Online retail giant Amazon made the holidays at least a little bit brighter Thursday for recent immigrant and refugee families in Aurora.
Employees at Amazon’s Aurora fulfillment center unloaded $15,000 worth of toys, personal items and other gifts for nearly 200 children and their family members at the APS Welcome Center, an Aurora Public Schools facility that helps ease the transition for students and parents who have recently arrived on these shores. Amazon also made a $5,000 donation to the center.
It’s part of the company’s Delivering Smiles Holiday Giving Tour, which is scheduled to make 33 stops bearing gifts nationwide this month. Amazon plans to hand out $500,000 worth of gifts, supplies and charitable donations as part of the program.
“The holidays can be a difficult time for families and individuals who are homeless or otherwise working to get back on their feet,” Joe Dudek, general manager at Amazon’s Aurora fulfillment center, said in a release. “We’re glad to have the opportunity to partner with an organization like the APS Welcome Center in Aurora that serves the community where our associates live and work.”
The nonprofit APS Welcome Center, launched in 2015, helps immigrants and refugees make their transition to attending school in the suburb. Numerous agencies that assist recent arrivals are housed within the center, which serves families from Burma, Nepal, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.
Located near Smith Road and Interstate 70, Amazon’s new 1 million square-foot warehouse employs 1,000 people and opened in September.
The gifts distributed from Amazon included books, toys — everything from soccer to board games and a particular favorite, Jenga — and with personal hygiene and grooming items, earrings and makeup for children. And because it’s Amazon, Santa’s bag — in reality, a blue semitrailer dubbed the “Caravan of Cheer” by the retailer’s employees — also contained gift cards, Kindles and laptops.
Silvia Tamminen, the welcome center’s coordinator, said the donations meant the world to the children and their families.
“We are very grateful for the partnership with Amazon and for all the joy that this holiday donation will bring to our students and families,” she said in a statement. “Our families come to Aurora from all over the world, and having Amazon welcome them to their new community with such a generous donation is a blessing to them and our program.”
APS students hail from more than 130 countries and speak more than 150 different languages, the district says. More than one-third of the district’s students are learning English as their second language. According to recent Census Bureau estimates, roughly one in five Aurora residents were born in another country.