Lay Catholics, Gill Foundation make up funding lost by immigrant center

Lay Catholics and several big organizations, including the Denver-based Gill Foundation, have saved the budget of an immigrant advocacy group in Durango whose funding was yanked by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. The Catholics stripped the immigrant group, called Companeros, of $30,000 because it belongs to a coalition that has ties to an LGBT advocacy group that supports the legalization of civil unions.

Companeros's plight made the New York Times and inspired the progressive national nonprofit Catholics United to start a donation website called More than two hundred people contributed over $7,000, and donations poured into Companeros's mailbox, too.

"There were a number of individual donations that started streaming in," says Nicole Mosher, Companeros's executive director. "There was a lot of positive response from people, many of whom claimed, 'I'm a Catholic but I don't support your defunding.'"

CCHD told Companeros in February that it would no longer provide the $30,000 grant that made up more than half of the organization's budget. A letter from CCHD explained that Companeros's membership in the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition was unacceptable because CIRC had formed an alliance with One Colorado, an LGBT advocacy group that backed an unsuccessful bill to legalize civil unions.

Several LGBT organizations stepped up to help -- including the Gill Foundation, which Mosher says promised to match donations up to $30,000. The foundation kept that promise, and Companeros was able to raise more than $60,000 as a result. "The smallest check was from a woman in Florida who gave $3 and a note saying, 'I'm sorry I can't give more,'" Mosher says. "We had a few $1,000 donations, and one came from as far as England."

Companeros plans to spend its money wisely, Mosher says. "I wish that I could expand at this moment," she says, "but really, our priority is to create a sustainable funding plan." The organization is the only immigrant resource center within a 150-mile radius.

"This fundraising campaign was as much of a shock as was the initial call about our defunding," Mosher says. "It's been a whirlwind of emotion. At first, it was concern about losing the program, and now it's concern to maintain it for the long term."

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Melanie Asmar is a staff writer for Westword. She joined the paper in 2009 and has won awards for her stories about education, immigration and epic legal battles. Got a tip? She'd love to hear it.
Contact: Melanie Asmar