Syrian family moves into new apartment filled by Star Furniture


The American dream is happening for Sami Khalil Ashour and his family. On Wednesday, they walked into a new Foundation Communities three-bedroom apartment filled with furniture and gifts for each family member from Star Furniture.

The family came to the United States a year and a half ago after living in a refugee camp in Jordan. They fled the Syrian Civil War after their once peaceful suburb of Damascus was devastated.

In Austin, the Ashour kids — Hadi, 13, Fadi, 11, and Hala, 8 — have been able to attend school again. Daughter Jana, 3, who was born in Jordan with a bump at the base of her spine, was able to have two operations to correct it. One-year-old Halil was born in Austin.

Both Ashour, 48, and his wife, Ahlam Fouad Al Battal, 38, are learning English. Ashour now works at Barton Creek Resort delivering towels to guests.

The Ashour family is being helped by Interfaith Action of Central Texas, which nominated them to the Statesman Season for Caring program. Each year the program tells the story of 12 featured families and helps hundreds of others throughout the year through local nonprofit organizations like IACT.

This was the sixth year Star Furniture has selected one Season for Caring family to fill their home with new furniture. The company handles the furniture donation and the employees select items off of the family’s wish list.

John Chronister, general manager of Star Furniture store in Austin, said his employees are inspired by what the company is doing for the family. They want to participate as well.

“Everyone gets really excited about it,” he said. His employees like to come into his office to show him what they’ve bought for the family.

“It’s a great way to show gratitude,” Chronister said. “None of us are wealthy by any means, but it’s nice to be able to share.”

“Alhamdulillah,” said Al Battal, which means “The thanks go to God” in Arabic. “It’s like God is compensating for our old losses,” she says through a translator. They have new furniture, she says, “instead of things that got burned down in the war.”

“We’ve met some nice people,” she said. “Our circumstances have changed.” They donated their old cobbled-together furniture to fellow refugees they know. Volunteers helped move stuff the family was taking with them to the new apartment.

As she surveyed the new furniture, Al Battal said in English, “It’s very nice, very, very nice.”

Star Furniture supplied a matching sectional and recliner, as well as end tables, a coffee table and a hutch for the living room. Each of the kids’ bedrooms got a dresser. They already had beds delivered from Factory Mattress. The parents’ master bedroom has a new bedroom set with two side tables and a dresser with a mirror.

Al Battal had never had a mirror in her bedroom before, and she especially loved the underbed storage drawers in the bedroom set. Her son, Hadi, was impressed by the charging stations built into the headboard.

“Thank you,” Ashour said when he surveyed the new furniture. “I wasn’t dreaming of this. I’m very happy.”

“It’s new?” son Fadi asked. Yes, it’s all new, we told him. “It’s nice.”

Hadi joked that his father said Hadi could have the master bedroom furniture. Hadi and Fadi’s new bunk bed was on the way from another donor.

The family also received a custom-made dining room table and chairs from Wendy Conklin of Chair Whimsy the next day. The wood table features hand-painted flowers on the legs, and the wood chairs have matching flowers on the cushions. Conklin also refinished a bench for even more seating.

Hala had been busy organizing all the gifts from Star Furniture by recipient. Some of the older kids distributed them to their parents and younger siblings when it was time to open the gifts, which included remote-controlled cars for the boys, coloring books and baby dolls for the girls, and light-up toys for Halil. This year employees even donated a new TV and tablets for the kids, as well as gift cards to H-E-B.

“Thank you Star Furniture Company,” Hadi said in English, after all the unwrapping was through. “It’s very nice.”

The family has very little left on their wish list: a vacuum, driver’s education for Al Battal, a printer and gas cards.

To find out more about the Ashour family or give an item on their wish list, contact Interfaith Action of Central Texas, 512-386-9145, Ext. 7, interfaithtexas.org.



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