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Boulder eatery’s dining tent becomes disaster relief site

January 5, 2022 GMT
Abby McClelland tries on boots at a donation site on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022, in Boulder, Colo. McClelland, her husband and 4-year-old daughter lost their home and all their belongings in the Marshall Fire in Superior, Colo. (AP Photo/Brittany Peterson)
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Abby McClelland tries on boots at a donation site on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022, in Boulder, Colo. McClelland, her husband and 4-year-old daughter lost their home and all their belongings in the Marshall Fire in Superior, Colo. (AP Photo/Brittany Peterson)
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Abby McClelland tries on boots at a donation site on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022, in Boulder, Colo. McClelland, her husband and 4-year-old daughter lost their home and all their belongings in the Marshall Fire in Superior, Colo. (AP Photo/Brittany Peterson)

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — 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 a tent that normally serves as the outdoor dining area of Hosea Rosenberg’s Blackbelly restaurant in Boulder, 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 up 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.

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Rosenberg closed his restaurant over New Year’s weekend to give his employees a break and decided to keep in closed to host the donation center in the tent in the restaurant’s parking lot as a way of giving back to a community that has supported him through difficult times.

He said his effort was partly in response to the generosity he received at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, when people stepped up to donate items and raise money for research after his 2-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder just as restaurants were forced to close.

“It was really heart warming to see how much people cared and wanted to help,” Rosenberg said.

This week, Mikki Salvetti of Boulder stopped by at 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 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.

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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.