Boulder Restaurant Owner Gives Back By Opening Disaster Relief Site for Fire Victims

Hosea Rosenberg, owner of Blackbelly, a restaurant, market and butcher shop in Boulder, Colorado, is one of many people in the state working to give back to help those who lost their homes and possessions in a fire that devastated the area last week.

Rosenberg has kept his restaurant closed early in the new year to focus on running his relief site outside, where shirts, coats and many other necessities fill an area of a tent that used to serve as Blackbelly's outdoor dining area.

Rosenberg told the Associated Press that he closed his restaurant to give his employees New Year's weekend off, then decided to keep it closed for the time being to give back to a community that helped him.

In March of 2020, Rosenberg told AP, his 2-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder, which was followed by an outpouring of support and donations from Boulder residents to support Rosenberg and his family.

"It was really heartwarming to see how much people cared and wanted to help," Rosenberg said.

The December 30 fire, which officials said was followed by a "miraculous evacuation" that allowed 35,000 people to leave quickly and avoid physical harm, destroyed about 1,000 homes in the area.

Colorado, Fire Damage, Boulder, Restaurant
Burned homes sit in a neighborhood decimated by the Marshall Fire last week in Louisville, Colorado. Nearly 1,000 homes were destroyed in the December 30 fire, from which Boulder-area residents are helping each other recover. Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

After losing her house and everything in it in a wildfire that destroyed her entire neighborhood, Abby McClelland wanted to get some clothes for her 4-year-old daughter.

Picking up a large Ikea shopping bag on Tuesday, she walked around the tent outside Blackbelly, its tables covered with neat piles of sweaters, hats, shirts and towels.

There were also boxes of diapers, toiletries and racks holding coats. Music from singer Sade played over speakers as McClelland and her husband filled up the bag underneath the tent's glittering chandelier. Huge coolers held food cooked by the restaurant's chefs.

The relief center is one of many places that have sprung up to help people who lost homes when last week's wildfire tore through parts of the nearby towns of Superior and Louisville.

This week, Mikki Salvetti of Boulder stopped by the Blackbelly tent with a laundry basket filled with clothes to donate to the fire victims and to offer to volunteer after seeing a social media post about the center.

Since Salvetti can work remotely and has no children, she was also thinking about going to live with her mother back home in Pittsburgh so that a family who lost a home could temporarily move into her house.

"It just feels right to do something like that," she said.

With more snow on the way, McClelland mainly came for a coat for her daughter so she could play outside, build snowmen and throw snowballs and "continue to live a life."

Dressed in clothes she hastily bought at Target, McClelland said it is still hard to convince herself that she needs to replace all her belongings.

She and her family were not at home when the fire hit and she has not been allowed back to her house in the Sagamore neighborhood of Superior, which was destroyed by the fire. Not being able to see the destruction makes her loss seem unreal, she said.

"I feel like we're at an airport and our luggage got lost and I'm going to get home really soon and all my things are going to be there," she said.

McClelland said she doesn't want to make big decisions right now, like whether or not she and her husband will rebuild their house.

She also said she can't imagine being comfortable in a neighborhood where everything, including the trees, have burned and the community she knew is gone.

But McClelland said she can't imagine not living again in the place where her daughter learned to walk and to ride a bike.

"Leaving that all behind seems unthinkable," she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.