DENVER — Hundreds of migrants continue to arrive in Denver every day, with many fleeing danger and starvation from countries in South America. Since they are coming from warmer climates, advocates warn that many are not ready for the cold Colorado winter that's beginning.
Veronica LaCrue, who has lived in Denver for her entire life, has now made it her mission to make the city feel like home to newly arriving migrants. LaCrue told Denver7 she was inspired after seeing a young man and woman moving a cushion out of a garbage bin near her home.
"I realized that all the apartments were empty," LaCrue said. "Children were sleeping on the floor — no blankets, nothing. Not a can opener, a broom, nothing. And so I put something on NextDoor. Shout out to all the NextDoor donors! We started just picking up items and furnishing the homes. And we've furnished probably about 50 of the apartments."
LaCrue and her donors have helped with clothing, kitchen utensils, furniture, and toys. But now, there's a new pressing need she is desperate to fill — winter clothing.
"They don't have coats. A lot of them don't have shoes," she said. "They're used to warm weather, and it's not warm here. So we have a lot of work to do."
There's a growing network in the Denver area racing against the winter weather to fill that need.
Erica Salazar, a case manager with Denver Public Schools, works with newly arrived families to help them get settled and connected with services. She's teamed up with LaCrue and several other caring neighbors to collect and disperse donations. Denver7 connected with her after she posted on Reddit asking users about gently-used winter gear.
"I think we have a lot of people here who maybe take for granted that we have a pair of boots and we have a big jacket," Salazar said. "But people who are coming from a different climate... they're needing a whole other range of gear."
If you have winter gear you would like to donate, Salazar welcomes you to reach out to her directly at email@example.com. The City of Denver has also created a page on its website for citywide help initiatives, with donation information as well as the latest data on new arrivals.
Salazar and LaCrue both told Denver7 they are grateful for the donations that have already poured in. Now, they're hoping that the message can spread even further, and help as many new neighbors as possible.
"People have such big hearts, and it makes me really proud to live in Denver and to see that people really do care," Salazar said.