Hurricane Rita evacuee puts own struggles aside to help single mom

Donna DiPalma rewarded

Sometimes you can just see the pain in a person's eyes.

"You just got to do what you can for people because a lot of people turn their backs and they don't look beyond their own homes," Donna DiPalma said.

Donna remembers the hurt, the horror and the humiliation she felt when Hurricane Rita forced her to relocate to Harlingen from Houston in 2006 with virtually nothing.

"Because I've been through it and nobody to help out," she explained. "I don't have much family."

Despite her own struggles, Donna shows compassion to a neighbor she met at the NorthStar Village Apartments in Harlingen.

A single mom there with two young kids isn't just encouraged by Donna to get her cosmetology license; Donna actually steps in to babysit Ashley Aceves' 8 and 2-year-old girls and gives her rides to school so she doesn't have to walk there.

It's a near 3-mile trek to the cosmetology school.

Ashley said the rides kept her going strong so she could better herself for her family.

Now she wants to Pay it 4Ward.

"You've done so much for me and my kids," Ashley told Donna. "You watched my kids when I didn't have anyone to watch them while I went to school. And you gave me rides and didn't ask me for a penny--ever! I want everyone to know you're a very good person and you have a big heart. You've done a lot for me and my girls. On behalf of FNB Insurance and Action 4 News I want to Pay it 4Ward."

Ashley handed Donna $400 in cash as a reward for her good deeds.

"I've been having a rough streak here for a while and things like this don't happen to people like me," Donna said with tears in her eyes. "It makes me feel good that somebody noticed. I don't expect to be paid back in anyway. But it feels good. I don't have to struggle now to figure out how to get through the next month."

Karen Gonzalez with FNB Insurance Agency notices Donna's kindness too.

She awards the cash as a Pay it 4Ward partner.

"This is a perfect example of a neighbor helping a neighbor," Karen said. "You've done so much for Ashley to help her better herself. And because of that we're very happy to help Pay it 4Ward to you."

Donna doesn't quite know where her life is headed, but she finds comfort in knowing a family she deeply cares for is going in the right direction.

"Pay it 4Ward," she said.

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