Project Worthmore founder Frank Anello says many people think you have to cross the ocean to help people, but the reality is you only have to walk across the street. “There’s people from all over the world in our backyard,” Anello says.
Project Worthmore is hosting the First Harvest Music Festival on Saturday, June 18, at DeLaney Community Farm to raise money for its various programs created to help refugees acclimate to the Denver area.
The nonprofit started in 2011 as a makeshift response to the unmet needs of refugees living in Aurora. The organization has grown to offer services including English language classes, citizenship classes, a community-run food access program, a refugee training farm and a five-chair dental clinic.
The First Harvest Music Festival includes performances by Chicano beat orchestra Pink Hawks, ten-piece brass band Gora Gora Orkestar and folk singer-songwriter Laura Goldhamer. Colorado Springs-based hip-hop group the Reminders will headline the musical performances. Jamie Laurie, also known as Jonny 5 of Denver-based hip-hop group Flobots, will emcee the event. Laurie is also the community engagement coordinator for Project Worthmore.
Anello says the festival will include kid activities, a farm-themed photo booth, a wine bottle ring toss and food trucks with Vietnamese, Lebanese and Burmese cuisine, as well as an ice cream truck.
“We are really trying to create an event that all walks of life can enjoy,” Anello says. “This isn’t one of those events where we are trying to make $100,000. We’re really just trying to throw a party to bring communities together who wouldn’t normally interact.”
The organization has helped people from more than two dozen countries, including refugees, asylum seekers and documented and undocumented people. In any given year, the organization works with between 4,000 to 5,000 people.
“Lately, we’ve been inundated with and working with a lot of people from Afghanistan,” Anello says. “Now we're getting ready to start working with people from Ukraine. … We're not exactly sure what those numbers will look like.”
Anello adds that in general, refugees — no matter where they are from — require many of the same services, but Project Worthmore tries to bring on people representative of countries and cultures when they are expecting large numbers of refugees from those places.
“Generally, we will hire from the community to make sure that we, culturally, are doing what we need to do to make sure those individuals feel welcome and served,” he says.
The festival will be held at DeLaney Community Farm, jointly run by Project Worthmore and Denver Urban Gardens. The five-acre farm employs three people from Somalia and two from Myanmar, who grow a variety of produce that is sold to people who buy memberships as well as area restaurants and Children’s Hospital. Anello estimates the farmers grow about 150 different kinds of produce throughout the season.
“It’s definitely your basic staples,” he says. “We're also trying to grow things that might be more familiar to some of the populations that we serve, so the excess produce goes into our food program, where we distribute about 100,000 pounds of protein and produce on an annual basis to our community.”
The festival happens just before World Refugee Day, which is organized by the United Nations and meant to bring attention to refugees around the world. The U.N. estimates that every minute, twenty people become refugees for a variety of reasons, including war, persecution and terrorism.
Anello says festivals like First Harvest are important for the refugee community because it’s a chance for its members to mingle with people in their new homes. He notes that many high-end galas and events generally exclude the people they are meant to benefit.
“This event is bringing those communities together,” Anello says. “All of our clients get to come to this for free, so it’s an event where we are hoping everyone feels included and welcomed. They can celebrate and have fun together.”
The First Harvest Music Festival takes place from 4 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, June 18, at DeLaney Community Farm, 170 South Chambers Road in Aurora; tickets are $35. For more information, visit projectworthmore.org.