‘A Christmas miracle:’ Volusia County business owner provides home for mom on brink of homelessness

Amber Johnston and her 4-year-old son now have a place to stay after News 6 reported on their plight

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Amber Johnston has a place to call home for now, while she works to pick up the pieces, and it’s all thanks to kind hearts in the community who saw her heartbreaking story.

A few days before Christmas, News 6′s Treasure Roberts reported on declining rents prices in Orlando.

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Roberts met Johnston, who was staying at an extended stay hotel because it was all she could afford at the time.

“When what happened happened to us, his father leaving, it completely devastated us, and I did not know where to turn,” Johnston said.

Johnston brought her 4-year-old son Anthony Romeo down to the lobby for a toy giveaway.

He received a single gift. Johnston said she wouldn’t be able to get him anything else for Christmas because she couldn’t afford it.

Paul Zappitelli, owner of Zappi’s Italian Garden in Daytona Beach, contacted News 6 after seeing the report on-air.

“I saw that little boy running over to Santa, and I just, I just teared over. I went: ‘Oh my gosh, that’s horrible,’” Zappitelli said.

He was eager to get results for the family.

Zappitelli said the mother and son could live in one of his condos rent-free for two months.

He and his wife even made sure their refrigerator was stocked with food and that Johnston’s son had more toys on Christmas Day.

“On my social media account, I kept on saying, ‘I’m waiting for a Christmas miracle,’” Johnston said.

She never expected a miracle quite so big.

Zappitelli is also considering bringing Johnston on as an employee at his restaurant.

Since moving to the new place, Johnston said her son’s mood has changed drastically.

“He actually wakes up and gives me a hug like this and says, ‘I’m so happy, Mommy,’” Johnston said. “Anthony deserves it, so I’m so thankful, cause look at him: he’s beautiful, you know.”

She called this act of kindness priceless.

“I just felt that I was so blessed that I had to share,” Zappitelli said.

Although he is getting results for others, he said he actually needs help himself.

After COVID-19 ravaged the U.S. and Central Florida, his restaurant, Zappi’s Pizza, took a major hit.

He has struggled to get employees, and he can’t open back up for business until he’s fully staffed.

“We’ve had 18 applicants scheduled for interviews, and not one has shown up,” Zappitelli said.

He is hosting job fair at the restaurant on Monday. He said he is hoping to hire those who are interested and eligible for the job.

About the Author:

Treasure joined News 6 at the start of 2021, coming to the Sunshine State from Michigan.