ALAMOSA — “I was raised in a family that values service to others,” said new Tu Casa Director Patricia Lara. “It’s just something that I knew I would do, too.”
Before joining Tu Casa, a domestic abuse treatment center in Alamosa, Lara, 54, worked as a defense attorney. The Valley native got her bachelor’s degree from Adams State University in 1989 and her law degree from the University of Wyoming in 2007.
However, it wasn’t the right fit for her and she then became the director of San Luis Valley Community Corrections from 2008 to 2011. After that she was a probation officer in the 12th Judicial District.
“I loved that job,” Lara said. “I was really fortunate to have the choice between two really good jobs and really good careers with people that I enjoy working worth. But I saw Tu Casa as an opportunity to help a different set of people and use a different set of skills.
“I’ve been reevaluating my personal belief system with regards to victims and offenders and it’s been a good experience.”
Unofficially, Lara’s first day was at the children’s carnival held at Adams State on April 1, two days before her first actual workday.
“That was really my first introduction to some of the work that Tu Casa and the Children’s Advocacy Center do,” Lara said. “I got to hear from people who have received services come up to our booth and say ‘thank you.’ I was able to see a lot of generosity.”
According to Lara the job transition has been seamless. “The staff here is really amazing. It’s evident that they worked really hard since their last director left to make sure that the programs stay operable and that people are receiving services. I’ve been really impressed with the staff, their knowledge base, their commitment and their passion for this type of work.
“They had a choice for some good candidates so I’m grateful to them for giving me this opportunity to try to make a difference.”
Though she’s been there less than a month Lara already has big plans for Tu Casa. Along with searching for new revenue streams, she’s trying to find ways to help pets of victims by working with the animal shelter or starting a pet food bank.
“The people who need shelter are sometimes reluctant to leave their homes because they don’t want to leave their pets,” Lara said.
Lara is also looking at working with state legislators to pass bills that will assist victims.
“We want to be a force that’s making change not just in the Valley, but statewide.
“I want to really make sure that Tu Casa and CAC are valued in the community, not just because they work with victims, but because they help people to make changes to get them out of bad situations. It’s more life changing for the people we serve. It’s not just helping them from one day to the next; these are things that are going to impact them for the rest of their lives.”
Her father Max, who passed away in 2014, was an inspiration to Lara. “He would say whatever you do, you should always try to make it easier for the other person,” said Lara. “That’s in everything I do, every interaction I have.”
Tu Casa will be hosting a meet and greet with Lara on April 28.