Family gets unforgettable Christmas surprise

December 30, 2010 7:12:09 PM PST
A Bay Area soldier is home for the holidays in a place he can now truly call home. A year ago, this career military family faced the ugly prospect of losing their Berkeley home of 10 years. But now, it's a much different story.

Socorrow Capristo happily decorated the family tree in mid Dec. This was truly going to be a special Christmas.

"I'm so at peace and so excited. I thank God," she said.

She prepared for the homecoming of her husband, Army Staff Sergeant Felipe Capristo. He re-enlisted to fight in Iraq following 9/11 and has been in the Army ever since. He's currently based in Ft. Bliss, Texas and is about to return for a two-week vacation. She can't wait to give him a big surprise.

Felipe loved the new jacket Socorrow gave him, but it was another surprise that changed the family's life, and she even revealed a secret she had kept from him for several weeks.

"Every time I talked to him I wanted t say it, but I said no, no, no. It's going to be a surprise," she said.

She surprised him with the news the family now had a loan modification that would keep them in their Berkeley home.

"It's a whole different feeling coming home and knowing you're going to come home and stay home," Felipe said.

For a while, it looked like staying in their home wasn't meant to be. The family had gotten four months behind on their mortgage and Aurora Loan Services began foreclosure proceedings in February. But an attorney at Housing and Economic Rights Advocates stepped in and she reminded Aurora that federal law protects active military personnel from foreclosure.

"One I reminded them again that he was in the military they did hold off on doing any foreclosure in terms of the Service Members Civil Relief Act, they did comply with that," Attorney Lisa Sitkin said.

But negotiations for a loan modification dragged on for months and the Capristos were ready to give up their home.

"I went into a big depression myself. It got to the point I got sick," Socorrow said.

The family contacted 7 On Your Side and we brought this case to the attention of the U.S. Treasury Department.

"They did ultimately help and their involvement was what ultimately resolved this. But it took them a very long time too. There were many times we had to reactivate the complaint," Lisa said.

The loan modification Lisa negotiated for the Capristos sets their interest rate at 2 percent for five years, followed by 1 percent increases until it hits the ceiling of 5 percent. The family can now enjoy the important things in life, like their grandson Nathaniel and they are thankful for all those who helped save their home.

"Miss Sitkin was so dedicated, and she kept going and going," Socorrow said.

"I'm grateful about Channel 7 News, Channel 7 that helps us a lot," Felipe said.

Aurora Loan Services could not be reached for comment. If you need help getting a loan modificaction, your best bet is to find a certified housing counselor. Their services are free.

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