RIVERVIEW (FOX 13) - When a Riverview family who was new to the area fell on hard times, their struggle didn't go unnoticed. So, the community rallied around their new neighbors in need.
In May, a disabled veteran moved his wife, Jeannie, their four kids and two dogs to Riverview from Alabama. He asked us not to use his name for privacy reasons.
A back injury he'd suffered while serving kept him out of work for years. A move to Florida to accept a new job would mean a fresh start for his family— or, so he'd hoped.
Along the way, their housing plans fell through. They spent months living out of hotels. With money running out, the We Care for Paws Foundation in Brooksville offered to take their dogs until they had a home.
"They're military. They're part of our extended family. It's a no-brainer for us," said founder Carol Allard.
Local realtors from RE/MAX and Keller Williams got wind of the family's plight and made it their mission to help.
"I couldn't turn them down. We owe it to them for all they've done for us," said Melissa Parry of Keller Williams.
Things were looking up. They had a house, but not much more. All of their things were still stored in Alabama and through all of their struggles and moves, they'd not been able to make the trip back.
"We were sleeping on the floor and we had one air mattress," said Jeannie. "Everyone else was on a big ol' palette. The kids said we'd rather be on a palette on our floor than still in a hotel."
In the meantime, Jeannie posted on the Facebook group, "Riverview Area Word of Mouth" asking to borrow a lawn mower, and nothing more, to keep the HOA happy. Theresa Turner offered hers.
"She's like, 'all our stuff is in storage, thank you so much, I appreciate it'," Turner said. "So, I said, 'what do you need?' She said, 'Oh, anything'."
A few calls and a Facebook post later, offers to help began pouring in.
"The community from as far south as Wimauma and far north as Valrico had beds, furniture, household goods, clothing, local boutiques offered for them to come in and go shopping," Turner said.
In 24 hours, what was once just a house was now a home. The whole family had beds. Their kitchen was full. The kids even had a computer so they could attend virtual school.
"The kids, they even say mama, we can see our blessings," Jeannie said. "We always tell them, as long as you do right and you live your life right and keep your faith, you will be blessed."
It took a village to get a family on its feet. But, there was one thing missing. Or, should I say, two. Monday, the family dogs "Cash" and "Diamond" were brought home for good.
"To finally have peace and be able to call somewhere home," Jeannie said, "Words can't explain it. Words can't explain everything these people have done for us and how grateful we are."
This isn't the end. Riverview Our Town, Inc., the non-profit that gathered donations for the family is looking for more local families that could use some extra community support.
This family is also committed to paying it forward. As soon as they can get back to Alabama to collect their belongings, they'll be donating them to the Hillsborough County Veterans Council.