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'They Just Come In And We Give Them Whatever They Need': Surviving Louisville Businesses Helping Neighbors Who Lost Everything In The Firestorm

LOUISVILLE, Colo. (CBS4) – A December fire that destroyed more than 900 structures is the fourth time the Boulder County Community Foundation has activated its emergency fund in the last two years. It's only the sixth time in its organization's history. Millions of dollars have been donated from around the world to aid in disaster relief. Businesses were destroyed, but standing stores are helping their neighbors in need.

Eleanor and Hobbs is a boutique in Downtown Louisville. They don't typically carry men's wear, but this week they're clothing a community.

People who've lost wardrobes are shopping donations in a downtown store.

"My first thought was how can we give back to the community? We have clothing. So that's what we did," said Tracy Hobbs, owner of Eleanor and Hobbs. "We noticed that people coming in here are coming in the clothes that they evacuated in."

Hobbs turned her store into a center for donations. People started bringing in clothes after seeing the fire's destruction. Many have been stopping by the store to pick up gently-used clothing.

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"We've served maybe 200 or 300 families. They just come in and we give them whatever they need. We have clothing for their children, we have men's clothing, women's clothing, jackets. It's nice to see a little spark of joy that we can send them off in clothing," said Hobbs.

The boutique has also been collecting and distributing gift cards to help families who need to replace everything they own. Like many other stores, Hobbs is looking for a space big enough to hold the town's generosity and distribute it.

The Boulder County Community Foundation stopped taking physical gifts.  CEO Tatiana Hernandez says they've stopped accepting donations like food and clothing.

"It's both a space and coordination problem. Now that the Disaster Assistance Center is up and running, that may change in the coming days. But for right now, and for the last few days, our partners have just not had any space," said Hernandez.

Hernandez says the foundation has raised over $9 million. She told CBS4 it's not clear if that amount of fundraising is enough to help the victims who lost everything. The county has already approved $5 million for residents whose homes were destroyed or damaged. They're still collecting donations. What people will need down the road is still being evaluated.

"This is a marathon. There are the immediate needs of folks whose homes have been damaged or destroyed. There are the short term and long term needs. We're asking questions around who's insured and who's uninsured? What insurance gaps may exist?" said Hernandez. "We're asking the questions right now. Over the course of the next week or so, we hope to get some of those answers to better understand what the real long-term impacts of this may be."

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The foundation is still speaking with residents to get a better idea of where relief money needs to go.  They encourage everyone impacted to go to the Disaster Assistance Center to talk to county officials and access financial assistance.

Find more information on the Boulder County Wildfire Fund.

If you're interested in donating to Eleanor and Hobb's clothing drive, visit their website. You can buy a gift card to give to people in need as they come to replenish their wardrobe.

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