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Family scores free furniture
JEN 5631
Dave Riley shows off a desk he selected at Ashley Furniture in Cumming. Because there are drawers on both sides, two of his children can study there at the same time. The Rileys recently won $10,000 in free furniture from Ashley as part of a statewide contest. - photo by Jennifer Sami

When Brenda and Dave Riley were married 22 years ago, everything they owned fit in the back of their car.

Brenda Riley's favorite piece of furniture was a desk she bought for $14 at Goodwill.

That desk may be the hardest thing to part with as the couple makes room for their new furniture, courtesy of Ashley Furniture.

As winners of the Cumming store's grand opening contest, the Rileys got to scour the store in search of $10,000 worth of free furniture.

"We were laying in bed watching television and I could hear the conversation over the phone," Brenda Riley said. "I started laughing because it was like no way, we never win anything."

Her husband was "in total shock" after receiving the phone call last week from Scott Omainsky, store sales manager.

"The first thing I was thinking was, 'Yeah right, what's the gimmick?'" Dave Riley said. "But there was none."

Omainsky said it took some doing to convince the Rileys they had actually won the contest, which was open to customers at four other Ashley locations in Georgia.

The Rileys' name was drawn from about 5,000 entries.

"We were ecstatic," Omainsky said. "We were the store that opened up and we're the ones that had the grand opening. We want to get as much exposure as we can and it just worked out that way. It seems like it was meant to be.

"I think they'll be Ashley customers for life, and I think they'll also spread the word for us a little bit too."

It wasn't until seeing Ashley Furniture on their favorite television show, "Clean House," that the Rileys visited the store on opening weekend in the spring.

But with two children in college and a third about two years away, actually making a purchase wasn't in the cards.

"We made the list of what we wanted to get, but we have two kids in college and that's our No. 1 priority is getting them through," Dave Riley said. "Everything else is on the back burner."

In addition to paying for college, last year was difficult for the Riley household.

First, the water heater broke. When the family had someone come and replace it, they learned the wiring wasn't hooked up properly, and had to pay an additional cost to have everything rewired.

"Three months later, the air conditioning went," Brenda Riley said. "Then the dish washer blew up all over the kitchen.

"It was the year of what's next"

With the $10,000, the Rileys were able to furnish an office, bedroom and living room, though Brenda Riley said "our bedroom seems to end up being the family room, whether we like it or not."

Most of the couple's furniture was about 20 years old.

"When we first got married, we had nothing," Dave Riley said. "We started getting hand-me-downs shortly before the kids were born."

Though furniture is capable of lasting much longer, moving nine times during Dave's 15-year Air Force service took its toll.

"Brenda's dresser sags in the middle and mine actually comes apart at the base," he said.

Added his wife: "When you're in the military, you don't let yourself get attached to furniture."

Dave Riley's service ended in 1998 and he has since served as an information technology project manager. Brenda

Riley has been a stay-at-home mom for her three children, Cathryn, 20, Kevin, 18, and Kimberly, 16.

With the help of their children, the couple was quickly able to choose their furniture.

Though Brenda Riley has eclectic taste, her husband has more of a simple style. After living with such old furniture, though, Dave Riley said, "It's Brenda's time."

"I wouldn't have walked in and said, 'Oh my gosh, I have to have that armoire.' I love it now," he said. "What we picked up here was a good merging of what we both wanted."

Kimberly Riley was just happy to have new furniture.

"I just think it's cool that we actually won something," she said.