Donors open hearts so fam­i­lies can open gifts

Anali­cia Rodriguez’s fam­ily one of hun­dreds helped by cam­paign.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Ni­cole Vil­lal­pando nvil­lal­pando@states­man.com

Star Fur­ni­ture em­ploy­ees last week loaded box af­ter box into a room at the Austin Chil­dren’s Shel­ter — a whole house full of fur­ni­ture do­nated to Anali­cia Rodriguez and her daugh­ters.

Boxes con­tained a queen bed­room set for Rodriguez, 20, who grew up in and out of fos­ter care; bunk beds and a dresser for her daugh­ters, Anas­tashia, 3, and Aleina, 2; a desk for Rodriguez; and a kitchen ta­ble with four chairs for the whole fam­ily. An­other fam­ily al­ready had do­nated liv­ing room fur­ni­ture.

The Rodriguez fam­ily is one of 12 fea­tured in this year’s Austin Amer­i­can-States­man Sea­son for Car­ing pro­gram, which helps not just the fea­tured fam­i­lies, but hun­dreds of other fam­i­lies through lo­cal non­profit agen­cies.

Star Fur­ni­ture em­ploy­ees also piled up Christ­mas presents for the girls and for Rodriguez.

“Santa brought this by my store and told me I should drop them off to you,” John Chro­nis­ter, the fur­ni­ture store’s gen­eral man­ager, told the girls. “He wrote me to make sure they found you.”

On Fri­day, each of the girls picked out one present to open — match­ing purses — and they dis­cov­ered magic wands as well. The rest of the gifts

would have to wait un­til Christ­mas Day.

“It will be the best Christ­mas ever,” Rodriguez said. Later, she turned to the Star Fur­ni­ture em­ploy­ees and said, “Thank you for do­ing this for us. It’s a very big bless­ing for us. This is more than I could ever ask for in my life. This is un­be­liev­able.”

There have been many bless­ings for Rodriguez this month. She earned her Gen­eral Ed­u­ca­tional Devel­op­ment cer­tifi­cate and at­tended a cer­e­mony at the Er­win Cen­ter. She grad­u­ated from a cer­ti­fied nurs­ing as­sis­tant pro­gram and passed her state cer­ti­fi­ca­tion test. Now she’s look­ing for a job in health care, and Star Fur­ni­ture em­ploy­ees are try­ing to help her with the con­nec­tions they have.

As soon as she can save up enough to have a cush­ion, Rodriguez will find her own apart­ment and move out of the shel­ter, where she and her girls have lived since April. Star Fur­ni­ture will send a truck to pick up all the fur­ni­ture, de­liver it to her apart­ment and set it up.

All the fea­tured fam­i­lies have had plenty of gifts to open this Christ­mas. From be­ing adopted by com­pa­nies like Star Fur­ni­ture to get­ting do­na­tions from in­di­vid­u­als, school groups and Girl Scouts, the fam­i­lies have seen an out­pour­ing of Christ­mas spirit.

Since Nov. 25, the pro­gram has raised more than $260,000 in mon­e­tary do­na­tions, but the gifts of goods and ser­vices also have been im­pres­sive.

Am­plify Credit Union gave Jamie Yancy and Ed­die Cousins’ home a makeover with new car­pet, new fur­ni­ture, Christ­mas presents and a fully stocked re­frig­er­a­tor and pantry. The credit union also gave Tracy Jack­son, who is in a wheel­chair be­cause of mul­ti­ple sclero­sis, a shop­ping spree and a com­puter to Skype with her daugh­ter at col­lege.

Cap­i­tal Area Dental Foun­da­tion den­tists will be­gin work­ing on fam­i­lies who need dental care, and Eclec­tic Eye­wear has of­fered eye ex­ams and glasses to three of the fam­i­lies.

Austin As­set Man­age­ment gave the Al Zuwaydee fam­ily, who em­i­grated this year from Iraq, their first Amer­i­can Christ­mas meal and presents. Ev­er­green Farms gave all the fam­i­lies live Christ­mas trees, and spon­sor­ship from Whataburger helped dec­o­rate the trees dur­ing the Day of Giv­ing.

An anony­mous donor took care of ev­ery­thing left on Malinda Fisher and her 1-year-old son’s list. Cir­rus Logic gave Pa­trick Wil­son, a mu­si­cian with em­phy­sema, the banjo he had al­ways wanted, a new com­puter and more gifts.

Fam­i­lies will soon sleep on new mat­tresses thanks to Fac­tory Mat­tress Sales, and in Kyle, Ethel Wright is driv­ing her four grand­chil­dren around in a gen­tly used mini­van given by a fel­low grand­mother rais­ing her grand­son.

To­day, the Rosas fam­ily with five chil­dren ages 12 and younger is open­ing up presents from Forestar Group, a real es­tate and nat­u­ral re­sources com­pany that adopted them.

Many of the fam­i­lies still have needs. To find out how you can help, call 445-3590 or email com­mu­nity@states­man.com. A mon­e­tary do­na­tion also can spread the Christ­mas joy through­out the year to the hun­dreds of fam­i­lies helped by Sea­son for Car­ing funds.

“It is such a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence for us,” Chro­nis­ter said. “We want to call you all next year and see if we can do it for an­other fam­ily.”

Anali­cia Rodriguez and daugh­ters Aleina, 2 (left), and Anas­tashia, 3, were adopted by Star Fur­ni­ture dur­ing this year’s Austin Amer­i­can-States­man Sea­son for Car­ing cam­paign. The Ro­driguezes, who are liv­ing at the Austin Chil­dren’s Shel­ter, re­ceived gifts

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