From log cabins to colonials, Theresa Hill has designed and decorated them all — dollhouses that is.
She isn’t sure exactly when she started crafting dollhouses for charity, but it’s been at least 15 years. And the total is around 20, each one different, and going to an organization for fundraising.
The first one was made for Habitat for Humanity, said Laurie Mortinger.
Hill and Mortinger are co-directors of the Community Assistance Center.
“Her dad used to make them for me then,” Hill said of the structure.
Mortinger’s dad, Henry Stramel, was a retired carpenter.
“I asked her to do one for Habitat for Humanity, and we did five of them, (for Habitat) I think,” Mortinger said.
“He put a bunch of the ones that were kits (together), and we didn’t buy any of them,” Hill said.
“We got them donated,” Mortinger said.
Mortinger’s contribution was painting them “a little bit on the outside, and the inside, because my dad wasn’t a painter. That’s all I did was paint and help her find things.”
Stramel hasn’t built the houses for quite awhile, but that doesn’t mean they stopped creating them.
Mortinger picked them up at garage sales, thrift shops and other places.
“A lot of them are homemade,” Hill said.
“Sometimes she’d fix them if they were broken,” Mortinger said.
Mortinger’s daughter even brought them a three-story house she found in Lawrence.
Hill’s ideas for decor come from the house itself, and the latest creation, which was a fundraiser for the Knights of Columbus, has western-themed decor.
“This was in a box in the thrift store in Ellis, and it was three stories. Well the second story had no walls, so I just put the attic on top of this,” Hill said of the first story.
No detail is too small to escape Hill’s notice.
An old belt buckle hangs on the house exterior. Inside Hill used a ruler and a Sharpie to make the floors to look like wood planks. They are covered with upholstery samples cut to fit as rugs. The blinds are made from placemats, and empty thread spools serve as tables.
Many of the things, like the upholstery samples used in the houses, are from donations to CAC.
“I bought a few little things,” Hill said. “A lot of the Barbie stuff is up to scale.”
Some CAC volunteers even look for dollhouse furnishings for her, she said.
The time it takes depends on the house, but a month is about average, she said.
“She says once she starts, she’ll go crazy. She’ll wake up thinking about what she’s going to do with it,” Mortinger said. “They’re just so darned cute.”
Besides the Knights and Habitat, the houses have also been fundraising tools for the Hays Dog Park, Hospice, Hays Area Children’s Center and the Daughters of the American Revolution.
The DAR dollhouse was a colonial style, not one of Hill’s favorites, but the architectural style suited the organization. Well over $1,000 was raised for the restoration of the Madonna of the Trail statue in Council Grove, which turned 90 in Sept. 2018.
At a Hays Dog Park fundraiser, “a little girl won one (dollhouse) for $1,” Mortinger said.
Designing a log cabin was fun, Hill said, but her favorites are a lake house and a five-story house that went to the Children’s Center.
“That took forever,” she said.
Hill usually works on the dollhouses in the winter, but she wanted to finish the two houses, the western and one other, because they will be her last.
She sorted the odds and ends she had saved in 10 tubs, and sold them at a CAC garage sale.
“Laurie talked me into the first one, and I said OK. I enjoyed it. I did, but I have rheumatoid arthritis. It’s just hard to do detail stuff.”