Liz Chapman has spent some time thinking about the concept of putting down roots. Liz grew up in Santa Cruz, and she’s lived in La Honda for 22 years. She has always felt rooted on the coast.
Liz had Latino friends, but she tapped into a new side of the place she’s called home when she started taking Spanish classes at Puente ten years ago. Those were the days when Rev. Wendy Taylor would invite local agricultural workers to converse with the Spanish students. So that was how Liz got to know the men personally and find out about their backgrounds and their lives back in Mexico.
Liz went on to become one of Puente’s longest-serving board members, an annual donor and a valued volunteer. But she traces the time that Puente broadened her outlook to that period in which she was speaking a whole new language.
“I ride a bike, and I’d see these new friend and wave to them in the field, and they’d wave back,” she recalls. They’d been on the other side of a divide before.”
That was Rev. Wendy Taylor’s vision when she started Puente and it worked beautifully.
Soon enough, Liz found that she had vastly expanded her network of friends and neighbors on the coast to include not just field workers, but immigrant families of all kinds.
“It has enriched my view of who I’m connected to on the coast, and who we all are together,” she says.
Liz and her husband, Harlan, have donated generously to Puente for years. Liz joined Puente’s Board of Directors at Rev. Taylor’s urging. As Board President, she oversaw the merger between Puente and its sister nonprofit, North Street Community Services, in 2007.
Liz was instrumental in keeping Puente’s bike program going after Rev. Taylor retired. She got bikes donated for local field workers and found mechanics to fix them up. (Since then, the bike program has expanded to include a ‘bike booth’ at the Pescadero Grown! Farmers’ Market, where anyone can bring their bike in to be fixed for free).
Liz stepped down from the Board of Directors recently when her term ended, but she still spends about 10 hours a week with Puente at La Sala and the bike booth, and as a tutor. She has also helped teach ESL classes in La Honda.
Liz marvels at Puente’s ability to serve so many local populations at once – mothers, students, adult learners, ag workers, adults with health care and other needs. She sees that spirit personified in the diversity of interests represented by board members – field workers, ranchers, educators, entrepreneurs and others, both Latino and Anglo.
“Puente knows the value of involving everyone who has an interest in this community as much as possible, those who are already rooted here or who are putting roots down,” Liz says.