Habitat for Humanity donates playhouses to Sonoma fire survivors

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For many kids, a playhouse is a physical residence for childhood imagination.

Reminiscing about one’s childhood playhouse is to enter a portal into another world – one without boundary and full of endless possibility. It is a place where a stuffed animal horse transforms into a real equine, roaming grasslands with mane and tail flowing freely in the wind; a place where pirates sail across brilliantly blue oceans and search land for buried treasure; a place where tea parties foster conversation with Batman and Wonderwoman, a certain glass slipper-less princess and Fairy Godmother, and the Cheshire Cat.

Habitat for Humanity of Sonoma County wants to extend this childhood sense of possibility through its inaugural Playhouse program, which provides free, themed playhouses in which kids can play, imagine, create and grow. Local nonprofits, current owners of Habitat homes, children of active armed forces members and veterans, and trauma-induced children all qualify for a playhouse. But supply is limited.

Habitat Sonoma completed its first round of playhouse distribution in early July, which featured 19 structures, and is organizing a second build on Aug. 20, as long as a corporate sponsor “steps up to the plate,” said Wayne Kleefeld, general manager of Habitat’s ReStore center in Santa Rosa.

Those interested in a playhouse for either a child or an organization can fill out an application at habitatsoco.org/restore/receive-a-playhouse/.

“It was brought to my attention that this program existed in other affiliates. During the fires, we were open seven days a week, we gave a lot of free stuff out, but I didn’t want it to stop there,” said Kleefeld.

Habitat Sonoma partnered with two corporate sponsors during its first round of playhouse construction: Levi Strauss & Company, which funded three playhouses; and Medtronic, which funded 16.

Corporations who are interested in scheduling playhouse team-building, should visit habitatsoco.org or email Kleefeld at w.kleefeld@habitatsoco.org.

The first 19 playhouses were accounted for even before their completion – reserved for fire survivors in the community.

“What we do is give the corporate sponsor the opportunity to identify one of their own, for example, or someone in the community they’d like the playhouses to go to. If not, I have a list of about 20 people that are interested in the playhouses,” said Kleefeld.

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