Haley Chapin ended up in Colorado because she won a contest — and what was supposed to be a three-month stay ended up being a permanent move.

As a sophomore at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., Chapin won a contest to go to Denver for three months to recruit students to a new Johnson & Wales campus there. Her numbers were so high; they asked her to stay.

But there was a hitch.

“They were starting with a freshman class, and I had already taken that level of class,” she said. “I took some time off and worked while I was waiting on the class to catch up — and then, I just never left.”

After graduating with a degree in marketing and communications, Chapin worked in retail and then switched to nonprofits. She moved to the Colorado Springs area to work as the executive director of Tri-Lakes Cares, where her dedication drew the attention of Regina Lewis, a motivational speaker and employee at Pikes Peak Community College. Lewis nominated Chapin for the award.

“I see a lot of leaders in the community and she stood out,” Lewis said. “She works at it. She goes to training and those in the community see that she immerses herself in the job; she’s always willing to learn more about what she can do to help.”

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The two met when Lewis was a keynote speaker at a poverty conference about six years ago.

“I do a lot of training — diversity training, poverty training, leadership classes — and she’s at all of them,” she said. “She’s very humble, very family oriented; she loves to help people. She’s very, very kind. And I admire that she embraces those teachable moments; she wants to learn to be better.”

For her part, Chapin is focused on helping the working poor in northern Colorado Springs, Monument and Palmer Lake. Not known as a particularly low-income area, Chapin says there are many people in the area who live right on the edge, balancing jobs and bills.

“It’s not the same clientele that Westside Cares works with or Catholic Charities,” she said. “They work with the truly homeless. At Tri-Lakes Cares, we work with people who have jobs, but maybe only one person is able to work or they’re on disability. So we provide emergency services, financial help and a bridge out of poverty. It’s helping people who are struggling to get by.”

In those cases, the aid could come from the food pantry, from the thrift store or in the form of school supplies and holiday gifts, she said. The nonprofit also is a part of a program that provides job training and paths to self-sufficiency.

“I like the fact that I leave work at the end of every day knowing I helped people,” she said. “It’s why I’ll always stay in the nonprofit world — it’s like you’re volunteering at work. It’s very fulfilling.”

— Amy Gillentine Sweet