Local refugees from Burma would be lost without Drucie Bathin

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"Hiiiiiii, Jack," Bathin said into the phone, smiling. "It's Drucie."

She explained that the families were hungry. "Do you have any Santa Claus that want to give away the food?" she asked. A member of one of the families, a single mother of three who'd recently returned from a seasonal job picking apples in Delta to find that her food stamps had expired, was sitting in her office. "She is not naughty," Bathin added.

Johnson's organization had a spare $300, and he drove to Denver pledging to donate up to $100 to each family. A few hours later, Johnson, Bathin, Hae and members of all three families were at King Soopers. As the two mothers and one father piled oranges, potatoes, jumbo crates of eggs and huge sides of pork into their carts, Johnson added the prices on his cell phone's calculator. Bathin translated the amounts, doing the math so the families would know how much more they could spend. It was a big to-do for a simple shopping trip, but something Johnson would be unable to do on his own.

In the checkout line, an overwhelmed cashier held up a plastic produce bag. "These are organic cucumbers," he said to Johnson. "Is that okay?"

"It's okay for now," Johnson said. "Next time," he told Bathin, "get regular cucumbers."

"They don't know the difference," she said. "I will have to teach them."

For now, at least, it's what she does best.

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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