Gary Choppé Of Family Promise Is A KHTS Santa Clarita Unsung Hero
Gary Choppé, board vice president of the nonprofit Family Promise of the Santa Clarita Valley and vice chairman of the Santa Clarita Arts Commission, is carrying on his educator parents’ tradition of community service above-and-beyond. That’s why Choppé is the latest KHTS Santa Clarita Unsung Hero, proudly presented by Mercedes-Benz of Valencia.
Over the last three decades, Choppé has served on the boards of numerous nonprofit organizations in the Santa Clarita Valley, among them the Child & Family Development Center, the SCV Historical Society, and the SCV Chamber of Commerce.
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And as a city arts commissioner, Choppé’s mission is to work with his fellow commissioners to find new venues — including the controversial roundabout in Newhall — for local artists to display their work.
Born in a Camera Case
His mother and father, Jane and Gene Choppé, moved to the Santa Clarita Valley in 1960, when Gary was a precocious 4-year-old. She taught school for the Sulphur Springs School District, while Gene was a principal for the Saugus Union School District.
Both were active in community affairs all their lives, not only in school, but also in outside school. That made quite an impression on their young son.
“They moved out here to open some of the first schools in the area,” Choppé said in a recent on-air interview with AM 1220 KHTS air personality George Cummings. “I really got a lot of their leadership, their commitment to the community and community involvement.”
RELATED: Read more KHTS Santa Clarita Unsung Heroes features presented by Mercedes-Benz of Valencia
Choppé developed an eye for art and photography early. He picked up a camera and got serious about using it while in junior high school.
“I started at Sierra Vista in yearbook, and then moved on to Canyon High School and worked in yearbook as an editor,” he said. “I just really developed a love for that kind of photography as far as an artistic outlet to express myself.”
After graduating from Canyon with honors, Choppé attended Pepperdine University in Malibu and California State University, Northridge. He earned his BA from Brookings Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara in 1983.
Launching a 30-Plus-Year Career
That was a big year for Choppé: On a hot tip from his mother, he returned to Santa Clarita to found founded his first photography business, Creative Image Photography, as a section of the old Newberry’s department store on Soledad in Canyon Country (now a Food4Less market). And the same year, he married his fiancé, Robin, and they soon started a family.
As a young businessman just starting out, Choppé soon connected with the Canyon Country Chamber of Commerce and later the SCV Chamber, which eventually absorbed the Canyon Country group.
“I got involved in both of those organizations, specifically working in the event and fundraising areas,” he said.
Choppé and his camera became a fixture at business functions and nonprofit fundraisers around the SCV over the next 25 years, often donating his services. As he broadened his scope to include graphic design and marketing, his business grew. He founded Choppé Advertising Group in 2008 to help clients from the SCV and Southern California to Costa Rica to develop campaigns and collateral to market their businesses.
A Family Affair: Their Three Sons
Meanwhile, Choppé’s family was growing fast, too. He and Robin, property manager at Valencia Lakeshore, raised three sons, Jesse, Richard and Cody. They’re young adults now, carrying on their own lives.
Cummings asked if the boys were artistic, too.
“They all are,” Choppé said. “One’s also mechanically inclined. (Cody) works for BMW down in Glendale as a service tech. (Jesse is) in the Army right now, stationed in Colorado Springs, and he’s (on Maneuvers in 29 Palms) and might be deployed in Afghanistan for his second deployment. And (Richard lives) in Missouri.”
A bit more than two years ago, at the ripe old age of 52, Choppé became a proud granddad when his son Jesse and his wife had a son.
Empty Nest: More Time for Family Promise SCV, Santa Clarita Arts Commission
With his sons on their own, Choppé has even more time to devote to his volunteering, and right now his two passions are Family Promise and the Santa Clarita Arts Commission.
“Family Promise is a great organization that helps displaced families in Santa Clarita,” he said. “We have a resource center in Canyon Country and currently have three or four families going through the program. My part is in the fundraising area.”
4th Annual Box City Sleepover ‘Best Ever’
Choppé is one of the architects of Family Promise’s Box City fundraiser, which built its fourth annual overnight “homeless” encampment at Bridgeport Park the last weekend of September 2013.
The event included inspirational speeches and music by noted local singer/songwriter/musician John Stratton, a candlelight vigil, and an overnight stay outdoors designed to give participants-donors a taste of what it’s like to be homeless.
“We had more than 400 people show up, and had our best year ever,” he said. “People slept overnight in boxes and we raised about $50,000.” Proceeds go directly to Family Promise’s program to aid Santa Clarita Valley families in distress.
Choppé said the best way for others in the community to help Family Promise of SCV is to visit the organization’s website at http://www.familypromisescv.org.
Arts Commission on the Roundabout Merry-Go-Round
On the Arts Commission, “We work with art groups to help promote them,” Choppé said.
He’s been in the thick of plans to install some sort of work by a local artist in the traffic roundabout now under construction at Newhall Avenue and Fifth and Main Streets in Newhall.
After much public input, the commission presented concepts by two local artists to the Santa Clarita City Council, which rejected the initial ideas in September. The Council instead commissioned an online survey and sent the project back to the drawing board.
The survey results: For now, any art on display will apparently be of the landscaping genre, if that.
The commission’s continuing challenge is finding consensus on what art, if any, to place on the roundabout, and how to fund it and whatever improvements might be needed to accommodate it..
Fortunately, Choppé also has other items on his agenda as commission vice-chair.
“We’re going to launch a new website, a one-stop location where people can go for entertainment,” he said.
Cummings asked Choppé what was most rewarding about the things he does for SCV nonprofit groups.
“Working with the people in nonprofits,” Choppé said. “All of the committee members that are so dedicated, all of the volunteers – there’s so many people that put in so many hours to do good things for the valley.”
Crediting others instead of himself — spoken like a true Santa Clarita Unsung Hero.
Watch Choppé's Unsung Hero Interview, Listen to the Podcast
Photos: Courtesy Gary Choppé.
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Gary Choppé Of Family Promise Is A KHTS Santa Clarita Unsung Hero
Article: Gary Choppé Of Family Promise Is A KHTS Santa Clarita Unsung Hero
Source: Santa Clarita News
Author: Stephen Peeples