Donors open hearts so families can open gifts
Analicia Rodriguez’s family one of hundreds helped by campaign.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.”