'Mucho gracias' to Barnwell County worker

Deloris Charlton has probably wanted to say gracias to Jessie Ortiz a lot.

With a little help from a state organization, Charlton got to do that last month for Ortiz, who is the chief custodian for Barnwell County government.

As custodian, Ortiz runs many errands around the county and its offices. That's his main duties, he said.

However, Ortiz, who is fluent in Spanish, often assists the Barnwell County Detention Center with Hispanic inmates.

"I nominated him because outside of his job for the county, he has volunteered to be our interpreter," Charlton said.
"Sometimes when we get a Spanish person - we can't understand a word they say."

Charlton nominated Ortiz for the state volunteer of the year award through the S.C. Jail Administrators Association.

Ortiz collected his award last month at the state conference for jail administrators in Myrtle Beach. The organization allows administrators of county detention centers to nominate a non-employee for their volunteerism.

Charlton said Ortiz's help has gone beyond verbal - he has translated into Spanish the 30-page guide that each inmate gets once admitted that explains the rules of the facility into incoming inmates.

"We joke that he's the only one that knows if it is right," Charlton said.

Ortiz is also working on burning an orientation compact disc that detention officers can play for Hispanic inmates that answers the most frequently asked questions until Ortiz can come and explain policies in Spanish in more detail to them, she said.

"He's a consummate volunteer," Charlton said.

Whenever Charlton needs him, Ortiz has been there, she said.

Charlton said she also likes the fact Ortiz is a good example to others, especially children. Ortiz is a Scoutmaster as well.

"When you walk away from him, you say, ‘There's a good man,'" she said. "He's always got his children and other children in tow with him."

The award came as a surprise for Ortiz.

"I didn't know I had been nominated," he said. "I was surprised about it."