We are so incredibly proud to share that La Puente’s Executive Director, Lance Cheslock, has been selected as the Community Trailblazer Award winner by the Community Resource Center!
CRC’s Community Trailblazer Award recognizes outstanding achievements of a person or organization who has promoted and led innovative, grassroots social change in Colorado’s nonprofit sector.
For anyone who has had the pleasure of working with Lance, you know this award is well deserved. Lance will be accepting the award in Denver at the State of Sector, a unique opportunity for nonprofit leaders, foundation executives and staff, elected officials, stakeholders, and sector supporters to reflect on the current state of the Colorado nonprofit sector, and to discuss opportunities for the coming up year.
This award comes as we celebrate 30 years of Lance’s leadership in our community. And though he finds it painful to endure the attention, we are grateful he is being recognized for his amazing work. La Puente is one of the premier rural human services organizations in the country because Lance has empowered his community to push past obstacles and boundaries to ensure that the most vulnerable among us get the resources and compassion they deserve.
In 1989, Lance Cheslock began his work guiding La Puente, a small, rural homeless shelter serving Colorado’s San Luis Valley. Over the next 30 years, La Puente developed a continuum of innovative services and today is considered the most comprehensive rural homeless program in the 50 states. Annually, over 13,000 individuals and family members receive at least one of La Puente’s services, including emergency shelter, housing with support services, homeless prevention resources, nutritious food from one of 15 pantries, youth-stabilization services, soup kitchen meals, home outreach visits, and more. With the objective of meeting the needs of the homeless and community members in crisis, La Puente’s services both restore and strengthen people’s lives, to empower them to live independently, with dignity.
Through the years, both as a result of Lance’s leadership and his ability to recruit a talented and passionate leadership team, La Puente has blazed a path of innovation to overcome the barriers and challenges of becoming a sustainable non-profit organization. Making a continued impact within an isolated, high-poverty region that receives only a sliver of Colorado’s philanthropic resources is a testament to Lance’s creativity. La Puente’s “business” model integrates robust partnerships, a diverse family of social enterprises, a broad base of community volunteers, and decades of harnessing the heartfelt energy from young adults who dedicate a year of service through AmeriCorps.
Lance has been a strong advocate in sharing the story and dynamics of the silent epidemic of rural poverty, both in Colorado and nationally. Staying as an anonymous guest in a diverse array of homeless shelters throughout the United States, he has gained a deeper empathy and understanding of the struggles faced by those without a home. Lance has always found passion in sharing the stories of those who face and overcome tremendous barriers in their lives.
At La Puente, Lance continues to enjoy the challenges of non-profit direct service, program design, staff development, political advocacy, volunteer recruitment, creative community education, and inter-agency networking. He values forging collaboration and exchanging lessons learned with other non-profits.
As a community leader, Lance shares, “I believe that the student inside of the leader should always remain vigilant and awake. Likewise, the leader should seek to find the teacher in every relationship, including children, co-workers, the homeless, or those sitting next to you on the park bench.” As a legacy, Lance would like to silently and anonymously leave behind a multitude of changed hearts, individuals who believe in the worthiness of the homeless and the migrant worker, and individuals who make their own efforts to serve and uphold the dignity of the neediest in our communities.