CUERO - Two weeks before Christmas, Lisa Aries got the gift of coming home.
"I'm in awe," said Aries, 53, seconds after entering her home to find about $10,000 of gifted furniture inside.
Months after Hurricane Harvey flooded her Cuero home, Aries, a single mother, returned Wednesday - this time for good. With the help of Golden Crescent Habitat for Humanity and Ashley Furniture HomeStore, Aries' home was not only repaired and repainted but also refurnished.
"It's Christmastime," said Paige Streiff, owner of Ashley Furniture HomeStore. "And how can we help her? Well, we're giving her a house full of furniture as a surprise."
Walking from room to room with tears welling and both hands covering her mouth in surprise, Aries was obviously overcome.
In the living room, Aries found waiting for her a two-toned microfiber sectional couch and ottoman opposite a rustic-style, solid-wood TV stand.
Aries' 18-year-old daughter, Jenni Rodriguez, a Cuero High School senior, received special consideration from Ashley HomeStore employees and Habitat volunteers. They painted her bedroom walls from a spare white to delicate rose and tailored the room's decor to her personality.
A new twin bed, brightly colored comforter and hardwood vanity with a mirror made the room a place of escape for the teenager.
"You can cut the tag off now that you're the owner," said Kathy Stimson, Streiff's mother.
Taking in the new room, Rodriguez said she was looking forward to moving in and organizing her makeup and wardrobe.
"It's really beautiful," Rodriguez said. "I honestly don't have any words."
Although Streiff said her employees made a point to preserve Aries' belongings and in some cases chose matching decor, she admitted the family had little to begin with.
"When we delivered the furniture, there was nothing in there," Streiff said.
While the home sustained little damage from Hurricane Harvey's winds, more than a foot of floodwater and then mold inundated the interior. Many of Aries' waterlogged possessions were thrown away to prevent mold growth, she said.
Before Ashley HomeStore's donations, Aries' furniture included a dresser; a recliner, which she was prepared to sleep on; and a few other minor items, she said.
With the home unlivable for months, Aries and her daughter were confined to hotels and motels even as the mother juggled two jobs, car payments, home repairs and other costs. That experience was worrying, to say the least, she said.
"I was losing a lot of sleep - a lot of sleep," Aries said.
Since Harvey's arrival in the Crossroads, Habitat for Humanity, through a partnership with Ashley Furniture HomeStore, have coordinated the donation of mattresses, building supplies and other home essentials, Streiff said.
Katy Walterscheidt, marketing coordinator for Golden Crescent Habitat for Humanity, said her organization gave special consideration in picking Aries to receive the furniture donation.
Walterscheidt said she was especially impressed by Aries' self-reliance and selflessness.
"I specifically remember talking to her after the storm. She was like, 'Nobody wants to help me,'" Walterscheidt said. "And I just wanted to tell her, 'You wait and see.'"