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Sweetest Christmas

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BATON ROUGE - As you get ready for Santa's arrival tonight, one man is prepared to have the best Christmas he's ever experienced. It's a story of hope, giving and a reunion.

One month ago, we introduced you to Joseph Dartez. He's an 80-year old man living in a home that was falling down in North Baton Rouge. We met him when neighbors flagged us down as we were covering a completely different story. Since Thanksgiving, WBRZ viewers opened up their hearts and wallets to help Dartez. The conditions fo his house were deplorable. Termites ate away at the foundation. His only voice was his beloved neighbor, Stephanie Bureau who looked after him and spoke up about his plight.

Tonight, Dartez is smiling again.

"Everyone's helping, and I appreciate it very much," Dartez said. "Thank you very much!"

Local mortgage lender GMFS saw our story, and their employees pledged to help.

"We had $7,000 raised outside GMFS, and about $23,000 inside GMFS," CEO Tee Brown said.

With that money, a purchase agreement was signed on a mobile home. It will be placed on Joseph Dartez's brother's property in the Lafayette area. At a Christmas party last week, Dartez was given the exciting news. Dartez's love for music was evident when volunteers helped move him out of his house. So at their company Christmas party, he was given a shiny new record player and records. The best gift of all, warm hugs from family members. Dartez got reunited with his two brothers who he lost touch with, more than two decades ago.

"We hadn't seen him in 20 years, my dad passed away going to be 20 years next year," Bob Dartez, Joseph's younger brother said. "I saw him a couple years later, no phone calls, no communication whatsoever."

Tonight, he's grateful for the WBRZ viewers who gave so generously to help bring a smile to his brother's face.

"I can't thank you enough," Bob Dartez said as he fought back tears.

"It's so great to be able to see him go back home, and it's one of the greatest Christmas stories I've ever been a part of," Brown said.

As you get ready for Santa's arrival, it appears he came early to the Dartez family.

"I appreciate it," Joseph Dartez exclaimed. "Thank you very much and Merry Christmas!"

The Dartez family says they now have years of catching up to do. As for the mortgage Dartez was paying, US Bank cleared the mortgage on the dilapidated home. Tonight, the City has been contacted about getting the ball rolling to demolish the property.

GMFS expects Dartez's new home to be ready in about 30 days. Right now, he's staying with friends and family.

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