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Area students battle in fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity
Builders to make playhouses for kids
West Hall High School’s playhouse for the Mule Camp Market competition this weekend features a 4-by-8-foot porch that will be attached when it is moved to its next location. - photo by Kristen Oliver

Five of the nicest, hand-built playhouses will soon be up for raffle, thanks to the hard work of some local high school students.

The annual Playhouse Competition returns this weekend with Mule Camp Market opening today in downtown Gainesville. Construction classes from five local high schools — Gainesville, Chestatee, Flowery Branch, West Hall and Johnson — built the houses to certain specifications and will be judged on their craftsmanship.

This year’s theme for the competition is “battle of the builders,” and West Hall High School construction teacher Scott Holtzclaw said the competition is exciting each year.

Holtzclaw said his students began working on their playhouse about six weeks ago at the start of the school year.

“It’s a tedious process,” Holtzclaw said. “We try to do the best we can, so if we made a boo-boo, we tore it out and did it again.”

Homes had to be approximately 5 feet by 8 feet and could have a detached portion no bigger than 4 feet by 8 feet, according to Holtzclaw.

“What we did is build the house and then build a detached portion,” he said. “We have cut outs for the porch to fit in nicely.”

The West Hall High playhouse is wired with multiple outlets and a working sink.

Greg Justice, construction teacher at Flowery Branch High School, said his class was going for a rustic, farmhouse look.

“We went with unpainted finishes, almost like you’d see out on a farm somewhere,” he said. “We went with a pallet style on the walls on the inside.”

Justice said any time the students struggled with a part of the construction, he used it as a learning tool.

“I like for them to learn what I call these life lessons,” he said. “When they mess up, I let them use that as a learning experience. So it’s not perfect. And I’m really curious to see what the other schools are doing, too.”

Flowery Branch senior Jonathan Gonzalez said building the roof for their playhouse was the most challenging part.

“We did a lot,” said Justin Jones, junior at Flowery Branch. “We started everything as a class a week or two after school started. Shingles, trim, everything on the inside, the porch and the roof.”

Nam Bui, a sophomore at West Hall, said he helped build a small version of their playhouse to hold the raffle tickets.

Marvin Chacon, a West Hall junior, said he enjoyed building the porch this year, and knowing the construction would help make a difference.

“It’s a fundraiser,” he said. “So people will pay for a raffle ticket and those funds will go to Habitat. So, you know, it’s for a good cause.”

Ann Nixon, executive director for Hall County Habitat for Humanity said winners will receive awards in various categories from a panel of community leaders and construction professionals. Prize categories include Built to Specifications; Best Exterior Design; Best Interior Design; Attention to Detail; Best Use of Proper Construction Techniques; and the top prize for Best of Show.

Visitors to Mule Camp Market this weekend can purchase raffle tickets for their favorite playhouses. Tickets are $5 each, or three tickets for $10 and eight tickets for $20.

Mule Camp Market

When: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. today-Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday

Where: Gainesville downtown square

Cost: Free

More info: