Debbie Purnell had recently paid off the mortgage on her mobile home when she lost the home, some pets and belongings to fire. Now, community members are trying to help her out with a benefit planned for this evening, Friday, Jan. 18.
The home in Riverbend Mobile Home Park in New Port Richey caught fire Jan. 4, said Linda Davids, park manager. Purnell had stepped out, but all her pets were at home. Purnell cares for six cats, two of which were rescues.
Five cats died in the blaze. One survived.
If Purnell had been home, “she would have died trying to save them,” Davids said.
Purnell had stepped out to the mobile home park clubhouse to clean it and watch TV there.
Davis said Purnell, 51, is the only human who lived at the home, but the cats were like “her babies.”
Purnell lost “everything” in the fire when it comes to belongings, Davids said. She was not injured in the fire, but it has taken its toll on her.
Purnell is staying in a model home at the park for now. She’s lived at the park for more than 10 years, Davids said.
The purpose of the benefit is to help get Purnell back on her feet and also to help raise money to cover the mortgage on a different trailer
Purnell works as a cook at Morton Plant North Bay Hospital. She uses a bicycle to get around. She didn’t have insurance on the trailer that caught fire.
Purnell said the community, neighbors and her employers have lent her a hand. Davids said even local merchants have offered help.
“I just appreciate everyone’s help,” she said.
The benefit tonight is hosted by Riverbend Mobile Home Park, but is an effort by several members of the community. It’s free to attend, but the purpose is to collect donations for Purnell, especially monetary ones. There will be chili, hot dogs, music and fun.
"We're a small, small park, but we take care of another," Davids said.
The benefit starts at 5 p.m. at the park clubhouse, 5330 Green Key Road, New Port Richey.