AURORA, Colo. -- An Aurora nonprofit is overwhelmed with support after a fire destroyed a shed full of tools used to help harvest produce for refugee and immigrant families who rely on its food pantry.
"We were heartbroken. We are part of the community and so is the garden and the people who take care of the garden," Laurie Dolan said.
She was one of many who stopped by Stanley Marketplace on Monday afternoon to drop off some much-needed gardening tools.
"We got some posts and some ground cover and a couple of buckets," she said.
The toolshed belongs to Village Farm at Stanley, a produce garden operated by Village Exchange Center.
In addition to its food pantry, the nonprofit also supports refugee and immigrant families with services, programs and more.
"We're still adding up what was lost ... but thousands of dollars worth of tools," farm manager Sam DeBoskey said.
A spokesperson with the Aurora Fire Department says the cause of the fire is "undetermined," but DeBoskey, and others, believe the fire was set intentionally following a pattern of vandalism, which includes damage to the garden's tomatoes and watermelons.
"A couple of, you know, eyewitness things and different things like that make us think that it could have been somebody intentionally lighting it on fire," DeBoskey said.
The pain is still raw for assistant farm manager Alex Rios.
"As soon as he sent me the picture of ... the status of the shed, I just crumbled into tears," he said.
He left Venezuela a few years ago in pursuit of a better life and has a deep understanding of food scarcity. The thought of someone getting in the way of the work they do to provide food for others saddens him.
"This person hurt my integrity [and] also hurt the integrity of the community," Rios said.
Thankfully, the fire never reached the produce they're growing. And because of the outpouring of support from the community, harvesting will continue right on schedule.
An Aurora nonprofit is overwhelmed w/ support after a fire destroyed a shed full of tools used to help harvest produce for refugee/immigrant families.— Pattrik Perez (@PattrikPerez) September 7, 2021
The staff believes the fire was set intentionally.
Tonight at 10 on @DenverChannel, how they're able to bounce back so quickly. pic.twitter.com/FPkMTjB522
"It just feels incredibly beautiful and meaningful," DeBoskey said. "I think because of all this support, we'll have the resources we need for a new shed, for more tools, things like that."
But perhaps what may take some time is processing what happened.
"It bothers me, but I think it makes the community stronger," Rios said.
If you'd like to help, Village Exchange Center is still collecting tools and seeking monetary donations.