Meet Colorado REALTOR Chet Choman: 2018 NAR Good Neighbor Award Winner
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” It is in moments when this type of generosity and servitude are displayed that recognition is in order. This type of philosophy is unmistakably present in the San Luis Valley of Colorado.
Earlier this month, Chet Choman, member of the REALTORS® of Central Colorado, was presented with the 2018 Good Neighbor Award by the National Association of REALTORS®. This honor is only awarded to five REALTORS® across the country each year, and what a worthy recipient to represent REALTORS® in Colorado. Not only is he a good neighbor, but he has been making lifelong impacts in the San Luis Valley for years.
“We are so proud of Chet,” said Kevan Lyons, Association Executive of REALTORS® of Central Colorado. “He is one of those rare individuals that continually practices humility and selflessness. His heart is to take care of others with no motive for personal gain.”
Choman demonstrates a commitment and dedication to finding housing for others even when he didn’t have that luxury as a child. At a young age, he was homeless for five years after his family was captured by the Nazis and taken from Poland to work the fields in Germany. In the early 1950s, an opportunity arose for families with farming backgrounds to be sponsored and contracted to work in the United States for two years. Choman traveled here with his family and moved into his first home in Yuma, Colorado.
In 1975, Choman obtained a broker’s license and became a REALTOR® to assist others in finding a home. “I was motivated to sell homes to people who were able to buy them, but I also thought we could do something for those who were unable to purchase a home,” said Choman. In the early 1980’s, Choman met with a group of individuals who were also concerned about people in their community not having a place to live. The group worked to find housing for guests, clients, and volunteers. He took a dream of helping the homeless population and made it a reality through the creation of La Puente Home.
La Puente Home serves as a homeless shelter for as many as 100 people per night, providing food and accommodations for those in need within the community. He also bought a hotel and converted rooms into smaller apartments, creating a space where people could stay when La Puente was at a high volume of occupants. Over the course of time, he built a 32-unit apartment project which now serves as low-income housing.
But Choman and his team didn’t stop there. With a passionate pursuit of forward-thinking, they always keep an eye out for opportunities to serve their community. “As we saw needs, we would get together and find ways to meet them,” said Choman. After formulating a plan and setting it into action, the Adelante Family Resource Center came to be. This resource center serves as a 2-year program assisting with case management, skill development, housing, and classes on how to balance a checkbook, family planning, and budgeting.
Not only do Choman and his team assist with problems that have already occurred, they are an exemplary illustration of being proactive within their community. “We also try to find ways to prevent homelessness by supporting families to pay rent or other expenses,” said Choman.
In addition to meeting housing needs, Choman and his team strive to serve their entire community. In the 40 years that La Puente Home has been operating, Choman and his Board of Directors have developed 10 additional programs to assist their community, including P.A.L.S. (a children’s after school program), 15 food pantries across the valley, a coffee shop, three thrift shops, and several different resource centers involved with clothing, food, and community education. “For a long time, we didn’t have government support,” said Choman. “In the latter part of 2017, La Puente Home has been recognized by the state of Colorado as a Regional Service Provider and representing homelessness as a Regional Resource Center.”
Choman consistently shares that volunteerism is the true spirit of the San Luis Valley. He loves the valley and the people very much. “At 7,600 feet in elevation, we would normally be associated with mountains and high terrain,” said Choman. “But the valley is actually a desert because the mountain ranges around us grab a lot of the water. But the mountains give back the water through the ground, much like our volunteers giving back to our community. I think it is reflective of the people here: they may not have a lot, but they share what they do have. In 2017, we provided services to over 16,000 people, which is roughly one-third of the population of the valley and a lot of that was done through very committed volunteers.”
With his humble heart, hard work ethic, and unending generosity, it comes to no surprise that Choman was awarded the 2018 Good Neighbor Award by the National Association of REALTORS®. He shares that it is an honor and he looks forward to traveling to Boston with Lance Cheslock, Director of La Puente Home, to be recognized. “Oftentimes, it is difficult to receive recognition and funding in rural areas,” said Choman. “Receiving an honor through the National Association of REALTORS® has potentially given us more opportunities for exposure and funding. It allows us to tell our story more effectively, and for that, I am very grateful.”
Choman, having just achieved Emeritus Status for serving as a REALTOR® for 40 years, continues his passions of helping others by being an active REALTOR® and volunteering. “It’s easy to keep going when you are so inspired by the people around you,” he said. “Whether it be other REALTORS® or people lending a hand to folks that are in need, it is a constant source of motivation for me.”
When asked about the future of La Puente Home, Choman wishes for one thing: to end homelessness altogether. “We’d like to go out of business, but homelessness is one of those things that you never really conquer,” he said. “Unfortunately, the problem continues and keeps growing. So, we have dedicated volunteers serving daily and their commitment to help those less fortunate than themselves as we strive to find more solutions to homeless issues.”
With the amount of success Choman has had in serving his community, he shares his vision for reaching beyond the valley. “With very little money, this could perhaps be a pilot program across the country,” he said. “This country was built on neighbors helping neighbors and as long as people care about their neighbors, places like La Puente will continue to be socially responsible for those in need.”
He believes that as REALTORS®, a real difference can be made within each community. “We, as REALTORS®, have a unique opportunity,” said Choman. “We make our living by providing housing and we can always become more involved in our communities and by helping others achieve their dreams as well.”
“With Chet being only the second REALTOR® in Colorado to be awarded as a Good Neighbor by NAR, it gives us the opportunity to honor the unsung heroes of our association,” said Lyons. “It is gratifying to be part of an organization with the members of ROCC and REALTORS® across the country who invest in their local communities with selfless attitudes.”
Congratulations again to Chet Choman, Colorado recipient of the 2018 Good Neighbor Awards. All that he does for his community is truly inspiring. A huge “thank you” to Chet for all that he does and continues to do for the REALTOR® community and the San Luis Valley!
Chet welcomes anyone who wants to learn more about La Puente Home to reach out – they would be happy to receive any visitors from around the state. Please feel free to contact Lance Cheslock, Director of La Puente Home, at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 719-589-5909. To learn more about La Puente home or how to become involved, please visit their website at www.lapuente.net.