Hispanic woman awarded for work with addicted, at-risk

When Ana Chaparro looks into the eyes of Latinos enslaved by drugs and alcohol, she tries to see Christ, she said.

“When I see them recovering, I feel like it’s a miracle,” said the 41-year-old Ascension Church parishioner.

Chaparro has led volunteers of Prevention and Rescue in Colorado (known as “Prevencion y Rescate” in Spanish) for more than seven years to help youths and adults find new life in Christ and escape the clutches of drug addiction and gangs.

In 2007, she helped launch a chapter of the Los Angeles-based ministry locally that serves 4,300 people annually through a bilingual 12-step program, retreats, parenting classes, youth groups, street outreach and home visitations. There are 30 families involved at its three locations at Ascension Church, St. Anthony of Padua Church and Holy Family Church in Fort Collins, she said.

Chaparro, who grew up in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, will receive the Pastoral Leadership Award for her dedication at the Centro San Juan Diego Gala Oct. 1.

As the regional coordinator, Chaparro organizes five retreats a year and directs its programs to enable families to meet Christ through them.

“They need to have an encounter with God. That’s the first step,” she said. “Most people who have these kinds of problems, they never go to church.”

The programs are designed to reach the addicted on a human and spiritual level. Part of this journey requires reflection about their life experience.

“We believe in the human side, also,” Chaparro explained. “It’s really important because when somebody wants to start rehab they need to think about their life and childhood.”

Reconciliation with God, then with themselves, is necessary for rehabilitation to truly begin.

Involvement with the ministry may begin with a home visit by one of the volunteers. A person is encouraged to return to the Church and join the programs it has available for recovery and healing.

Retreats are usually the first step.

“The focus of these retreats is for persons who have alcohol and drugs and gang problems in their families,” Chaparro said. “We believe the problem is not only for persons who are drinking and doing drugs, it’s for the whole family.”

Group support is offered for family members who can be devastated by a loved-one’s addiction.

Every week volunteers also canvass the streets to share with at-risk youth and the addicted their own testimonies along with an invitation to attend weekly activities.

Chaparro has faced depression herself after her family dealt with addiction. She now uses that experience to empathize with other families.

“In the past, I was depressed,” she said about her family’s trials. “Now we can suffer with these people when they have that kind of addiction.”

She also helps organize youth groups to help teenagers escape gang activity. Chaparro said youths in homes where parents are often absent working long hours or multiple jobs are in most danger.

“Sometimes the youths don’t have communication with their parents,” she said of some homes. “They feel more accepted outside of the home with (gang) members.”

All the programs are aimed to help the addicted and at-risk to know they are children of God and that there is hope.


COMING UP: Team Samaritan cyclist goes ‘Everesting’ for the homeless and hungry

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When it comes to the daily sufferings of those who are homeless, there’s nothing like a 29,029-foot bike ride to keep things in perspective.

That’s exactly what Corbin Clement will be doing this Saturday, June 19, with a couple of his riding buddies as they attempt an “Everesting” ride to raise money for the Samaritan House homeless shelter in Denver. Starting at Witter Gulch Road in Evergreen, the three riders will climb Squaw Pass Road to a point in Clear Creek County and ride back down the hill for over eight laps, which amounts to roughly 190 miles in distance and the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing – hence the name “Everesting.” Their goal is to complete the feat in 20 hours or less.

Oh, and they can’t sleep. It is, indeed, just as crazy as it sounds. Those who aren’t avid cyclists might be wondering, “How in the world do you train for something like this?” 
“For training, it’s been just more or less ride as much as possible,” Clement told the Denver Catholic. “The training is structured around endurance, and that’s of course what Everesting is. It’s just a lot of peddling. So, a lot of my training so far has just been trying to ride as much as possible and ride longer high elevation rides.” 

In March, an Irish cyclist set the world record for Everesting when he completed the feat in six hours and 40 minutes. Clement isn’t trying to set a record, but regardless, it’s quite a feat to undertake, even for a seasoned athlete like him, whose pedigree includes snowboarding and rock climbing. 

“Our ride will be the same thing, but it’ll be pretty different,” Clement said. “We don’t have any sort of special bikes or super focused diet or a really regimented plan or a crew that’s very well-instructed on how we’re going to tackle this. I’ve read a couple of things to just kind of make it into a party — have friends come out to support you, get people to join you on certain laps…that’s kind of the approach we’re taking.” 

Clement has already raised $5,200 for Samaritan House, with a current goal of $8,000. This is Clement’s first year riding for Team Samaritan, but his dad, Kevin, has ridden for the team for several years. When his dad offered to give him an extra kit and uniform, Clement accepted, but didn’t want to take it without doing something help the cause. He could’ve simply opted for a nice ride in the countryside, but he chose to do something a bit more challenging.  

Corbin Clement used to experience the challenges that homeless people face on a daily basis when commuting through downtown Denver to work on his bike. This Saturday, he will raise money for Samaritan House homeless shelter by “Everesting,” a 190-mile bike ride that is the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing. (Photo provided)

“For some reason, the Everesting idea popped into my head,” he explained. “I think it’s one of those things that has a little bit of shock value for people who hear about it. It’s certainly something that’s gained more popularity and visibility in the last couple of years with endurance athletes. I wanted to choose something that would actually be a challenge for myself and something that I’d have to work towards.” 

Clement currently resides in Utah, but he used to live in Denver and commute by bike to work every day. During those rides to his office, which was located near Samaritan House, he would pass many homeless people and have conversations with them. This experience was also a motivating factor for his Everesting attempt for Team Samaritan. 

“It’s very different when you’re on a bike versus in a car because you’re right there,” Clement said. “If you stop at a stoplight and a homeless person is on the corner, whether or not they’re panhandling or something like that, you hear the conversations, or you’ll have a conversation with them. There are things you smell or you hear or you see that you just never would if you were in a car. So, it kind of made sense, too, with the biking aspect. It’s part of my community that I’ve lived and worked in for a very long time.” 

Clement’s Everesting attempt is one event in a series of endurance event’s he’s doing over the summer that culminates with the Leadville 100, a single-day mountain bike race across the Colorado Rockies. In that race, he will be riding to support young adults diagnosed with cancer by raising funds for First Descents.  

Both causes are near to Clement’s heart, and he said that while his Everesting attempt will be a form of “suffering,” it pales in comparison to what the homeless face day in and day out. This is ultimately why he’s riding and raising funds for Team Samaritan. 

“Any time we see a homeless person or people who have to live on the streets,” Clement said, “That is true suffering — true endurance — with no end in sight.” 

To learn more about Corbin’s fundraising efforts or to donate, click here.