Good Will to Men

A Tale of Christmas Furniture

Thanks to Mattress Mack, one family is closer to rebuilding after Harvey.

By Abby Ledoux December 28, 2017

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Local artist Laurie Mills has rendered Mattress Mack a saint, a designation most in the city are ready and willing to observe thanks to the furniture entrepreneur's charitable endeavors, particularly during and after Hurricane Harvey.

Image: Laurie Mills

Christmas may be over, but that’s no reason the holiday cheer should end. Consider this news an extra dose of goodwill heading into the new year: A Dickinson family who lost everything in Harvey is one step closer to rebuilding.

The Vasconi family was one of several granted new furniture, gratis, courtesy of Houston’s own patron saint Mattress Mack.

Mack, otherwise known as Jim McIngvale, has been nationally lauded for his philanthropic efforts, particularly during Hurricane Harvey when he opened his furniture stores as shelters to house hundreds of displaced Houstonians.

When the Astros won the World Series, Mack made good on a $10 million bet, refunding more than 3,000 Gallery Furniture customers who bought mattresses during the store’s promotion that promised “if the Houston Astros win it all, you get it all.”

Most recently, Gallery Furniture hosted its Christmas giveaway, where Mack and his team distributed dozens of submission letters to local judges—this writer included—who were instructed earlier this month to choose a handful of nominees hit hardest by Harvey.

Those included Jason and Elizabeth Vasconi, who live in Dickinson with their two children, ages 13 and 8, and four pets. Their home also serves as the base for Jason’s business, Transform My Dog, an obedience school for bully breeds and animals with social challenges.

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Jason and Elizabeth Vasconi shop for their home, flooded by Hurricane Harvey, at Gallery Furniture earlier this month. The Dickinson couple was chosen as a beneficiary for this year's Christmas Giveaway, another philanthropic venture of Mattress Mack.

When Harvey hit, the Vasconis had a full house–not only their own children and pets, but eight additional dogs, essentially refugees: Three were boarded while their owners were out of the country, and five were evacuated from a shelter.

When Elizabeth checked the storm drains outside her home before going to bed on Saturday, August 26, she found floodwater had already reached their doorstep. By the time help arrived, the property was underwater; the family of four, their cat and 12 dogs were loaded into three vehicles, which some animals had to swim to reach.

All survived, but the family home fared far worse: This marked the first flood for the 66-year-old house, which took in two feet of water that destroyed furniture, appliances, cabinetry, flooring, and more. All required replacement, and the Vasconis lacked flood insurance and faced an uncertain financial future as their income source depended on the use of their home.

A board member of Bay Area Pet Adoptions, the only no-kill shelter in Galveston County, nominated the Vasconis for the furniture giveaway and detailed the above information.

“Jason and Elizabeth are incredible people,” the letter read, adding that Jason regularly offers free training and socialization lessons for the shelter pets and volunteers. “The Vasconis faced an incredible challenge … and now they need help rebuilding their home and lives. I hope you will help them.”

Three weeks later, the Vasconis perused Mack’s massive emporium off North Freeway, picking out new fixtures for the dining room, living room, and home office, like a sitting chair with whimsical owl upholstery and a sleeper sofa for overnight guests of the business.

“It was amazing. It was shocking, really,” Elizabeth said of the Gallery Furniture giveaway.

Donations poured in from other sources, too, which has significantly helped the rebuilding process the couple classified as “a hurdle.”

“It’s awesome,” Jason said of others’ charity from the Gallery showroom earlier this month. “Once we load this truck, we’re looking really good.”

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