NASIC member heads hurricane relief effort

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Michael Hunsaker
  • NASIC Public Affairs
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – A National Air and Space Intelligence Center civilian won the 2017 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian award in recognition of her response efforts in Puerto Rico following the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in September 2017.

Darybel Ortiz was recognized during a ceremony here Jan. 18.
Local efforts organized by Ortiz included delivery of generators to hospitals, coordination of delivery and installation of 32 water filters for nearly 3 million gallons of water to elderly nursing homes and orphanages, as well as providing for the transportation of doctors, delivery of medical supplies, and volunteering at the food bank.

“When we started, our efforts were part of a community effort including volunteers from the NASIC Hispanic Employment Program, the Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright-State, and University of Dayton, as well as private entities in the community,” said Ortiz. “In the WPAFB area alone, we collected 115,000 pounds of aid.”

These efforts grew to include different organizations at the national level.

“We came together and decided to start working a collection drive, that’s how it all started; it created the spark, but I wanted and needed to go the extra mile,” Ortiz said. “I went to social media to highlight our efforts and to learn where the need was from organizations already on the ground in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. I was able to get in contact with Bethenny Frankel and Michael Capponi’s non-profit organization Global Empowerment Mission. With GEM, I served as the logistics lead in Ohio and at a national level to coordinate the delivery and distribution of 20 million pounds of aid.”

Through her connections Ortiz was able to provide life-saving services to those in need.

“When I started working with GEM, I had people contacting me with airplanes that wanted to take patients out of Puerto Rico. I coordinated extraction of at least 25 patients of dialysis, cancer, and diabetes type II. Their conditions required constant medical care and with the power situation in the island they were at risk of dying,” said Ortiz. “I can estimate that we impacted at least 1,000 people. I am still in contact with at least 30 of them and continue to send them care packages.”

One of the main forces driving Ortiz was her family.

“I traveled to Puerto Rico to prepare my grandparents for hurricane Irma, another category five hurricane that passed north of Puerto Rico, but didn’t cause as much damage as Maria,” said Ortiz. “My elderly grandparents and my disabled mom are still living in the island. The days that I couldn’t talk to my family were exasperating. I didn’t know if they were ok, if the hurricane damage their home, or if the flooding in the nearby areas have affected them. I was growing anxious because I was not there to help them.”

The effort in Puerto Rico continues for Ortiz. She founded 18th Parallel Relief, a non-profit organization which continues her work with the island.

“There is close to one million American citizens with no power and no access to clean water in Puerto Rico right now, so the work needs to continue,” said Ortiz. “This was not a one-person effort but a team effort. It took a lot of work and a lot of time to be able to consolidate aid and those who were involved in this effort also need to be recognized for dedicating their time to this, so to them I say ‘thank you’. The work continues.”

For more information on those affected by the hurricanes in Puerto Rico please visit: