Hayden workers go all-in to build playhouses for kids

Contest challenges employees, helps others

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GABE GREEN/Press Eric Webster screws in hand and foot holds for a climbing wall on a children's playhouse during a team building exercise for employees of the Transtector Company in Hayden Wednesday afternoon. Teams of Transtector employees were challenged to craft 10 playhouses using $200 or under for each one. The playhouses are to be donated to various charities.

HAYDEN - Here's a story seldom heard in business circles: Workers receive an assignment from their employer and more than half of them put in more than 40 hours of personal time to get their projects done.

And they smile while doing it.

That happened at Transtector Systems/Smiths Protection Technology Group this week, as part of the business' annual Employee Appreciation Week.

On Wednesday, workers at the company - a provider of services and products designed to protect communications systems - happily put the finishing touches on their projects, children's playhouses that will be donated to charities.

"As I was painting, I was thinking how neat it is that there are going to be little kids climbing all over this," said Stacie Joiner, a customer service representative who has been with Transtector for five years.

Joiner's team, one of 10 made up of employees randomly assigned from throughout the company, built "Our Fort," a wooden structure with an open upper deck children can reach by climbing.

Each team was given $200 and told to "go do it," said Colleen Krajack, human resources director.

"They could do it any way they wanted. They could have done tiny, little dollhouse playhouses, but most of them went big," Krajack said.

Crafting the playhouses was tied into the theme for this week's employee appreciation festivities at Transtector: "Building our Potential." Workers are also participating in scavenger hunts, bringing their kids in to have a little fun, and playing Bingo.

Some of the charities that will benefit from the playhouses include a Post Falls organization that serves kids with disabilities, the Panhandle Autism Society and Specialized Needs Recreation, Krajack said. The winning team, a group that built a kid-sized replica of an Idaho cabin, complete with a loft, electricity, screened windows and a set of antlers hanging over the porch, will get to choose the charity their creation goes to.

Another playhouse was crafted as an "airplane catering truck," with a wooden rudder and enclosed propeller to protect little fingers, aprons, toy food and a cash register.

Before the winning team was selected, Krajack said that team's members will also each get four hours of paid time off. "That's ironic because most of them put 40 to 50 hours into building them," Krajack said.

Building the playhouses was more than a service project, it was a team-building exercise for most of the 165 employees based at Transtector's Hayden location, on Airport Road. Some employees who never have the opportunity to interact with one another and didn't know each other prior to the assignment, are now saying they think they've developed lifelong friendships because of the playhouse project, Krajack said.

"It's really powerful to see that as an employer," she said.

The project also illustrated for employees many of the issues employers deal with every day. The teams had to find and achieve a vision using limited resources while managing their people and their time and by communicating effectively, Krajack said.

Because it was for charity, she said many of the employees "put their hearts and souls" into building the playhouses.

"But honestly, this is something our employees do every day. They make things happen and do whatever it takes to serve our customers," Krajack said.

GABE GREEN/Press Sheri Mason, an employee of the Transtector Company in Hayden, installs a window screen for a north Idaho themed playhouse. As part of a team building exercise Wednesday afternoon, Transtector workers gathered to make 10 children's playhouses for charity using only $200 for each playhouse.


GABE GREEN/Press Sheri Boyer paints the railings of a playhouse which is to be donated to charity as part of a team building exercise for Transtector employees in Hayden Wednesday afternoon. Workers were teamed up and given the task to make a total of 10 playhouses for under $200 each.

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