Strangers are donating furniture and food and a local business gave Debra Purnell almost $1,000
9:11 PM, Jan 18, 2013
11:22 PM, Jan 18, 2013
NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. - Ron Boudreau and Debra Purnell met for the first time Friday night.
Boudreau came out to a chili cook-off benefit for Purnell, who lost everything in a fire two weeks ago. Five of her six cats, whom she referred to as 'her babies,' perished in the fire.
Earlier this week, Boudreau donated a house full of furniture to Purnell.
"Put yourself in her shoes. What would you do?" said Boudreau, who learned of the fire through a friend.
Boudreau is among hundreds of people, many of whom are strangers, who have come forward to help the 51-year-old.
"I am overwhelmed," said Purnell. "All I can say is thank you."
Down on her luck and facing financial uncertainty, Purnell turned to ABC Action News for help. Within hours of her story airing, helping hands began appearing.
"The office phone couldn't handle the calls," explained Linda, a resident of Riverbend Mobile Home Village, who arranged for Friday's benefit. Linda also received close to 100 calls on her personal cell phone from people offering assistance.
In the past week, donations have piled up. There are boxes full of bedding, clothing, food and even cat supplies for Purnell's only surviving cat Taboo.
People have also donated televisions. The devastating fire broke out when Purnell went to her mobile home park's clubhouse to watch television because she couldn't afford a television of her own.
Purnell lived in her mobile home for 13 years and recently paid off the mortgage. Unfortunately, she never had enough extra money to put toward insurance.
When a local business -- they asked not to be identified -- heard of her financial struggles, they dropped off a check written out for $750. Strangers off the street have also come up to Purnell and handed her envelopes. Purnell cannot believe the generosity, but has decided not to open the envelopes until she gets a little more settled.
"I just can't wait to be in my new home with Taboo," Purnell explained.
Purnell is temporarily staying in a mobile home in the same park where her home burned. Friday night, her friends let her in on the first part of a big surprise, they are gifting her a new home in the park.
To make sure Purnell doesn't peek, they won't reveal the location.
"It really warms your heart to see seniors in orthopedic shoes painting," Linda said.
Purnell's friends allowed ABC Action News inside and are letting us reveal that everything in the home, right down to the drapes, was donated. Open up the cabinets and you will see they are stocked with food.
The big reveal is planned for Monday.
Her friends say their next goal is make sure the mortgage is paid off and all Purnell has to worry about is the lot fee.