Beyond the Bonfire — Fireside at Five Finds Community

Fireside at Five is on a mission to rekindle the flame for connection that began to fizzle out throughout the pandemic. What began as just another Zoom call in early 2020 turned into a much-needed break from long, monotonous days. “It’s five o’clock somewhere,” because each Fireside chat connects Denver’s professionals and passionate individuals for Happy Hour. Raising a toast to battle the pandemic situation was in order, but not nearly the sole focus.

Instead, these chats began with a group of friends having meaningful conversations about life, bringing together those within one industry to talk about hardships, the future and solutions for their precarious situations. It pushed for intimacy in a time of isolation — with that time potentially ending, the community-driven focus of Fireside at Five has extended its reach to continue to bring more members into the thoughtful circle.

(Left) Founder Gertie Harris and the first official employee, Jaclyn Drummond. Photo by Jeff Fierberg.

Founder Gertie Harris demonstrated the strength that COVID instilled in a lot of folks by continuing to move forward even when life seemed stagnant. Instead of wallowing in unfortunate circumstances, she fortified communities with intentional collaboration to grow beyond the homes people were locked up in. Over 120 chats have united more than 500 spirited minds. Even as more screens went black with summer in session and the pandemic softening, the capabilities for Fireside at Five programmings burn brightly.

“The beginning of Fireside started innocently with strengthening connections I already had. Then in morphed into a resource for the people of Denver to find intentional and impactful partnerships all around them,” said Harris.

The conversation continued to flourish without the accompaniment of blue light glasses, a rudimentary cocktail or WiFi. An official campfire event hasn’t been added to their queue, instead Fireside at Five unites folks at each different pop-up series extending from summer and into the fall. 

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Fireside’s first major collaboration, The Supper Club series, intermingled the community of chefs that tirelessly persevered in the face of the pandemic. Tajahi Cooke is the ring leader of these events bestowing it with the name of his inspiration, Ms. Betty. His idea of a pop-up series is meant to unite, connect and bond locals with chefs, thereby strengthening the community’s power through authentic engagements. He brings lightness and joy into a space that’s painted with stress. Among the heat of one kitchen, Cooke welcomes Denver’s food industry moguls to burn brightly alongside him. Fellow contributors include Frank Bonanno — who has blessed Denverites with concepts like Mizuna and the Dairy Block — and Natascha Hess — who grew an authentic Asian street food truck into a new storefront. Well-recognized chefs foster intimacy through dialogue as they escape from the kitchen for the night. This cocktail party has the chefs hosting.

As the momentum of these monthly dinners grew, so did the possibility for action and impact. This summer they partnered with Sophie’s Neighborhood, a local organization for the awareness of Multicentric Carpotarsal Osteolysis Syndrome (MCTO). Sophie Rosenberg, Hosea Rosenberg of Blackbelly and Santo in Boulder’s daughter, was diagnosed with this bone degenerative condition last year. MCTO affects 30 individuals in the world at a diagnostic level, but from the support of The Supper Club series and the community, it now affects many Denver individuals that have signed up to help. Each dinner gave a portion of the proceeds to the foundation. The dinner Rosenberg co-hosted donated all its proceeds and resulted in over $35,000 raised for MCTO research. Fireside helped define the aspect of a neighborhood within this organization.

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Fireside at Five revolutionizes the idea of fundraising.  Many organizations and individuals are uplifted on their track to a higher goal. Fireside’s current project is for the betterment of the RiNo Art Park and allows artists and creative minds to utilize tools, space, kitchens and each other for their newest projects. Their major events have been the Summer Swing Series and Gin and Jazz nights. The Summer Swing Series hits its final note on August 27, 2021. DJ Bella Scratch mixing music livens up the lounge location. Live artist Buddy Bravos reminds attendees what the Art Park can cultivate. Libations from Mythology Spirits quenches any dancer’s thirst. Pop-up veteran Heart of Vintage makes yet another appearance to elevate anyone’s closet.

READ: Summer Speakeasy Series Is A Fun New Fundraiser

The summer fun might be settling down, but Harris’ ability to rally the community through events is amplifying. Now Fireside works with developers to bring more unique pop-ups to the Denver space. These outlets being art, food and music.

Scene from the RiNo Art Park. Photo Courtesy of Rino Art District.

A current project partnered Fireside at Five with a local startup, Pocket Change, which converts social media engagement into fundraising dollars. Founder Christian Dooley saw the potential a like and repost could have. A user of Pocket Change engaging on the app converts to a microloan from a cloud of funds provided by investors. It draws out the action as well as awareness. Fireside at Five’s partnership with Pocket Change builds on their funding to grow the RiNo Art Park. However, users can also start their own fundraising ventures for their personal passion projects.

Harris brings the best of memories collected at a campsite bonfire to the city of Denver. Intentionality and impact continue to light the way for the future of this community.