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Just a kid at heart: Buffington makes dollhouse for silent auction item

Roger Buffington displays the doll house he made from a kit. (Linda Sailer/The Dickinson Press)

Roger Buffington, of Dickinson, may be retired but he’s just a kid at heart. He’s made airplane and car models, but he’s never tackled a dollhouse before.

That all changed when it was suggested he might like making a dollhouse from a kit. It  had been previously donated to Evergreen, where he is living.

“I was sitting down at breakfast when Renee Jahner from activities brought down the kit and asked if I’d be interested in attempting to put it together. I looked in the box and decided to give it a shot.”

All the pieces came on sheets of a plywood-like wood -- not the balsa wood he used for airplane models. The pieces could have been punched out, but he used a knife to prevent any damage.

The dollhouse came with instructions, although vague

“It was more of a challenge than I thought it was going to be,”he said. “The first words on the instructions said, ‘Don’t be afraid.’ Basically, the challenge was trying to get all the pieces to fit together so the next piece would fit.”

Piece by piece, he assembled the house in Evergreen’s library.

“Lots of times, people came over to watch the progress,” he said. “I probably worked on it just about every day for two months.”

As it was constructed, Buffington and the staff thought it would be fun to order kits for furniture. There’s furniture for the bedroom, living room, kitchen, dining room and bathroom. Two staff members helped assemble the kits and sew bedding and towels.

Once the dollhouse was put together, it required a coat of paint.

“Basically, it looked dull brown, so I chose colors that were illustrated on the box, except the roof. We used paint we had here and I bought some paint for the roof,” he said.

As the kits came together, there was discussion about what to do with it. Originally, Buffington thought he’d donate it to the Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Center for the little girls. On second thought, the kit is pretty fragile.

Rhonda Dukart, the center’s board president, came up with an alternative suggestion: Why not donate the dollhouse as a silent auction item for the upcoming Wine Cheesecake Shindig?

The shindig is March 11 at the Ramada Grand Dakota Hotel, as a fundraiser for the Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Center.

“We have some really nice big-ticket items that have been donated, but this one is a labor of love,” she said. “Roger has 200 hours into it and staff at Evergreen were involved in helping with the project as well. It’s a work of art and should raise good funds to help us.”

Buffington is pleased with the finished product.

“It gave me something to do,” he said. “Since I’ve finished this, I’ve been roaming around wondering what I’ll do next.”

Buffington was born and raised in Minnesota and moved to Dickinson in 1976. He worked as a draftsman for TMI and retired in December 2009.

He’d like to do another project, but this time for little boys -- wooden toys or another kit, for example.

Activities Director Linda Hanel is considering the suggestions.

“It’s kept him out of our hair for two months,” she said with a smile. “It’s turned out very well. Some of the staff helped him too. It’s been good therapy for him.”