Monday, November 03, 2008

The day we took a dollhouse to Hephzibah House

When Rookie Mom Whitney wrote to me asking if I'd like to accept two Mrs. Goodbee Caring Corners Dollhouses--one for my daughter and one for us to give to charity--I immediately accepted. I'd already decided to get Z a dollhouse for her fourth birthday, so the timing couldn't have been more perfect.

The dollhouses arrived in October and Z was thrilled. Caring Corners is a three-story plastic dollhouse with plastic dolls and furniture, but it isn't hideously tacky. And while it does "talk" and make noises, the battery-powered interactivity cheerfully encourages good manners and good habits: "If you're looking for something to eat, fruits and vegetables make a tasty treat!" chimes Mrs. Goodbee when you open the fridge.

The dollhouse folds closed for storage and opens wide to reveal 11 rooms, far more than most dollhouses I've seen. There are five to six rooms on each side, making it easy for two kids to play at once without bashing elbows and fighting over of the furniture.

And speaking of furniture, while it includes basic furnishings built into the home, you'll probably want to invest $20-$40 in additional playsets--for the furniture and the people. The dollhouse alone only comes with a girl, a baby, a dog and a chair.

But enough with the product review, on to the dollhouse giveaway. I wanted Z's first experience with charity to meaningful and memorable for her, something far more personal than the Salvation Army truck. So I called Oak Park's own Hephzibah Children's Association and made arrangements to give the dollhouse to a six year old girl who lives in their group home for neglected and abused children.

On Sunday morning Z and I drove over to Hephzibah House and met M in the front room. Z showed M all of the cool things the dollhouse can do, flushing the toilet and turning on the radio while I learned more about the organization's 120 year history from their volunteer coordinator, Maureen McGoorty.

When it was clear the girls had hit it off, we took a tour of the home, seeing their playroom, library, kitchen, dining room and living quarters. M even showed Z her very own room before we headed outside. Z marveled that their backyard was "just like a park," furnished as it was with a playground, a treehouse and a gazebo. It's an amazing place, full of caring staff and kids (the average age was 8) who seemed well-adjusted and happy. Maureen told me that, while they have to find foster care placement or another environment for their children when they turn 12, they remain involved in their lives and over 90 percent finish high school--far better than the DCFS average. I wish they could care for every ward of the state, but they have room for only 27 children at a time.

I'm grateful to Whitney and to Learning Curve, the maker of the dollhouses for inspiring me to help Z learn to be grateful for all she has and about the importance of giving back. I plan to make giving a gift to a child at Hephzibah House an annual birthday tradition.