When Dennis Childers shipped out for Iraq in 2009, little did he know a fire on the home front would occupy his waking moments in a war zone.
The Army sergeant had just left Kuwait for his forward operating base in Iraq when the message came: an electrical fire at his Fort Lewis home had destroyed the home and all his family’s possessions. Fortunately, his wife and five children had been away when it happened. And a courageous neighbor had broken down the door and rescued the family’s two dogs and a cat.
Still, the family lost everything, and Childers was far from home, on a military mission too important for him to leave.
So the family did the best they could, and when Childers came back a month-and-a-half later for two weeks of leave, they cobbled a household together, with rental furniture and generous assistance from his fellow soldiers.
“They were right there for my wife and kids,” said Childers, of his comrades and base organizations.
But the family, which consists of Childers, wife Kandee and children ages 5 through 13, had to make do without much, and with rental furniture that sometimes broke.
This year, they got the Christmas gift of a lifetime, from a Tukwila furniture store who had heard their story.
Earlier this month, Ashley Furniture HomeStore presented the family with a $5,000 shopping spree at their store, on any pieces of furniture in the store.
The spree, which the couple accepted in gratified amazement, is part of the store chain’s Veterans Day Giveaway. This gesture to U.S. veterans by the store chain takes place in each of the company’s five markets, meaning five veterans and their families were awarded with the shopping sprees.
“We had seen a lot of stories, but theirs was the most compelling,” said Frank Sublett, store manager, who reviewed the stories that veterans had sent in, to compete for the shopping spree.
Shawn Seals, vice president of stores for Hill Country Holdings, noted of the program, “We are proud to honor our local military personnel and families for their service and contributions to our country. Many military families have experienced deployment hardships and have heart-felt stories to share. We at Ashley Furniture HomeStores and Hill Country Holdings are fortunate to be able to award generous shopping sprees to these deserving local military families who want to furnish their homes with new memories.”
Childers said his first reaction, upon getting the phone call telling him that he had won, was amazement.
“He called me and I was like, ‘What?'” Childers recalled. “I didn’t believe it. That was about it. This is fantastic.”
On Dec. 5, the excited couple arrived at the Tukwila Ashley Furniture HomeStore, and took possession of their prize – the shopping spree of a lifetime.
After a check presentation and congratulations by store management, the couple got down to business. With store employees, they went on a grand tour of the store, and carefully made their choices.
Candy Childers, reached at home Dec. 13, said they’d finally decided on a couch, an arm chair, beds for the kids, a kitchen table and chairs.
She was especially excited about the kitchen table. It has a marble top, she noted, which should make it able to stand up to the inevitable pencils-on-paper activities that kids do at dinner tables.
Childers said they are expecting to see delivery of their furniture Dec. 23. Dennis will take the unsuspecting kids out before the delivery people arrive. Then, when the children return home, they’ll get the excitement of seeing their new beds.
For Candy, too, it’s going to be pretty exciting – more like a combined birthday-Christmas present.
“I can’t wait!” she said. “My birthday is the 22nd.”
Ashley Furniture HomeStore is located at 17601 Southcenter Parkway, Tukwila. Call 206-574-3600 for more information.
The store has a furnishings for the living room, bedroom, dining room and home office, including motion/reclining upholstery, leather furniture and entertainment centers, as well as youth bedrooms, curios, area rugs, lamps and hundreds of accents. Also, new for the Tukwila showroom is an extensive electronics department, with a wide range of televisions and home-theatre options.