When the Walker Furniture truck pulled up in front of her house Dec. 19, North Las Vegas resident Jauntille Preston was both shocked and grateful.
"This is such a wonderful blessing! I don't know what to say, except thank God and thank Walker Furniture," said an emotional Preston, as Walker Furniture delivery men began unloading a houseful of brand-new furniture for the family.
As living room, bedroom and dining room furniture and accessories were set in place, the bare Preston home was transformed into a comfortable living environment the family will enjoy this holiday season and for many years to come.
"This will be a very merry Christmas for us - now we finally have a house and furniture," said Preston, adding that the family has been sleeping on the floor since moving into their house in early November.
The Preston family was the third of 28 recipients of a houseful of furniture in Walker Furniture's 19th Home for the Holidays program.
Walker Furniture representatives said the community's response to this year's program was larger than ever, with thousands of letters received from friends of families in need in Clark County.
The letter on behalf of the Preston family was written by Peggy Selma, principal of the 100 Academy of Excellence, a public charter school in North Las Vegas. In her letter, Selma described Preston as a hard-working single mother of six children.
"She has a part-time job and is struggling to make ends meet," Selma wrote. "All the children are enrolled at the 100 Academy of Excellence, with the exception of the baby. They are smart children who have to go home each night and sleep on the floor. In spite of this home, void of furniture, they are model students and do their homework every day. It would be a blessing if you could provide these children with furniture for their home this Christmas."
Home for the Holidays is the largest annual charitable endeavor for Walker Furniture, which has a long history of contributing to worthwhile community causes.
The program began in 1994 with deliveries to 12 families and, since then, has expanded each year, bringing joy and hope to hundreds of Clark County families that have endured a variety of hardships.
Past recipients have included single-parent households facing financial difficulty; families with children suffering from physical or mental disorders; families that have lost their homes and belongings to fires; and families that have been affected by illness, domestic violence or sexual abuse.
Many of the letters submitted to Walker Furniture were written by teachers and area students on behalf of other students' families. Others came from health care professionals, police and fire personnel, social service workers, neighbors, children and grandchildren.
The letters were reviewed by outside, independent panels, including representatives of HELP of Southern Nevada, a local nonprofit group that reads and verifies the letters received each year.
"Today, more than ever, it is important than we remember those in need in our community," said Larry Alterwitz, Walker Furniture president and CEO. "Walker Furniture supports many worthwhile causes throughout the year, but Home for the Holidays is particularly gratifying to us. Along with the assistance of every member of our staff, there is always a high level of involvement among other caring organizations and people, including the committees who help us read and evaluate each of the letters, and all of the citizens who take time to write their letters of recommendation. We were excited to expand the program to include 28 families this year and we hope our effort will inspire others to lend help where it is needed.
"Home for the Holidays is also a way for the entire Walker Furniture family to extend our best wishes for the holiday season to everyone in Southern Nevada," Alterwitz said. "There are so many deserving families. We only wish we could help all of them."