Auburndale Builders Volunteers build Playhouses for Children of Local Veterans

By Christopher Gavin Daily News Staff

FRAMINGHAM - Singing to her mother Saturday afternoon, Kyra Childs made it clear that this was the best day of her young life.

The Natick seven-year-old started singing as soon as they pulled into the parking lot of Staple’s corporate offices in Framingham, where a volunteer team had just finished building her a unicorn-themed, wooden playhouse.

For her mom, Lynn, though, it was a moment of joyful tears.

The active duty member of the National Guard was one of a few local veterans whose children received a playhouse through Habitat for Humanity’s “Operation Playhouse” program - a way of saying “Thank you” for their service.

“I appreciate the people that appreciate our service but this is just so’s so kind,” said Lynn Childs, not long after the miniature home was revealed to her family.

The newest addition to her backyard is one of nine that rolled out of the large parking garage Saturday as dozens of volunteers assembled and painted each house by hand throughout the day.

The second-annual event brought together almost a dozen locally based businesses - each one sponsoring a house - to give back to the families of servicemen and women and to raise more than $20,000 for the organization’s affordable housing initiatives, according to Bonnie Biocchi, director of development for Habitat for Humanity’s MetroWest/Greater Worcester affiliate.

She said veterans - often used to providing help rather than receiving it - have been particularly keen of the program because the benefit is one that their families can enjoy.

“Their families have obviously sacrificed and given up a lot...this is a way for us to say ‘Thank you,’” Biocchi said.

The nonprofit organization partnered with local veteran groups to scout out families, some from as far as Springfield and as close as Framingham, who in turn brought forth ideas for the theme of the house they would receive.

“It’s a real concrete - or wooden - way to give back,” said Amy Rossi, vice president at Bernardi Auto Group in Natick, one of the building teams sponsoring the event.

“We’re just really happy to be here,” she added.

Colorful bright blues and dark reds were still wet on the wood early Saturday morning as building teams readied the small dwellings for a barnyard, “Frozen” movie and other themes for the big reveal to their owners that afternoon.

The wooden pieces had come cut and primed, thanks to the work of local vocational schools, according to organizers.

When the houses were completed, all would have a genuine roof, complete with real shingles and even small solar panels to allow for nighttime play, Biocchi said.

Used to building full-scale homes in the every day, employees and subcontractors of Auburndale Builders said there was not much overlap in their playhouse-building duties.

But Jim Buckley, a project manager for the company, said it’s still fun to do anyway.

He recalled seeing the joyful reactions of the girls who received the playhouse his team built last year.

“It really touches you,” he said.

Framingham-based insurance agency, Clarke and Frost, brought its team back for a second year, eager to let its fandom lead the way on its New England Patriots-themed house, according to co-owner Jeanne Anastos.

“It’s amazing that it all comes together in a short amount of time,” she said.

Last year’s program brought a tear to her eye as she watched a boy check out his new pad, Anastos said.

“He was just so was like home for him,” she said.

With a new playhouse to explore, Kyra Childs already had a play date with a friend lined up for the playhouse’s arrival at their home Saturday evening, her mother said.

“It’s just incredible,” Lynn Childs said. “It’s so incredible that people give so much.”

Christopher Gavin can be reached at 508 634-7582 Follow him on Twitter@c_gavinMDN