The three-bedroom apartment went from empty to furnished in 90 minutes, thanks to Gallery Furniture, Bethel’s Heavenly Hands, Harris County Youth Services, Westbury High School, and HISD’s Homeless Education Office. Melissa Smith and her seven children had been evicted from their apartment, and with no place to go, were sleeping outside recently on a cold, rainy night. A compassionate neighbor, Virginia Robinson, took them in, fed them, and gave them a place to sleep. “It hurt my heart to think of them out there in the cold,” said Robinson. “I had to do something.”
With the financial assistance of HISD community partner Bethel’s Heavenly Hands, Smith and her children were able to move into an apartment of their own. Carl Green, HISD Homeless Education Office outreach worker, followed up by going to Westbury HS, where two of the daughters attend school, and providing uniforms, backpacks, shoes, and METRO passes for the children. Despite all the upheaval, the kids never missed school.
But the apartment was still empty, and the family was sleeping on the floor. That’s when daughter Lalani saw Gallery Furniture’s ad about their Christmas Giveaway and suggested that Westbury social worker Elba Ruibal write them a letter requesting assistance. “We get thousands of letters every year,” said Gallery Furniture Special Events Coordinator Georgia Ann Spears, “but this one got our attention.” This is the store’s 30th Annual Christmas Giveaway, so 30 Houston-area families received furniture for the holidays.
An army of helpers assembled in a nearby parking lot before caravanning to the Smith’s apartment and surprising them. Half a dozen Westbury teachers and five representatives from HISD’s Homeless Education Office were joined by Gallery Furniture employees in making the presentation. Harris County Youth Service Specialist Donald Rogers brought food and toys as well.
“I have never had a bed of my own,” said Smith tearfully, when she saw her queen-size sleigh bed and mattress. The apartment was also furnished with additional beds, bureaus, sofas, dining table and chairs, rug, and a lamp.