By Melissa Garcia

HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. (CBS4) – A firefighter is helping a Highlands Ranch family who lost their belongings in a garage fire days before Christmas. The Johnston family hasn’t been able to return home since the blaze broke out on Dec. 15.

(credit: CBS)

Paul Shoemaker, an Aurora firefighter, has been helping one family each year during the holidays who have been devastated by fire through a donation project.

The family who benefited from the project last year donated to the family receiving help this year.

(credit: CBS)

He knew who he wanted to help this year after receiving a call from a neighbor telling him the Johnston family’s story.

(credit: CBS)

“When I found out this family had two kids, it was right before Christmas … I’m just going to help make it a little easier,” Shoemaker said.

Tiffany Johnston, a substitute teacher, receives packages full of clothing, quilts and basic essentials for herself, her husband and their two school-aged daughters.

(credit: CBS)

Shoemaker is one of many firefighters for whom Johnston is thankful.

“They saved my house. For him to go out of his way to help us and help my kids, have as normal of a Christmas as possible, it’s beyond words,” Johnston said.

Donations from strangers, neighbors, and local businesses across Colorado are replacing some of the items they lost.

“Thank you very much. My family really appreciates it,” Johnston told Shoemaker.

The firefighter organized the fundraiser, collecting around $5,000 in gifts and about $2,500 in gift cards.

“It’s pretty cool, it’s pretty overwhelming that all you have to do is explain a story, show a story, and watch these people come out of the woodwork,” Shoemaker said.

The Johnstons are temporarily living with family members until crews can restore their home which they expect to take at least a year.

Additional Resources

For more information on Shoemaker’s project, visit his page on Facebook House Fire Holiday Donations.