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Strangers rally to help family after Christmas Eve fire

“I think it’s more than a Christmas gift. It’s a blessing. We didn’t expect it.”

HOUSTON — Everything burned.

Ruperta Leal and her husband saved money for 12 years to purchase their house.

Their cars, clothes, furniture and even piles of new Christmas gifts hidden for their seven grandchildren to open at midnight were stashed at the home.

They were all destroyed when the fire engulfed their home.

“In a moment like this you don’t know what to do,” Leal’s daughter, Mariana Grifaldo, said. “You don’t know what the next step is.”

When they asked for help, things in paper and plastic bags piled up in their detached garage.

“I think it’s more than a Christmas gift,” Leal said. “It’s a blessing. We didn’t expect it. We didn’t expect none of this.”

Strangers sent towels, socks, and money for food.

“(They would) just reverse in, start unloading, here for whatever you may need and walk out, not even expecting a thank you,” Grifaldo said.

One man brought new Nike shoes, but since all eight people who live at the house ran out without shoes or jackets, even used clothes never felt better.

“You don’t care what size,” Grifaldo said. “You don’t care what brand. You don’t care how long it’s going to last you. You have something for the next day.”

“I don’t care if it’s even old or used,” Leal said. “If it can cover my back I’m happy.”

Their Christmas will not be the same. The family, though, insists it will be a blessing.

“I actually feel like a weight lifted off (our) shoulder,” Grifaldo said. “Houston came together.”

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