A family who lost everything in a house fire is receiving a little bit of an early Christmas.
A fundraiser was held at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5477 at Imperial Beach for the O’Keefe family. The mother of the family, Jules O’Keefe, is not a veteran, nor is anyone in her immediate family, however she volunteers her time there. She has been volunteer bartending and cooking there for over a year.
The reason she started volunteering with that VFW Post, is because she needed some support. Just over a year ago she lost her left eye.
“I had an infection that took all the layers of my cornea,” explained Jules.
She had been in school to get her degree in business but with eight months to go, she had to stop for eye treatment. She had been a career bartender for 36 years but was then too embarrassed to be seen outside with her blind eye so visible to everyone else.
“A friend suggested I try bartending at the VFW,” said Jules. “I remember the first day, they were like ‘Jules you're hired just come here.' And a lot of them didn’t even notice my eye was missing."
It made her fall in love with the veterans and want to do more work for them to make their lives better.
Fire officials responded to O’Keefe’s family home on Thursday after it went up in flames just before 3 a.m. The fire started somewhere in the back of the house. When first responders arrived, that part of the home was engulfed in flames.
San Diego Fire-Rescue Battalion Chief Jeff Mitchell said fireworks did go off as firefighters battled the fire making the firefight a bit of a challenge. The fire was knocked out within a half-hour.
Jules said they had been struggling financially and had been powering their home through a generator in the backyard.
“We thought we were careful,” said Jules. “It was outside. We are going through hard times, just like anybody else but that was the last thing I expected.”
Once, the news got out about O'Keefe's home destruction, friends and loved ones reached out to help.
“They absolutely lost everything,” said Mike Mullee, a post commander friend. “Jules has been an amazing volunteer here, she really has stepped up. She takes care of our community, our veterans, and we are so grateful for her and it's the least we can do as a family and a community to take care of her and her family.”
People who showed up donated clothes, shoes, and money to help out the family.
Friends have set up a GoFundMe for the family.
SDFD is still working to determine the cause of the fire.