Since October 2020, a crew from JMD Manufacturing in Tipp City had been traveling north to Carthagena every working morning, methodically removing the windows from the main building of St. Charles Center and replacing them with new energy-efficient windows. There were 569 of them to do.

Lifts in place to replace more than 500 windows.

Move the two lifts into place outside the main building with its four stories. Raise two workers up to the window in question. Position two more workers on the inside. Take the old window out, including its aluminum frame. Fill in the empty spaces inside the walls with foam for much-improved insulation. Raise the new window on the lift, put it in place and install it with screws. Caulk and complete the installation with other finishing steps.

Repeat 568 times, through rain, sleet and snow. The crew worked on its own, but had occasional observers, folks who were interested in the process and asked friendly questions. Eventually, the crew got adopted—St. Charles residents baked cookies for them, and Walter and Terry Hoag commissioned the kitchen to make egg-and-sausage sandwiches for them every two weeks, as a treat.

The crew did the heavy lifting, but there was plenty of work to go around. The window project had been in the planning phase for two years, as St. Charles’ building and grounds committee prepared for the project and studied bids.

Once the project started, the work had to be coordinated with the residents, who according to the window installation schedule moved out of their apartments and into guest rooms in St. Charles’ Brunner Hall while their windows were being replaced. St. Charles Senior Living Manager Teresa DiSalvo kept residents up-to-date on the project and helped coordinate their moves. Residents were asked to box up their belongings and move any smaller items of furniture away from the windows.  St. Charles maintenance workers Mike Hemmelgarn and Keith Rickard worked in advance of the window crews, starting at 6:30 a.m. every Monday to move large furniture away from the windows; take down all curtains and blinds; remove decorative items from the walls; and cover remaining items with sheets.

“It was really a well-synchronized process by the second or third week,” said Amy Day, St. Charles facility director. “You might call it organized chaos.”

St. Charles’ housekeepers, Susan Niekamp and Cindy Rammel, cleaned up all the dust and dirt that results from such a project, and washed all those new windows. Usually, residents moved out of their apartments on Sunday night, and were able to move back in on Thursday afternoon.

Throughout the fall, winter and spring, the work inched forward, the two lifts were moved, the windows were raised into place. Finally in April, it began to seem as if the project would indeed come to an end. The only hold-up was one 4.5’ by 7’ window in the members’ reading room on the main floor, which had to be custom-made.

Finally on April 28, the house gathered for a special ceremony as that last window was put in place. Also on hand were family members of the in-house crew that had replaced the original windows in the 1970s. Fr. Tom Brenberger, C.PP.S., St. Charles’ local director, blessed the windows.

As JMD workers Zack Erb and Carlos Domingas positioned the last window, the onlookers cheered. The 21st century crew had found messages and little gifts from the 20th century crew within a window frame in the first floor hall, and one of the guests asked if the current crew had left anything for the next window replacement crew within these window frames.

“We really tried hard to fill in all the gaps!” Day said—the JMD crew had written a few messages, but there will be no gifts found by the next crew.

The gift comes from the windows themselves, which are much more airtight. “One of the driving forces of this project was the wind that came in through those old windows,” Day said. “Curtains moved, blinds moved with the air flow. Our residents are already commenting that their utility bills are lower with the new windows.”

A project like this takes many hands—the contractor’s crew, the St. Charles staff who were ready to pitch in, and the residents who were patient and supportive of the process. Thanks to all, St. Charles is looking out of new eyes in time to celebrate its upcoming 100th anniversary, and ready for another 100 years.

Fr. Paul Wohlwend, C.PP.S., who lives at our St. Charles Center in Carthagena, Ohio, chronicles the projects at the nearly 100-year-old building with his trusty camera.