By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer
Northborough – Over 50 volunteers occupied the parking lot at Trinity Church April 29 as they teamed up with Habitat for Humanity MetroWest/Great Worcester’s Operation Playhouse. Two playhouses were built, designed, and decorated and at the end of the day were unveiled and donated to two local military families.
Northborough residents Julie Stanwood and Mary Robbins were instrumental in bringing this community project to town. The project was also held next door to 33-39 Main St., where Habitat for Humanity is currently converting the existing properties into four affordable, owner-occupied condos.
A firehouse-themed playhouse was donated to Joseph and Kimberly Lee and their sons Travis, 3, and Liam, 2, of Springfield. Joseph served as a combat medic and the couple is expecting their third child this summer.
Paul and Kate Cross, their 7-year-old son Ramsey, and 4-year-old daughter Taylor of Attleboro received the New England Patriots themed playhouse. Both parents are active in the military.
“There’s a lot of stress for kids of veterans who are deployed,” said Stanwood. “This shows our appreciation for their sacrifices.”
Habitat provides the playhouse kit, paint, and tools needed, as well as supervisors to guide volunteers in the construction of the playhouse and ensure safety of all the volunteers.
Habitat Outreach Team Leader Rick Rahmberg has led teams on eight other playhouse builds and enjoys watching the playhouses come together.
“There’s nothing better than giving back to kids who have had a hard time,” he said. “You have a sense of pride doing something to help someone else. It’s a long day; but when the family sees it, it feels like Christmas.”
The playhouse is approximately 4- by 5-feet long and 5 ½ feet tall at the gable end. Each playhouse has had the walls, trim and two roof sections cut and primed by local vocational high school students from Worcester Technical High School and Bay Path Regional Vocational Technical High School.
Community Outreach Manager Seth Jajliardo said that the playhouses are built out of the best materials including 25-year asphalt shingles. Each playhouse is primed and painted to withstand 10 years of tough outside play and New England weather.
“Each one has a solar panel installed that powers a light inside,” said Jajliardo. “It wouldn’t be Habitat if it wasn’t green.”
The playhouse even includes solar-powered lights sponsored by New England Clean Energy and Canadian Solar, Inc.
There is a donation requirement per playhouse and funds help cover the cost of supervision, materials and to allow Habitat for Humanity to further their mission of building homes, communities and hope.
Raffles sponsored by Northborough local businesses were also sold and proceeds will help defray costs for a future playhouse.
The support of Northborough Lions Club, Northborough Junior Woman’s Club, Trinity Church Northborough and Wesson Terrace Northborough Neighborhood also made the event possible.
Stanwood said that one of the highlights for volunteers for this project is that they have the opportunity to see the end result of their work, which you don’t always get to see as a volunteer.
Jajliardo said that applicants must be either military veterans or currently serving active duty, National Guard or Reserves, and they must be residents of Massachusetts with children ages 2 to 10.
Once Jajliardo is contacted by a family, a profile sheet is completed and the family chooses their theme. Other themes in the past have included “Frozen,” Avengers, and the Boston Bruins. The other requirement is that the family must arrive at the end of the event with a full size pickup truck or trailer in order to transport their new playhouse home.
More information on Operation Playhouse can be found at www.habitatmwgw.org.
Photos except where noted/Julie Stanwood