Thursday, June 17, 2010


Growing up, my sister and I were constantly volunteering (or being volunteered) for one charity or another. We tied bows around nut jars for cancer benefit prizes when we were very small. We passed out programs, took tickets, poured drinks and stood in booths. We babysat, delivered food and changed sheets in hospitals. There is no time in my memory when we weren't volunteering, and when my brother was born, he joined in with the rest of us.

It was important to my mom. It just now occurs to me that I've never asked her why it was important to her then, when we were little. Growing up, her family was relatively poor, but not so much that they received help from others. That wasn't it. Her father, my grandfather, sat on our board of education and actively worked in many political campaigns -- maybe that was the catalyst for her. Or my grandmother, who cooked for the priests.

Anyway, even when she was a single mother and worked two jobs, we volunteered as a family. Nine years ago, when I drove into Petoskey for the second time in my life, knowing I had a job and would be living here, I wondered where I would start my volunteer work. At the hospital, which was second nature to me? Downtown? At Crooked Tree, or the Women's Resource Center? And then work began, and I was at a desk or chasing stories or at night meetings seven days a week, and I never found my place.

Over the years Trevor and I have dabbled in organizations and have tried to do our best to support our local farmers, artists and businesses. Our girls sponsor a child in Bolivia, who they write to now and again and who we talk about and pray for. But our family has never done anything truly intense for the less fortunate in our community and in our world.

A few months ago I was sitting on the couch with my mom, talking about how I needed to do something to get started volunteering again. We don't have much treasure, and truth-be-told we don't have much time. But we are 32-year-old parents of two healthy children, and we have careers we enjoy with work to do every day. We are blessed, so incredibly blessed. But we were not working for others.

So my mom and I hatched a plan, on that couch, and today it's become reality. Doublestein Builders, Inc., my husband's business, has built a beautiful playhouse (props to Erwin, my father-in-law and recently retired partner in the business, who actually built the entire house, and to Cathy, my mother-in-law, who helped paint). The playhouse is the first in a bi-annual playhouse build, taking place each summer and fall. All year long we'll sell raffle tickets for the house, and at the end of summer and fall we'll choose a winner that we'll announce at a local celebration and on our website. The winner will take home a beautiful playhouse for their children or grandchildren, or for their local park or church, and all of the proceeds from ticket sales will go into the Doublestein Family Fund at the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation. The money from this fund will be used entirely to benefit children's charities.

We're really excited about this project, and finally feel like we're giving back in a hands-on way. If you live nearby, look for us at local events all summer and fall, and in the parades. If you live far away, check our website for updates on the houses we build, and send us suggestions for styles and colors.

And of course, if you'd like to buy a ticket, we're happy to help. :)

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