March 25, 2023
Karen Chavez 'Had To Be' With NY Chaplain

10-year-old Karen Barros, who got here to New York from Venezuela to comply with her sister, was the very last thing on her thoughts.

That was over thirty years in the past. Barros, now Chavez, can be a fifth grader at Clara H. Carlson Elementary Faculty in Elmont, NY, and considered one of two ESL college students in her class, she simply needed to acclimate. A number of years later, after Nick Caras of the New York Chapter of the Racecourse Chaplain of America (RTCANY) visited his church to hunt volunteers, a younger Chavez started work on a Belmont Park again brace and located its goal.

“Once I got here in as a woman, I used to be going to spend the summer time right here and see if I may get into college,” mentioned Chavez, who’s now govt director of the parish and married to pastor Humberto Chavez. “However God had different plans for me. As soon as I began volunteering within the again strut, it was like placing the puzzle items collectively. Wanting again immediately, I notice that is the place I needs to be.”

Those that attended the pastor’s annual awards dinner in Saratoga final August, the place Karen Chavez poignantly spoke about her journey, could also be conversant in elements of this story. Caras, the chaplaincy’s program director, mentioned she by no means will get uninterested in listening to her discuss it, referring to “Karen’s true and deeply touching dedication to serving the women and men who take care of horses on New York’s thoroughbred tracks.”

“We’re a staff right here, and Karen is a crucial a part of that,” Caras mentioned. “What we do and ship after we’re behind is just nearly as good as our folks. Karen’s onerous work and creativity make us higher in each means.”


On the observe, Chavez felt at house from the very starting, largely due to his sister Lety and brother-in-law Ruben Anez, who arrived in New York earlier than him as newlyweds and acquired a job on the again strut at Belmont Park. Letty collected a group from her coworkers at her steady and picked up the cash to cowl the airfare when Karen first got here to america.

His household’s work on the backbend was Chavez’s acquaintance with thoroughbred racing. This bond deepened when he began volunteering as a youngster as a part of his church’s youth group. The items of the puzzle actually got here collectively, this time when Caras known as Pastor Chavez again in 2003 to ask if he was contemplating turning into a pastor for a again stretch.

“We had a younger household again then and we actually had our palms full however we felt actually strongly in our hearts that God needed us to be right here,” mentioned Karen Chavez. “We had lots of people to serve.”

Pastor Chavez accepted the place, and Karen, who has three sons at house, took up a employees place in 2006 and commenced volunteering once more. I went again to the place that introduced me to america within the first place.”

Right now, in its constructing inside Gate 6 in Belmont Park, the priesthood runs a number of applications for the back-stretched neighborhood. Among the many most sturdy is the weekly meals pantry, which serves a median of 500 households every week in the course of the pandemic. These numbers have dropped considerably to about 120 households per week, however the want and schedule stays.

Driving among the pastor’s applications is a straightforward philosophy – “seeing and responding to a stretched want,” as Karen places it. One instance is the summer time enrichment program for backstretching youngsters in Saratoga. In 2006, he and Caras began after realizing that some again stretching households have been charging their youngsters to stick with family members of their house nation throughout their summer time reunion, incurring nice expense.

Right now, youngsters can stick with their households and attend the Pine Grove Campground in Saratoga, the place they’re safely cared for and supervised. Greater than 30 back-stretched households additionally spend the reunion in not too long ago renovated cabins in Pine Grove.

Karen is especially proud to develop the pastor’s ladies’s enrichment and mentoring program, which has helped tons of of ladies overcome many challenges, from studying English to raised diet for his or her households and beginning a enterprise. For Worldwide Ladies’s Day this month, the chaplaincy held a seminar for confused ladies about beginning a enterprise. Since then, this system has advanced into separate youth mentoring teams for girls and boys; and chaplaincy usually refer backstretching neighborhood members to their respective Belmont Park-based Backstretch Worker Service Staff (BEST) and Belmont Childcare Affiliation (BCCA) applications.

Simply forward is the much-anticipated opening of the rectory’s 3,500-square-metre constructing, which is able to double the present area of the rectory and turn out to be its centre. New York Racing Affiliation, Inc. is situated within the constructing, which is anticipated to open this yr. A staff of (NYRA) carpenters, electricians and plumbers work. It would home a chapel, a multi-purpose room, a classroom and employees workplaces named after the late Corridor of Famer and longtime NYRTCA supporter, Cot Campbell.

After the constructing opens, the parish will proceed to make use of the trailers for the weekly meals pantry and clothes tour, which is now held outside. A core element of NYRTCA, non-denominational companies presently held in Belmont Park’s recreation corridor will relocate to a non-public chapel inside the new constructing.

The brand new constructing co-founded the late Marylou Whitney, John Hendrickson, former NYRA president and CEO Chris Kay and his spouse Kristine, Michael Dubb, Kenny and Lisa Troutt, West Level Thoroughbreds, Seth A. and Beth S. Klarman, Dogwood Barn and Dolores Ochota mansion.

Thoroughbred horse proprietor and NYRA board member Michael Dubb supplied most of all of the provides for the brand new rectory. Dubb can be the founder and president of BCCA in Belmont Park; and he and his spouse Lee based Religion’s Home, a BCCA childcare heart for the again stretching neighborhood on the Saratoga Raceway, which opened in the summertime of 2021.

“We see the progress of the brand new constructing day-after-day, and it is very thrilling,” mentioned Karen Chavez. “The brand new constructing will permit us to offer the type of companies the again stretcher wants. It is a neighborhood I am simply starting to like and a spot I belong to.”

To study extra in regards to the New York Racecourse Chaplaincy, go to:

This press launch has been edited by the BloodHorse Staff when it comes to content material and elegance.

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