About Us

El Puente is the Spanish term for the bridge. El Puente Hispanic Services Center is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) volunteer organization. The center works to improve the quality of life for the Hispanic individuals and families living in the Searcy, Arkansas area. We respect the Latino heritage and desire to assist Spanish speakers with assimilating into the community easier than otherwise would be possible. Stated simply, we want to be the bridge linking people with resources. We are a faith-based, non-denominational organization that primarily serves the Hispanic community, but does not refuse service to anyone in need. We believe in the concept of "freely you have received, freely give," which implies giving back and paying forward, all in an effort to strengthen our relationships in the Searcy community. We are all part of #MySearcy.

Our Team

Meet the awesome people behind El Puente.
Ruth Simpson Ruth Simpson
Ruth Simpson
Executive Director
ABICE Certified Interpreter
Corinne Aréchiga Corinne Aréchiga
Corinne Aréchiga
Assistant Director
ABICE Certified Interpreter
Laticia Harris Laticia Harris
Laticia Harris
English Teacher

Board of Directors

Jay Simpson Jay Simpson
Jay Simpson
Dr. Roddy Lochala Dr. Roddy Lochala
Dr. Roddy Lochala
Vice President
Jaclyn Seiders Jaclyn Seiders
Jaclyn Seiders
Mary Kathryn Lochala Mary Kathryn Lochala
Mary Kathryn Lochala
Tity Abbud Tity Abbud
Tity Abbud
Maria Bautista Maria Bautista
Maria Bautista
Guillermo Hernandez Guillermo Hernandez
Guillermo Hernandez
Karen Hite Karen Hite
Karen Hite
Bill Richardson Bill Richardson
Bill Richardson


Ruth and Jay Simpson founded El Puente Hispanic Services Center in 2019. The backstory is a testimony to the active working of God in the lives of unlikely people for His divine purposes. It involves an inspiring journey of faith, courage, and the unrelenting prodding of God.

Ruth Simpson, Assistant Director

my story

The most common questions I am asked when people hear about El Puente is how and why I learned Spanish, and how did I come to be so involved in the Hispanic community. I look back now and can see clearly that I have been on a very unexpected God-led path for a long time, so I want to share my story with you here. It all began with a very special friendship.

I started studying Spanish in 2012. Before that, I did not know any Spanish at all. I grew up in Pennsylvania, long before a second language was required in school. I never really had a desire to learn another language, because I honestly never even thought about it. I did not know anyone who spoke Spanish, and it just wasn't on my radar. I later went to college and got married. My husband, Jay, and I lived in Ohio for a few years before we moved to Searcy in 1997.

Shortly after moving to Searcy a new Mexican restaurant opened which immediately became our favorite place to eat. A waiter named Oscar worked there. Even though Jay and I did not speak Spanish, and Oscar spoke limited English, we developed a friendship. Soon we started noticing God was putting our families together in many other ways, not just when we would go to the restaurant. We began visiting each other's homes and even though communication was challenging, our friendship continued to grow.

In 2012 Oscar's family was going to move into a home that needed some work first. Well, I enjoy doing handyman work, so I volunteered to help get their house ready. We had one month until it was time to move in. So each night for a month when Oscar got off work at 10pm, he and his wife Elena and I would go to the house and fix things, paint things, and do whatever was needed until about 3am. During that time, I still did not know Spanish, and Elena did not speak any English. We used a lot of charades and Google Translate (which sometimes worked well, and sometimes created some humorous misunderstandings!), but we managed to work together. After that month I remember standing in their living room on the last night before they moved in, and they announced that we were no longer friends, we were family! I went home that night and decided to learn Spanish.

I searched online for free resources, and began spending literally every free second I had studying for a whole year. Within the first couple of months, I was able to hold some basic conversations with them. At the end of the year, I had exhausted all that I had found online, so I decided to enroll in a class at Harding University to see if what I had learned was good. My entrance exam showed I had the equivalent of 4 years of high school Spanish! So the resources I had found were very good. And, I was definitely highly motivated! I continued to take a class every semester for the next several years until I ran out of classes.

Through this process of learning Spanish, and my friendship with Oscar and Elena, I began to meet other Spanish speakers, and suddenly my eyes were opened to just how many people were living right here in my own community who struggle with things that should be very simple, just because of a language and cultural barrier. I began to feel an intense desire to help.

I started to ask everyone I met what they needed, and without fail the answer was, "We need to learn English!" So Jay and I began to offer free English classes on Sunday afternoons. That went pretty well, but I just couldn't stop thinking of how I could help on a deeper level. It became an all-consuming passion to find a way to serve using this new talent that God blessed me with. I just did not have a concrete idea of what it would look like.

In 2017 a friend who was a fellow Spanish student at the university and knew of my desire to help the Hispanic community moved to Jonesboro. She found a place there called "El Centro" which is a Hispanic services center. She contacted me and said, "I think you need to come visit. I think it is what you are looking for." So, Jay and I took a day trip to Jonesboro, and we fell in love with what we saw there at El Centro! I finally could see a concrete way to provide services that had just been abstract in my mind before. We immediately came home and started making plans for "El Puente."

We made a list of all the people we could think of who might be interested in forming an organization to help the Hispanic community and called a meeting. The response was tremendously positive! We contacted a professor at Harding who taught an entrepreneurship class, and he assigned 4 of his students to help us during the Spring 2018 semester to help us jump through all the hoops necessary to form a nonprofit. Over the summer we received a letter in the mail granting us permission, and we opened our doors in the fall of 2019!

Since then, we have been very busy with all the programs and services you see mentioned on our website. We have already come a long way, and there is still so much more we want to do as we continue to grow!

If you had come to me before 2012 and said, "Someday you will be the executive director of a nonprofit organization, and by the way, you will first have to learn a whole new language and culture," I would have thought you were crazy! But I am very grateful for this unexpected journey that God has blessed me with, and I look forward to seeing what He has in store for us, and for El Puente, in the future!

Ruth Simpson