AURORA, Colo. — Empowering the community through exchange is the mission of Aurora’s Village Exchange Center. With a focus on religious and cultural diversity, The Village Pantry serves about 1,000 families a week.
“We provide warm food and then also culturally appropriate food that we get from local markets,” co-founder Amanda Blaurock said. “Also from Food Bank of the Rockies and some other small markets, so we can serve some of the culturally appropriate food for like the Afghan program we have.”
The center has a number of active programs ranging from assisting refugees to economic empowerment and even an urban farming immersion. None of it happens without a village full of nearly 250 volunteers.
“Volunteers are something that builds the community — people who want to volunteer their time,” volunteer coordinator Vestine Niyonkuru said. “You can never have enough volunteers. You always need volunteers.”
One of the volunteers that always makes staff and visitors smile is Tara Webber, who said she gets just as much out of the experience as those she’s helping.
“It's a good experience. I'm immersed in the culture,” she said, beaming. “I'm seeing all the beautiful work, the smiles on the people's faces and just the good times here. Really, it feels like family here with all my volunteer friends.”
Webber volunteers three days a week and said she feeds off the energy of those around her.
“It's so invigorating because you see all that," Webber said. "Everyone is just so thankful and grateful.”
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