Linda Paksec and her daughter Danielle were surprised last week by friend Lori Capozzi bringing some Christmas cheer and presents from the community. (Submitted)

Christmas came early for Penticton mother and daughter who lost their home to fire

This will be the Paksecs first holiday without the family’s patriarch

Penticton resident Lori Capozzi is determined to make it the best Christmas possible for Linda Paksec and her daughter Danielle who lost their family home and all their belongings in a house fire earlier this year.

Too add salt to their open wounds, Linda’s husband passed away from health issues unrelated to the fire six weeks after their home was destroyed.

“I wanted to provide her with a Christmas she has never had. And show her that people care and love her,” said Capozzi, who befriended Linda shortly after the fire. The two have since become close friends.

Capozzi recently took to Penticton’s locals helping locals Facebook page asking for donations of Christmas presents for Linda and her daughter who has special needs — and the community responded in a big way, donating everything on her wish list and more.

“Thank you to the lovely community of Penticton I was able to make this happen for this very special family that has been through so very much trauma in the past year, losing their home to the fire with no insurance and the loss off their father and husband six weeks after the fire.”

Lori is overwhelmed with the huge response she got from Pentictonites wanting to help.

“I cried a few times. There was so much love. I had posted a few times as I had a wish list that I created. And slowly and steadily donations came in to the point that I had everything and more on my list and people were still coming forward with gift cards,” she said.

Lori Capozzi knocks on Linda Paksec’s door to surprise her and her daughter with Christmas gifts donated from the community. (Submitted)

One of the big items on the wish list was an old style Nintendo system with games. Once again the community came through with that too, said Capozzi.

The console and games will be a present for Linda’s daughter from Santa. So that one is still a surprise, she said.

Last week, dressed in her best elf suit, Lori and another helper Rochelle Diaz delivered handfuls of Christmas presents to the very surprised mother and daughter.

“Linda cried and kept saying ‘no, no, no.’ Linda’s daughter kept saying thank you.”

It was March 28 when the Paksec’s Duncan Ave. home caught fire in the middle of the day. Smoke billowed out from the basement windows with the Paksec family trapped inside.

Two bystanders bravely jumped into the fire and smoke, rescuing the family. By that time, Linda’s daughter had inhaled a lot of smoke. Firefighters and paramedics had to revive her several times at the scene. Luckily, she is doing fine now, said Capozzi.

The fire left the family desperate for housing. Linda’s daughter had to live in supportive housing while Linda rented a hotel room and worked graveyard shifts at McDonald’s to pay the rent.

That’s where Capozzi, a 50-year-old self-described ‘good Samaritan,’ and Rochelle Diaz, a 22-year-old Okanagan College student came together as strangers determined to help the Paksecs.

READ MORE: Strangers unite to help fire victims

Capozzi helped Linda find a new apartment and set up a GoFundMe page to help out.

Paksec and her family had no fire insurance and Linda had nothing to do with paying bills. The house was inherited by Paksec’s husband through his parents, and is in his name, further complicating the situation. Finding a way through the legalities of that continues to be a challenge for Linda and one she still needs help with, said Capozzi.

The home is boarded up and inhabitable.

With help from Capozzi, the mother and daughter are settled into their apartment they now call home.

“Linda is a very private person but she would want to thank everyone for their kindness,” said Capozzi.

And thanks to the generosity and care of this community, this Christmas will be the best it can be for the Paksecs, she said.

Linda Paksec (far left) and her daughter Danielle (middle) share a laugh after being surprised with Christmas gifts galore from the community delivered by friends Lori Capozzi (jean jacket) and Rochelle Diaz (holding dog). (Submitted)

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