AURORA, Colo. — The Village Exchange Center is working to rebuild and replace thousands of dollars worth of equipment, tools and a new shed after it was all destroyed by a fire Friday evening.
The Aurora Fire Department (AFD) said they responded around 5:45 p.m. on Friday and first responders were able to get the fire under control quickly.
AFD said the cause of the fire remains undetermined.
The nonprofit supports immigrants and refugees; their garden near the Stanley Market Place is just one way they do that. "Most of the members of Village Exchange Center come here to learn how to farm, to learn how to grow food," said Alex Rios, the assistant farm manager.
Rios said he began working at the farm shorty after moving from Venezuela nearly two years ago.
"I come from a very extreme experience like of food insecurity because for me, there was one day in my country where we didn’t know what to eat the next time," Rios said. "Coming from that experience to now growing a lot of food for the community is very powerful, it’s very fulfilling."
Rios said he was the last person at the farm the day of the fire and got a call from his manager as soon as he arrived home. He was devastated to find out the shed completely burned down. "It’s all gone, but the most like important thing that we lost there were memories," Rios said. "We share stories there, we share also gatherings, important conversations inside that shed.
Rios takes pride in the work he does and the fire did not stop him from continuing to harvest and provide for the community.
"It’s very powerful because in here, we also show them and also learn from them because they teach us how to cook different recipes or how to cook different plates from their home country with the vegetables that we grow here," said Rios.
The organization strives to be welcoming to all, but the center said there have been several times where they did not feel welcome themselves. Other team members with Village Exchange tell 9NEWS there have been at least six incidents where their plants and produce were vandalized. APD said they found a report that stated "there were 'multiple incidents' where someone went onto the property and vandalized plants, produce and beehives. They estimated approximated $55 worth of vegetables that were thrown onto the ground," according to APD.
Monday, the Stanley Beer Hall held a donation drive to help the nonprofit replace tools lost in the fire. The Village Exchange Center said they estimate the total loss will end up costing about $75,000 to replace damaged items, rebuild the shed and add security systems.
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