by Valerie Clemens
What do 235 individuals who have donated 1,175 hours of their time and talents over the last five years have in common?
The answer is: They have volunteered for a "Day Of Service".
Since 2007, a day has been set aside by a group of Miss America volunteers to work with the Las Vegas Habitat for Humanity and with the support of Lowe's "Let's Build Something Together" held during the week of the Miss America Pageant. These individuals dedicate a "Day of Service"in honor of our 53 Miss America contestants for their "Year of Service" to our states. Over the years we have had three formers Miss America's, Ericka Dunlap 2004, BeBe Shopp,1948 and Kate Shindle,1998 and "The 2010 Amazing Race Contestants " join along with our Miss America family and friends from around the country to gather for fun and a sense of accomplishment by working together to help others begin a new life with a helping hand. President and CEO at Habitat for Humanity Las Vegas Guy Amato, stopped by the site again this year to welcome us and thank us for supporting the Habitat for Humanity mission which is to contribute and provide safe affordable homes for the people of Las Vegas and the world.
This January 13, 2011, marked the 5th annual event with 53 Miss America volunteers from around the country, traveling to Clark County to paint, clean and spackle, working side by side with Lowe's "Let's Build Something Together" and Habitat for Humanity "Women's Build" volunteers. This project has been lead by Valerie Clemens from the Miss Maine Scholarship Pageant for the past five years. This year's event couldn't have been better, weather in the high 60's, not a cloud in the sky! The group gathered in the lobby at 7:15 am at Planet Hollywood to check in and meet old and new friends. We climbed onto our Greyhound Bus and headed for Henderson.
When the volunteers arrived at the site, signed waivers, they enjoyed a special surprise breakfast of "Starbucks coffee and treats." What an eye opener! Again this year as she has for the past five years, our "Habitat Angel", Miss America 2004, Ericka Dunlap greeted the volunteers and reflected on her every first Habitat "Day of Service" then she warmed the group up with her popular morning stretching exercises.Her spark and spirit always is a bright part of our day! The Habitat for Humanity Las Vegas Volunteer coordinator, Bobbi Hardy, Project Manager, Roger Cooper and our Site Superintendent, Mike Biddle made us feel like it was "ole home week" and explained how they appreciated our involvement and that this is a very special annual event that they look forward to with the Miss America volunteers. Paul Brown from the Miss New York Organization shared with the morning participants about his "Day of Service"experience in Las Vegas last year and how the Miss New York pageant family became involved with Habitat for Humanity during pageant season last summer and encouraged all of us to share this experience and take it to the next level by becoming Habitat volunteers in our home states. I acknowledged and dedicated this year's "Day Of Service" to three of our Miss America volunteers who passed away last year with a moment of silence and "confetti toss" to Robert Towle from the Miss Maine Pageant, Louanne Gamba from the Miss Rhode Island Pageant and Ric Frentz from New York and The Official Miss America Pageant Historian. Our friends, gone but not forgotten.
With motivated volunteers, we were divided into 4 groups, painting, taping, washing windows and moving roofing materials via assembly line. We went about our work with pride. Camara's snapping, people laughing and a few tears were shed throughout the morning, along with a lot of the work being accomplished, it was a very productive day. Vicki Morrison, the event's "Lollipop hostess" from Pennsylvania passed out the anticipated treats for a midmorning snack to everyone' delight.
With most of our work accomplished by 11:30 am, the lunch break came just in time with a special on site, "Taco Party" by Qdoba, Mexican Grill and all the fixin's!
After lunch we regrouped for sweep and clean up before returning to Planet Hollywood, host hotel for the Miss America pageant, to get ready for the next pageant dinner, alumni reception and pageant preliminary. But just before we left, a brightly painted hot pink ice cream van pulled up to the site with music blasting. Inside a very sweet lady asked where we were from and wondered if we would care for some dessert? Having enjoyed our delicious tacos, ice cream sounded like a great idea! After some of us (not on pageant diets) placed our orders, ordering everything from popsicles to ice cream sandwiches, I went to pay the ice cream lady, she said, "Oh, I don't want your money, look at what you are doing for my community. I want you to enjoy it and the ice cream is my gift to you!" After some coaxing, I brought our new friend out of the van, to meet our team of pageant volunteers, so we could thank her properly with hugs and high fives. On the ride home we fondly recalled the day's events and enjoyed our time together before heading our separate ways.
A couple of our volunteers summed up the Day of Service this way:
"Memories of that day include the grandmother with her little granddaughter who walked to the site to say "Thank You" for their house (from our work and other volunteers in past years)...and were so happy to see us there! There was the woman who drove by the site in her "pink bus" and could not thank us enough for what we were doing! She had finally saved enough to get her work permit and her bus that would house her business...but she was thanking us!!! Those were just heartwarming minutes to us.......and times when we realize just how fortunate we really are and how much we have! Coming in contact with some of the actual people that live there and are affected by what we do really made it so much more real for all of us." Vicki Morrison-Pennsylvania"To see so many Miss America volunteers involved was also moving for me because it validated many of the reasons that I love this Organization. It was a grassroots effort at it's finest and I was so grateful to be a part of it." Chip Brown- Executive Director of the Miss Arlington Pageant- VirginiaSpecial thanks go to Teri Galvez, the Executive Director of the Miss District of Columbia Organization for partnering our Miss America volunteers with Lowe's "Let's Build Something Together" and Ann Catron our Lowe's on site Lowe's volunteer. Thank you to Lowe's Compan ies Community Relations Manager, Kelly Persons for assistance in making this event possible for our Miss America volunteers. Also Bobbi Hardy, our Las Vegas Habitat for Humanity Volunteer coordinator for "A Day of Service" project, a reality each year.
As part of her platform, Miss Puerto Rico’s Outstanding Teen Monica Arias held a series of seminar in her hometown of Toa Baja for girls ages 6 to 12, which consisted of modeling lessons and seminars regarding the importance of self-esteem.
The final event, which consisted of a graduation, was a start studded event where Miss Puerto Rico Mariselle Morales sang the National Anthem, as well as Monica Arias who also sang. Monica received from the mayor the Key to the city of Toa Baja for her dedication and hard work. This makes Monica the youngest person ever to receive such honor.
Natalie Ragazzo was recently crowned Miss New Jersey's Outstanding Teen 2011 by her predecessor, Andie Babusik. Natalie is a 15-year-old vocalist from Pennington, New Jersey. She will go on to compete at the Miss America's Outstanding Teen pageant in Orlando this August. Congratulations, Natalie!
Photo: Richard Krauss
Kacie Noelle Ferraro has been crowned Miss University 2011 & will be competing for the title of Miss New Hampshire 2011 in April!
Kacie is a former teen title holder, Miss Rhode Island's Outstanding Teen 2005.
This weekend, the Miss Orlando pageant welcomed two new titleholders; Liz Fechtel, the new Miss Orlando OT, and Ashley Ramsey, the new Miss Orlando! Both young ladies wore gowns from Regalia Magnificent Apparel.
Congratulations, and welcome!
Liz Fechtel , the new Miss Orlando OT, and Ashley Ramsey, the new Miss Orlando!
Courtesy of Starstudded Photography
The Miss South Carolina pageant recently welcomed two new titleholders, Miss Fountain Inn Teen Lauren Waynick and Miss Fountain Inn Susannah White. Lauren Waynick a sophomore at Travelers Rest High School, Travelers Rest South Carolina. Susannah is a senior at Clemson university. Both will be competing in the Miss South Carolina pageant in July.
Congratulations, and welcome!
The Miss Nebraska Organization recenlty announced that Nicky Haverland will be taking over the Miss Nebraska crown for Teresa Scanlan, who was crowned Miss America 2011. Nicky held the local title of Miss Douglas County. Her platform is Grab Life by the Protons: Encouraging Science Education.
Congratulations to Nicky!
Miss America's Outstanding Teen Organization Congratulates Miss New York's Outstanding Teen 2010 Alison Stroming! Alison will be performing Pas de Deux from Vasily Vainonen's Flames of Parisstaged by Raymond Lukens as well as two other pieces as part of The Presidency of John F. Kennedy: A 50th Anniversary Celebration on January 19 - 20, 2011.
"I feel so honored to be performing again for Michelle Obama and now her whole family," said Alison. " We have been rehearsing for the performance since November, 5-6 hours a day, six days a week!"
One year ago, Alison performed at the Metropolitan Opera House during the Opening Night Gala for American Ballet Theater in which Michelle Obama, Caroline Kennedy, and Jill Biden were in attendance.
(Photo Courtesy of MAOT)
You are tnvited to the 4th Annual Alumni Reception Thursday, January 13, 2011 3:00 to 5:00PM in the beautiful Eiffel Tower Restaurant in the Paris Resort & Casino in LasVegas during the Miss America week. All State & Local Pageant Alums, volunteers, Miss Americas, past titleholders and contestants plus guests are invited!
The Alumni Committee will be recognizing several longtime leaders from State Organizations for their many years of service and generous contributions to the Miss America Program. This year those honored are from Mississippi, Utah and Maine. Bring your memorabilia and photos to share with others.
Walk next door (north) from the Planet Hollywood to the front door of the Paris Hotel (next to the fountain on Las Vegas Blvd) and walk straight ahead to the base of the Tower where you will find the reservation desk at the opening of the elevator. Tell them you are attending the Alumni Reception. (The Eiffel Tower rises above the Paris Casino) We hope to see you at the Alumni Reception, Thursday afternoon, 3:00pm to 5:00pm!Then join us for dinner! Following the Alumni Reception, we urge you to join us for a fabulous and memorable dinner at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant! You're already there, why not stay for dinner! A number of us have already booked our reservations. Don't miss the opportunity to dine in this exciting, first class restaurant with it's spectacular views of the famous "Strip" including witnessing the Bellagio fountains! Call the Eiffel Tower Restaurant (702) 948-6937 to make dinner reservations.
This past weekend, Michigan welcomed two new titleholders: Miss Spirit of the State 2011 Mekeisha Alcock and Miss Spirt of the State's Outstanding Teen Brooklyn Lambert.
The pageant was held in Grand Rapids, Michigan at the Circle Theatre. Executive Director Noddea Skidmore is a former Miss Michigan contestant herself and has been directing this popular local pageant since 2003.
Photos Courtesy of Bryan Frank