DENVER — As the sun set Saturday, Andrea Loya found herself and her brother organizing donated Christmas gifts.
“There should be about 100," she said, standing over the collection of toys, coloring books and more.
Loya took on the task for another nonprofit that they partnered with.
“They’re pretty much taking on whatever the city’s got right now and so we wanted to take away this sorting piece,” she said.
The gifts, Loya explained, will go to the families that have recently arrived in Denver from the southern border, after making their journey from their originating countries in Latin America.
"We’ll be able to get these kiddos some toys for Christmas," said Loya.
What may seem like a small gesture, is part of a much larger task of her nonprofit, Casa De Paz, helping the City of Denver with supporting the hundreds of migrants that have arrived in recent weeks.
The city declared a state of emergency in hopes of getting more resources to help an already overwhelmed effort.
The city has spent about $800,000 since the activation of the emergency operations center last week.
The recently opened shelters were 66% full as of noon Saturday. Another 76 people arrived heading into the weekend, bringing the total number of migrants served by the city since Dec. 9 to 872.
"I want to reiterate our call to the nonprofit business and faith communities to help with additional support, especially with sheltering space," Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said at a press conference on Dec. 15.
Loya is the executive director of the Aurora-based organization, but their main focus is to help those released from the ICE Detention Facility in Aurora, and provide a safe space as released individuals plan their next steps.
In late September, the group housed a family of migrants that unexpectedly arrived at Denver's Red Cross Office who started their journey in Venezuela.
Since then, they've split their time focusing on helping people who recently arrived in Denver, and those in Aurora -- a task that Loya says takes adaptation for a nonprofit of their size.
"And I do think there was ways that we could have gotten ahead of it, because Casa does this all the time. We just do it in small numbers," she explained. "But there are organizations like us and the other ones that we partner with. I know they know what they're doing, but we also run on a limited amount of resources."
Still, they partnered with other groups, including the Colorado Hosting Asylum Network, to help provide volunteers, coats, backpacks, some food donations and more to the migrants that arrived in Denver.
"And we really wanted to just kind of provide some of the knowledge, volunteer base, and the way that we've ran this for ten years," Loya said.
Loya, an immigrant herself, came to the U.S. from Mexico City with her family when she was 9. She believes her experiences help build trust with the migrants she's able to work with.
"Trying to build a life here is very difficult. Sometimes the ways that you do things are different. Transportation, taking the bus, that kind of thing," she said. "And so we know the struggle of, you know, looking for a job or being taken advantage of because you don't have the documentation to be able to get a proper job."
Loya adds that they are currently in need of more hosts and volunteers for their efforts.
But overall, she hopes the adjustments they make as a nonprofit help those in search of a better life.
"So I think this is an awesome opportunity for the community to really share the spirit of giving," she said. "I think it takes more than Denver to do something."
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