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Written by Wendy Danks | Photography by Dan Iverson, Anthologie
Debra and Alex Arbit had bid on and won a delightful playhouse at a Children’s Hospital charity auction a few years ago. Their three kids, Margot (7), Benny (5), and Levi (3) loved the lofted creation, so when they decided to build their dream home, it was the one thing they knew they’d miss.
Swanson Homes had built the home they were living in, so choosing them to build their new home was a natural fit. “We were so happy in that house and impressed with the quality, that we definitely put Swanson on our shortlist,” explained Debra. “Then when we met their team, we knew they were the right choice for us.”
As the Arbits worked with the Swanson team to create their dream home (completed last September), they knew they needed to add the final touch—a playhouse like the one they left behind. After talking it over, they decided it shouldn’t just be a transaction, they wanted to keep up the legacy of donating to help others.
They approached the Swanson team about partnering with them and making it a way to give back. “They told us they wanted to use this project as a good opportunity to be more than a build between us,” reported Blake Swanson, vice president of Swanson Homes.
They all loved the idea so it was agreed, the Arbits would donate the cost of the playhouse to the charity of Swanson’s choosing while Swanson Homes and their trade partners would complete the build.
“We’ve supported and been involved with the Housing First Minnesota Foundation for years,” Blake said. “So naturally, that’s who we chose.”
“When they agreed to the proposal, we were excited they chose the Housing First Minnesota Foundation,” Debra said. “We hadn’t been aware of the foundation, but after learning about it, we were thrilled that Swanson chose a charity as wonderful as this.”
Basing the size and interior on their previous playhouse, Swanson Homes enlisted their trade partners to join in. First, home designer Ben Nelson offered to design an exterior that would reflect the look and feel of the new home. Then, their vendors and trade partners joined in with pro-bono work and discounted materials.
The Swanson team put the finishing touches on the playhouse this spring, perfect timing. “It’s so fun to see the kids playing in there, and it’s been even more helpful this year,” Debra said. “It gives them a new space to go to at a time when we’re mostly sheltering at home.”
The family is already making good use of their new backyard play space; it has light, a fairy garden behind, and has sparked plenty of fun times. “It allows their imagination to run wild,” said Debra, who expects it to even become an extension of school this fall.
The Housing First Minnesota Foundation warmly thanks Swanson Homes, the Arbits, and all of the partners who made this generous donation possible.