By Leslie Kelly
SILVERDALE — Sometimes Santa doesn’t come on Christmas. And sometimes he doesn’t wear red.
Just ask Central Kitsap teenager Ashley Nesper, who was surprised on New Year’s Day by a group of employees from Ashley Furniture HomeStore. Dressed in winter coats, they arrived at her door with gifts in hand and on a truck.
It’s all a part of the company’s Hope to Dream program. Participating stores donate $5 from every mattress sold and use that money to provide beds to those in need. There is a formal application process and a committee that reads through the applications and selects the individuals who will receive beds for free.
In the most recent donation, the Ashley Furniture HomeStore in Silverdale learned of the young girl who didn’t have a bed.
“She and her father had just moved to this area from North Carolina,” said Albert Thompkins, sales manager at the store. “They moved for her father’s job and right after they got settled, the young girl broke her leg. When her dad (Michael Nesper) had to take off work to care for her, he was laid off.”
Her father had planned to furnish the house after they arrived and saved some money, but when that didn’t happen, an acquaintance of their’s applied to the Hope to Dream program at the Silverdale store.
“What caught our eye was that the application said the girl said “All I want for Christmas is a bed,’ ” Thompkins said. “It just pulled at our heartstrings. Kids should be thinking about getting toys at Christmas, not beds.”
So the store employees got busy creating a beautiful new bedroom for the 14-year-old girl, who was sleeping in a recliner chair, trying to get comfortable with her leg in a cast.
The store employees had the bed and mattress from the store and then began a donation campaign among themselves to buy other items. In the end, they had sheets, a green comforter, an alarm clock, bedside table lamps and decorations for the bedroom walls. They also added gift cards for the family.
“These were more the wants, not the needs,” Thompkins said. “But still. they were all the things a little girl would like for her bedroom.”
Thompkins, and co-workers Becca Lujan and Keola Choy chose New Year’s Day for the delivery because not all the items were available before Christmas. It all came as a big surprise.
“It was just an amazing day,” Lujan said. “[Ashley] was very surprised and she loved everything.”
Lujan also learned that Michael Nesper had told his daughter Ashley that Santa just couldn’t make it to their house this year. So that made the late gifts even more special.
And, even though it wasn’t planned, the items were green and pink — which just happened to be Ashley’s favorite colors.
“She just lit up,” Thompkins said. “It was something to see. That’s why we do this, because every child deserves to have their own bed and get a good night’s sleep.”
The Hope to Dream program has been in place at the store since 2010. The goal is to provide a mattress to a selected applicant once each quarter. Applications are available at the store at 9577 Ridgetop Blvd. NW.
“We’d like to do it more often and we’re working on ways to expand this program,” Lujan said.