Couple gives back to Alto with new resource center

Alto is the highest point on the El Camino Real. Tony and Siu Chapa know it's a place to reach high goals.

"I want to thank all of you for helping us to build a stronger and more informed community," said Tony Chapa before a crowd of service agencies and residents there to celebrate the opening of The Chaparral Center. Tony serves as president.

A resource fair launched the grand opening of The Chaparral Center, a place where people can make a new start in life. It's goal is to break the cycle of poverty by providing adult literacy, education, mentoring, job training and other programs.

"If people have these tools, they'll be able to help themselves," said Siu Chapa, Tony's wife and vice president of Chaparral. "They'll be able to help their families. They'll be able to help their children."

The Chapas personal mission is to give back to Alto. It started with Tony buying the old Lion's Club building. "The building had been the hub of the community for more than 40 years for parties and benefits and it had fallen on some hard times," recalled Tony, who used to vacation as a child at his grandparent's Alto home.

Now the building is helping people escape hard times. A grant from Circle of Ten Network helps. "We pull together regional grants with regional partners," explained Kathy Holdway, president. The agency works with the Greater Alto Rebuild America Initiative. The agencies provide building training, support, guidance and funding for communities.

Chaparral then collaborated with Angelina College's adult literacy program to teach GED and ESL classes. There will also be financial, computer and CPR classes.

"There's a lot of people around here that need to find out things," said Tim McDonald, an Alto resident signed up for computer classes.

The resources are readily available in nearby cities, but like so many small towns the miles in between make the help inaccessible.

"It is a regional need for a lot of the rural communities that are experiencing the same problems that we're experiencing," said Georgia Shaw, Alto Chamber of Commerce president.

The Chapas have shown that where there is a need, there is a way to meet it. The Chapas are willing to help other East Texas communities begin their own resource center.

In June computer, financial and CPR classes will begin. GED and ESL classes begin the first week of July.

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