Uptown fire victims appreciative at crowded benefit

"You don't realize how much you're cared for until you actually need it," said resident Shea Lavalier.

Shea Lavalier, a resident of the destroyed building, greets family and friends at Amore Victoria. Credit: Michelle Bruch

People packed into Amore Victoria Jan. 9 to support residents displaced by the nearby condo fire. The victims said they were “overwhelmed” by the turnout.

“This redefines my dictionary definition of the words ‘community’ and ‘neighbor,'” said Brian Hardy, who lost all of his belongings in the Dec. 28 fire at the 1500 block of Lake Street.

Shea Lavalier, who watched flames shoot out his bedroom window and destroy his large record collection, said he’s been amazed by the support from family and friends.

“You don’t realize how much you’re cared for until you actually need it,” he said.

Condo owner Andrea Johnson said she loved the “little home” she occupied for the last 10 years. She lost her heirlooms, all of the photos of her grandfather, and her cat, who jumped out of her arms the night of the fire to run back into the house.

“I would not wish this on anyone,” she said. “I’m exhausted. I miss my cat.”

She urged people to keep pet carriers handy, buy renter’s insurance, and get to know their neighbors.

All of Amore Victoria’s proceeds Jan. 9 went to the fire victims, including the proceeds of a silent auction in the wine cellar. The restaurant also opened the “Uptown Condo Fire Fund.” Wells Fargo branches can accept donations directly to the fund.

Restaurant owner Jenna Victoria said she met many of the residents throughout the week as they offered free meals.

“A lot of the renters didn’t have insurance,” she said. “I think that’s part of the reason we [decided] to do it.”

Hardy is a regular at Amore Victoria, eating there two or three times per week. He said he considers himself lucky to be their neighbor.

“I’m happy that Alex and Jenna got recognized for their kindness that’s spilled back into the community,” he said.

Hardy said he was amazed to watch tweets about the benefit circulate through the Twin Cities, with alerts coming from reader’s groups, news organizations and even a Twin Cities leather and kink group.

“It was the full spectrum of community support,” he said. “It’s humbling and overwhelming.”