.
News of the event caught the attention of Maine’s Governor, Janet Mills, and she sent a letter of commendation written on August 15, “As Governor, I am pleased to congratulate WindowDressers on the important work you do to reduce Maine’s greenhouse gas emissions, to make Maine homes more energy efficient and to assist low-income households reduce their heating costs. I wish you many more years of success and growth.”
WindowDressers’ remarkable decade of progress began when Dick Cadwgan and Frank Mundo of Rockport, Maine sat at church and felt cold drafts stream in on them from the windows. The cost to replace the church windows was out of the question, but Dick Cadwgan remembered a do-it-yourself design that might work to build inexpensive polyolefin-covered wooden frames that they could build themselves. So, they did, at their home workshops. They built and installed them, church members noticed the difference, wanted some for their homes, and an idea became an enterprise.
Their project grew, the home workshops proved too small, and they had to relocate. They formed a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and recruited a multi-talented, hands-on board of trustees, one of whom was Karl Kehler, its treasurer.
Hundreds of volunteers fashioned thousands of insulating inserts in towns all across New England. A decade of success necessitated three major moves. The Rockport home workshop days and a simple idea caught on across Maine and into Vermont and New Hampshire to become more than forty town builds driven by the basic need of people to be warm and comfortable in New England winters.
In his remembrance speech, co-founder Mundo said about Kehler, “Our Treasurer who took over the financial helm and steered us through the turbulent times of a shoestring-startup. As a highly placed financial executive at Texas Instruments as well as a MIT graduate, he brought to us serious analytical and problem-solving skills. But more than that, he had a desire to make things work, not just in the financial area but throughout the organization. He took on the toughies. Karl brought a commitment to the organization over more than a decade.
It is so appropriate that, as we open this facility amid the turmoil of Covid, that we do so aware of the fact that Karl remains with us with, if not a hand on the tiller, at least a light in the compass box to guide us in the darkness and back to the light. Karl was the ‘wind beneath our wings.’ And so, he remains in our minds and hearts.”
Sustainability, lowering carbon emissions, reducing the use of fossil fuels, and contributing to the benefit of low-income families through need-based equity are all part of the WindowDressers mission. The thousands of insulating window inserts have prevented tons of carbon emissions in New England and provide a way for anyone to make a personal impact to offset global warming through emissions reduction.
During the 2019-2020 season, WindowDressers’ staff and community volunteers made over 7,900 inserts at 35 Community Builds in Maine and Vermont. Then Covid struck and WindowDressers regrouped to relocate and establish the Kehler Facility. The plan for 2021-2022 anticipates building over 9,000 inserts at 25 Community Builds in Maine and 16 in Vermont.
With the Kehler Facility established, dedicated, and ready for the work ahead, WindowDressers is poised for a renewed sense of purpose and future growth.
The Karl Kehler Production Facility is located at the North Searsmont Manufacturing Center, 221 Belfast Augusta Road (Rte 3) in Searsmont, Maine. WindowDressers (windowdressers.org) can be reached at 207-596-3073. Two interesting articles covering the nonprofit’s work can be found at online archives available in the January 2020 issue of Green Energy Times at
Toby Martin lives in Islesboro, ME, where he works locally and statewide to strengthen Maine’s clean energy sustainability. A founding member of the Islesboro Energy Team and the Islesboro Energy Committee, he also coordinates the Islesboro Energy Conference, and he contributes to Green Energy Times as a writer and member of its Maine distribution team.