BURLINGTON – Jose Ortiz of St. Charles Parish in Burlington is a fixture in the Skagit Valley, where he has helped farmworkers and youth for more than 30 years.
For that dedication to the Hispanic community, Ortiz has been honored by the Latino Civic Alliance with its Commitment to Advocacy Award for western Washington.
“I thought I would never receive an award like this,” said Ortiz, pastoral assistant for social outreach at St. Charles. “I came from a very poor background and we didn’t know how to advocate.”
Ortiz was selected for the award because of his work with Catholic youth, his ability to mentor farmworkers and immigrants, and the way he runs the Tri-Parish Food Bank with empathy and compassion, according to Nina Martinez, chair of the alliance.
Jose Ortiz, pastoral assistant for social outreach at St. Charles Parish in Burlington, has been honored by the Latino Civic Alliance for his many years of work with the Hispanic community in the Skagit Valley. Alongside Ortiz are his wife, Lilian, and daughter, Stephanie. Photo: Courtesy Jose Ortiz
“His ability to organize and work with other community leaders is very strong,” Martinez said.
Ortiz said he started volunteering when the late Father Mike Holland, then serving at Immaculate Conception Parish in Mount Vernon, asked him to help deliver food to families.
Ortiz continued volunteering, then became a youth minister at St. Charles about 20 years ago. Around that time, he also worked in Hispanic youth ministry for the archdiocese, Ortiz said.
Today, Ortiz fills several roles at St. Charles. He is director of the Tri-Parish Food Bank, a cooperative effort of St. Charles, Immaculate Conception and Sacred Heart Parish in La Conner and that serves hundreds of people each week. He also directs the Youth Migrant Project, which gives youth from around the archdiocese a chance to spend a week in service to migrant families in the Skagit Valley.
“Jose has been one of the greatest gifts to this community,” said Father Tom McMichael, parochial vicar at St. Charles. “I’m pleased that he’s being honored with this award.”
Ortiz was among those honored by the alliance March 16 during Latino Legislative Day in Olympia. To mark the organization’s 10th anniversary, it presented awards to Latino leaders around the state in several categories: commitment to vision, human rights, civic education, advocacy and stronger communities.
Ortiz plans to continue his work at St. Charles, helping others in the community. “I still love what I do,” he said. “We’re trying to teach people to advocate for themselves.”