Keller Bros. Auto Repair in Littleton has a history of community support. At the store, Wednesday, usually called "Hump Day," is known as “Help Day” and for the past eight years its owners have donated $5 for every oil change the store sees that day to go to local charities and nonprofits.
But when its owners heard that the head of one of their longest-supported nonprofits lost her home in the Marshall Fire, they rallied to make Help Day a campaign to raise funds for her and her parents, who also lost their home.
“It was just devastating, we love those people,” said Terry Keller, founder and CEO of Keller Bros. “Our hearts go out to them.”
This month, for every oil change the store sees on Wednesdays and Thursdays, it will donate $5 to Elizabeth Kupfner, who runs the Denver Dachshund Rescue and Transport. Keller said the store has a long relationship with Kupfner’s nonprofit which they have supported with donations even before beginning the Help Day campaign.
Since the beginning of January, Keller has seen an influx of customers on Wednesdays and Thursdays who so far have helped raise thousands of dollars for Kupfner and her family.
Customers who use the hashtag #HumpDayisHelpDay on either Facebook or Twitter will have an additional $1 added to the $5 donation.
“Our customers are just awesome to help whenever they can,” Keller said.
For Kupfner, whose home and parents’ home were in Old Towne Superior, she is hoping to rebuild but knows it will take years.
“We lost everything,” said Kupfner, whose family has lived in Superior for six generations.
Kupfner recalled the morning of Dec. 30 when she stepped outside her home around 11:30 a.m.
“I could smell fire, but it wasn’t like a normal smell of smoke,” she said.
Kupfner could tell the smoke was getting closer and said the high winds, which at times were blowing over 100 mph, began to worry her. Her mom at the time wasn’t concerned, Kupfner said, but by noon it became clear that the fast-approaching fire would soon be on their doorstep.
She raced to her house to grab her four dogs, then to her parents, and before 12:20 p.m. all were on the road out of town along with thousands of others. From the top of a hill, she and her family watched as the Marshall Fire engulfed the area.
“It became pure black, you couldn’t see two-feet in front of your vehicle,” Kupfner said. “My dad thought we were going to go back to a home. I kept looking at these plumes and thinking, ‘there’s no way.’”
Since that day, she and her family have stayed in a hotel in Westminster but will soon be living in camper vans in Superior, where they will work to rebuild what they lost.
“It’s rough when you go from having what you need to nothing,” Kupfner said. “I never dreamed we’d see it.”
Kupfner said she and her parents have struggled at times to access financial assistance. While they’ve been able to tap some funds from the Community Foundation Boulder County, it has been harder to apply for aid from other nonprofit fundraisers. But having the direct campaign from Keller Bros. has helped shore up those gaps, Kupfner said.
“It was really heartwarming to know that they were reaching out,” she said. “They’re great folks.”
Along with direct donations to Kupfner’s family, the auto repair store has also been accepting donations of certain goods, such as food, hygiene products, baby items and clothing as well as gift cards. All monetary donations, such as gift cards, will be given to the Sister Carmen Community Center in Lafayette to be shared with victims of the fire. Other durable goods, such as food and clothes, will be provided to A Precious Child, a nonprofit in Broomfield.
“More is needed, but we’re grateful for those who have supported,” Keller said.
The store is accepting donations all day during store hours from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Keller said those donations will stretch beyond January until Sister Carmen says it cannot accept any more.
For Keller, the campaign represents the store’s community responsibility.
“The trauma of something like this runs so deep, most people don’t ever experience this or think about it,” he said. “The immediate impact is to take care of things that we take for granted. But most importantly, it’s for these people to know that others care about them and that we’re all in this together and people in trouble can rely on their community help.”
You can click here to donate to the Kupfner family’s GoFundMe and click here to donate to the Community Foundation Boulder County’s Wildfire Fund to support other Marshall Fire victims.