BROOKSVILLE — It may not look like a factory town, but all last week Brooksville was the center of a thriving window insulation industry.
Volunteers from all over the Blue Hill Peninsula gathered at the town’s community center from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. to crank out 60 plastic-wrapped window inserts a day, for a total of 300 inserts by the end of the week.
The inserts create a dead air space that prevents heat from escaping and stops cold air from getting in. That insulation helps homeowners cut down on their heating bill during frigid Maine winters.
“We help save money in energy consumption and we help the Earth by reducing our carbon footprint,” said Tom Adamo, a Penobscot resident who organized the community build’s 90 volunteers. Those volunteers enjoyed a different home-cooked meal for every breakfast and lunch, and they listened to a live musical act every day while they worked.
“We eat together, enjoy live music, and we are providing a service to the community,” Adamo said.
The 300 inserts were ordered months in advance through Rockland Window Dressers, a nonprofit that organizes community builds across the state.
Part of the nonprofit’s mission is to make 22 percent of its annual insert production available for low-income households that otherwise might not have been able to afford the $18 to $34 inserts.
“We’ll knock on a low-income person’s door and say, ‘We can give you 10 of these for $10,’” Adamo said. “Of the 300 that we built this year, we give away 66, at a dollar each.”
Good thing Rockland Window Dressers uses largely volunteer labor. Otherwise, the labor-intensive assembly process may have driven the cost of the inserts way up.
The first step of the assembly line in Brooksville was to line the pine frames — which came pre-assembled from the nonprofit’s Rockland facility — in double-sided tape.
At the next station, volunteers wrapped a sheet of tough, transparent plastic called polyolefin around the frame to create a dead air space. The process was repeated for a second layer of polyolefin, and then the insert was sent to a third station where the wrinkles in the plastic were ironed out with a hair dryer.
Finally, volunteers wrapped the edges in packing tape and foam to keep everything secure and let it slide easily into place against a window.
“This is really building a good community,” said Virginia Drewery, a Brooksville resident who applied foam to the sides of the inserts. “The people who pay for them are subsidizing the inserts for people who can’t pay for it.”
On top of the community spirit, some of the volunteers also got a good workout in.
“I do about 100 squats to pull the plastic tight,” said Brooksville resident Mary Harley, who wrapped the frames in polyolefin along with a Bucksport resident named John Paul LaLonde.
Harley and LaLonde had to pull the polyolefin very tight to make sure it wouldn’t have wrinkles, which would have reduced the insert’s heat-saving capability.
“Your knuckles get a little sore from pulling the plastic,” Harley said. “But we are strong!”
It also helped that the volunteers worked with tools they had specifically invented to help build the inserts. Lining the inserts with double-sided tape was too difficult to do by hand during Brooksville’s build last year, so Blue Hill resident Ray Yardy invented a double-sided tape applicator that resembled a price-tag sticker gun. Applying the foam lining at the end of the assembly line was also difficult to do by hand, so a few engineers in Rockland invented a wooden device that fed foam out of a spool.
“The engineers, the organizers, the music people and food people deserve a huge bit of credit,” said Drewery, who worked with the foam machine.
Some of the volunteers in Brooksville expressed interest in working at the next community build in Deer Isle on Nov. 14 month, but Adamo could still use some volunteers.
“It’s good teamwork, real good community building,” Adamo said. “It brings people together who are not necessarily friends or strangers and then they become friends.”
Anyone interested in volunteering at Deer Isle should visit windowdressers.org for more information.