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Biddeford-area volunteers work to keep neighbors warmer this winter

The week of November 15, 2021, the Maine Energy Americorps Program will host a community build at the Biddeford Church of Christ to make window inserts.

BIDDEFORD, Maine — This winter, a handful of Mainers in the Biddeford community will be a bit warmer. That's because of an initiative underway this week at the Biddeford Church of Christ.

The Maine Energy Americorps Program is partnering with GrowSmart Maine and WindowDressers for a community window build, the first of its kind to happen in the city. Volunteers from around the area are building window inserts out of plastic and wood that have been laser-measured to exactly match the windows in recipients' homes. 

"There's a lot of old housing stock in this town and old drafty windows that could benefit from window inserts," said Phoebe Little, a member of the Maine Energy Americorps Program, as well as the local coordinator for this particular event. She said these inserts typically last for at least a decade

"There have been a lot of people who have come out and said, 'This sounds like a great project. I want to help. What can I do?'" Little said, later adding, "It has been fun to be a young person involved in this project and to see sort of the multi-generational friendships and partnerships come out of this."

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One of the volunteers at the church on Tuesday was Dennis Robillard from Old Orchard Beach. 

"I've been very fortunate in my life and heat and keeping warm [have)] not been an issue," Robillard said, noting he heard about the volunteer opportunity through his rotary. It has been a way to do some good for his fellow Mainers and meet new people along the way. 

"Whatever we can do to help others, it's a wonderful feeling," Robillard said.

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For some volunteers like Malcolm Greene of Biddeford, the project quite literally hits close to home. He's volunteering because he's receiving some of these inserts for his own home a prospect he said he's excited about, with the prices of oil and gas on the rise.

"Oh, it's crazy," Greene said. "Oil has gone up, what? 30 cents in the last month? For gasoline, [it's] more than that. This will save me hundreds of dollars a year."

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These inserts are going to a wide range of people, including those who could afford to order and buy them and those who have low incomes and receive them for free. Either way, it's a cause that Biddeford Church of Christ minister Dennis Godin said was well-worth opening the doors for, as a space to stage construction. 

"This opportunity just kind of presented itself to us," Godin explained, noting that Little approached him. "We didn't even have to look for it, and so it's a great opportunity for us to get our name out there and let the community know that we care."

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Little said the team is working to build 87 window inserts total this round and community members have already expressed interest in ordering inserts next year.