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Ortiz bringing her message of charity to Williston

April 28, 2011

By Adam White
Observer staff

Miss Vermont 2010 Nydelis Ortiz will be the guest speaker at the Williston Federated Church on May 1, prior to taking part in the COTS Walk later that day in Burlington. (Photo courtesy of Nydelis Ortiz)

Charity is a beautiful thing to Nydelis Ortiz.

The 2010 Miss Vermont pageant winner will serve as guest speaker at the Williston Federated Church on May 1, prior to taking part in the COTS (the Committee on Temporary Shelter) Walk in Burlington later that day. Ortiz and her family received assistance from the COTS program upon moving to the United States from Puerto Rico when she was 6-years-old.

“I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the help of COTS and its supporters, and I am honored to be a part of something that changes so many lives for the better,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz, 21, is currently employed at the Dept. of Homeland Security in Williston, after fulfilling an internship there while studying at Castleton State College. Her mother, Doris Rivera, also works for Homeland Security, albeit in a different department.

“We have separate duties so we don’t have very many opportunities to interact, but we do carpool together almost every day,” Ortiz said.

Rivera didn’t have the easiest of roads to travel when she came to Vermont with her daughter and son 15 years ago. She suffered a stroke shortly after the relocation, and was unable to work at a time when her family’s living situation hadn’t yet fully stabilized. That’s when COTS stepped in and provided a helping hand.

“We were a part of the Families in Transition program offered by COTS and through this program and others offered by the organization, my mother was able to find a part-time job despite her disabilities caused by her stroke,” Ortiz said. “COTS was also able to help place us in an affordable housing program where we lived in an apartment better suited for a family of three.”

That success story of a family overcoming adversity is what led Federated Church pastor Joan O’Gorman to reach out to Ortiz, in hopes that the Essex resident would serve as guest speaker on May 1.

“I thought it was a compelling story,” O’Gorman said. “Our church supports COTS and a lot of the walkers who will be taking part on May 1, so it was a good match. We also have some links to Hispanic culture … [including] a regular trip to Nicaragua, for a school rebuilding project.”

Ortiz is collecting donations online for her effort in the COTS Walk, the latest link in a chain of charity work that was first forged when she participated in a food drive in middle school.

“Ever since then I was always inspired to give back,” she said.

That charitable spirit was one factor in Ortiz being named Miss Vermont in 2010. She plans on competing in this year’s Miss Vermont pageant on July 25 at South Burlington High School, in hopes of moving on and bringing the Green Mountain State its first-ever Miss America crown.

Along the way, Ortiz is likely to inspire more young women to contribute to their communities – and be more than just another pretty face.

“Nydelis was like a big sister to me last year, and we are very close friends now,” said Shelby Gregoire of Barre, who was named Miss Teen Vermont in 2010. “Nydelis is everything I ever could have hoped for in a sister; she is caring, understanding, compassionate, and thrives on helping others. She is the type of person who leaves people smiling, and inspires me to do the same.”

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