Montz 10-month-old getting early start on humanitarian path

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 28, 2013


MONTZ – Ten-month-old Bella Grace Angotti has been a busy young lady.
The daughter of Montz residents John and Jamie Angotti, the infant recently earned the honor of St. Landry Parish’s Baby Miss Heart of the U.S.A. at a pageant held in Eunice. The newest member of the Angotti family competed against others in her age group of 0-to-23 months, earning a victory judged on stage presence, beauty and attire.
The title, however, comes with responsibility.
Even before Bella Grace’s birth in February, her parents had discussed a desire for her to grow up with the importance of helping others ingrained in her from a young age.
It was with that in mind that Jamie Angotti discovered “Miss Heart of the U.S.A.,” a pageant in which the overall goal is to teach girls to give back to the community and that beauty comes from within.
“We didn’t want it to be like ‘Toddlers and Tiaras,’” said Jamie Angotti. “This was perfect. It’s a pageant with a purpose.”
A big part of the pageant involved a food drive: the girl of any age group who brings in the most non-perishable food items would be crowned “Miss Queen of Hearts,” a separate title from the overall winners.
Bella Grace accounted for 963. Amazingly, the victor topped that number, and overall the pageant raised more than 4,200 items for the Eunice Food Bank — which also does much to serve St. John the Baptist Parish.
“Learning that made it mean that much more for us,” said Jamie Angotti. “To know that you’re not only helping a community, but your own community as well.”
The Angottis have used Bella Grace’s crowning as a launching pad toward making moves to help the community.
“We’d always talked about doing things like this,” said John Angotti. “But when she was born, it really was the force that made us put words into action.”
For Christmas Eve, the family prepared meals including chili, hot dogs and soup for 75 of the homeless and needy.
“It was such a humbling, amazing experience. One sad note was that we ran out of food,” said John Angotti. “Next year, we’re going to double the amount of food.”
“No doubt,” added Jamie Angotti. “People were saying ‘God Bless,’ ‘Thank you,’ and even ‘Why are you helping us?’ We just feel like these people are often forgotten and we need to try to lend a hand.”
The family then made hospital trips on Christmas to visit the sick.
Through it all, they say, Bella Grace wore a smile.
“She almost seems like she understands what she’s doing and how she’s helping,” said Jamie Angotti.
The Angottis credited neighbors and co-workers for lending an immense helping hand in donating and collecting food, as well as Winn-Dixie for aiding with a food drive.
It provides just a brief glance at what the family is doing — its an ongoing process throughout the year, they say, that simply ramps up during the holidays.
Bella Grace’s crown has provided a platform to do good.
“Before the pageant, you’d make a call to make one of these visits, and they’re not really that responsive because they’re feeling like you’re just this random person,” said Jamie Angotti. “But when you introduce her as Baby Miss Heart of the U.S.A., they’re really receptive to it. It definitely has helped in a big way. We’ve been able to do things that we couldn’t have had she not been in the system.”
The family is currently planning its next project, a collection of towels to donate to the animal shelter. And Bella Grace and her family are signed up for a team in the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk in March.
Only five parishes in Louisiana are represented with “Miss Heart of the U.S.A.” pageants, but Jamie Angotti noted that one does not have to live in any of the specific parishes to compete — or give back. The next pageant will be held in Denham Springs in April.
“We feel like we’ve got so much to be grateful for,” she said. “It could be us in the hospital or trying to choose between paying the rent or feeding our child. There are people out there with real struggles, so why not give back?”
Added John Angotti, “It’s one thing to tell your child that you want them to be compassionate and give. But we want to show her and apply it as she’s growing up.”
Anyone interested in more info on involvement in that pageant, the animal shelter towel drive or the Heart Walk can contact Jamie Angotti at 985-212-4453.