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Community Rushes To Help Family Whose House Burned Down

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Posted: Friday, December 27, 2019 1:15 pm

In the early hours of Thursday morning, Dec. 19, the O’Keefe family home in Imperial Beach burned down. While the family rushed to get out of the house with their pets, they lost everything they owned. The local community, in particular the VFW Post 5477 members, have rushed to help.

The homeowners whose house burned down are Mike and Jules O’Keefe. They have three children ages, 27, 17 and 15 and are now temporarily living in a condo owned by a Navy SEAL who lives in Virginia. Jules O’Keefe is an auxiliary member of the VFW in Imperial Beach and for the past year and a half has volunteered as a bartender four to five days a week. Her husband Mike is a bartender at Mexican Village in Coronado and despite the great loss to the family, he showed up for work on Friday.

Jules Okeefe’s friend Kathi Mullee heard about the fire a few hours after the fact, around 6:30 a.m. She and another friend picked up Jules and took her back to the house to find the three bunnies the family owns. Two of the three were found alive.

“By 8 a.m. I sent texts to everyone and 20 people showed up,” recalled Mullee who is Mike Mullee’s wife, the VFW post commander. The 20 people that went to the VFW that morning were ready to help. Each volunteer took on a different task each working on things like housing and insurance. “Everybody took a piece of it… it’s amazing how people showed up,” she said.

VFW members and the community have donated bags of clothes for the family as well as money so the O’Keefes can continue to pay for the mortgage and the rent of the temporary lodging. “We hope to get enough money to pay most of their rent cost; the insurance will rebuild the house,” said Mullee.

On Saturday afternoon the VFW post was buzzing with activity, and volunteers were sorting donated clothing and other items. Mullee said that by Saturday, $3,000 in cash donations had been collected for the family and the GoFundMe created had reached $6,100. On that day the VFW was also holding a gift drive for the family and people were dropping off wrapped and unwrapped gifts for the kids since the presents under the tree burned down.

Extra clothing and left over items will be donated to the Disabled American Veterans.

Mullee and the other volunteers are currently looking for permanent housing for the family until the house is rebuilt. The least expensive rent they were able to find costs $1,800 plus the O’Keefes have to continue to pay their $2,000 mortgage.

The community has donated an abundance of food and clothing and Mullee said the family needs more household items like dishes, cups, silverware and bedding. Someone already bought the family a Christmas tree and decorated it for them at their temporary place.

“We hope to get them in the week after Christmas into permanent housing,” said Mullee.

The family will also need furniture for their home. Mullee said that as the community starts donating furniture, a POD will be placed in the VFW parking lot to store everything until it can be moved into the Okeefe’s permanent home.

“We’re really blessed. It’s a tight community everyone knows each other. Jules is truly the heart and soul of this place. She is the nicest person you’ll ever meet,” said Mullee.

The Okeefes have been overwhelmed by the community’s support.

Mullee shared a text message written by Kiley O’Keefe, one of the daughters, which reads: “I would like to tell everyone that has helped us out in any way shape or form that I’m so thankful for them and that it honestly means so much. Without all the love and support that we have received, I don’t know where we would be right now. So thank you for helping me and my family get back on our feet and for showing us that we still have all of each other at the end of the day.”

Anyone interested in donating funds or helping out can check out www.gofundme.com/f/okeefe-family or call VFW Post 619-424-6666.

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