Humberto Chavez ministers to the entire backstretch community.
Photo by Alyssa Jung.
Saratoga Humberto Chavez is a powerful man, but he doesn’t see himself that way.
“I would have never thought that I’d be here but this is where the Lord has set for me to be at this time,” said Chavez.
For the past eight years, Chavez has been the lifeline of the Saratoga backstretch. As the chaplain for the Racetrack Chaplaincy of America New York Division, Chavez is the go-to guy for just about everything.
A baby needs baptism—Chavez can perform that. A backstretch worker needs help translating—Chavez speaks Spanish and English. A family needs advice about medical care or a ride to work or help planning a funeral or memorial service—Chavez can do it all.
“We don’t have guidelines … we just kind of do it and we try for people not to fall down through the cracks. That’s the difference between a program who takes care of the health issues and a program who takes care of personnel and so on; we’re like that net that won’t let you crash,” said Chavez.
No job too big (or small)
Chavez is chaplain for all three racetracks in New York: Saratoga, Belmont and Aqueduct. During the Saratoga racing season he and his family (wife, Karen, and three sons) live in a log cabin not too far from the racetrack. The rest of the year is spent downstate, but no matter where he is, Chavez ministers all religious denominations and is on call 24/7.
“When you have a mass number of workers, you always have that personnel that would probably take care of different aspects … when you bring in the midst of all those services somebody just to lend a hand to somebody at 11 o’clock in the morning or at 4 o’clock in the morning when you know that person will always be there, it’s different,” said Chavez.