Coach Roy and Malta Ortiz have been the heart and soul of the Lynfield Community Center (1889 Lynfield Drive, Bethlehem PA 18015) for the last eight years. They have cultivated the Center into a “hidden gem up in Lynfield,” providing solace, sanctuary, discipline, and life lessons to the Lynfield community. As the only remaining community center in the area, the Center has been compared to the Bethlehem Star, tucked away on the side of the hill, but ever bright when the community needs it most.
The couple moved to the Bethlehem area twenty years ago from New York City. Malta grew up in Brooklyn and Roy grew up in Manhattan, but they decided to trade in the city concrete for the “jungle paradise and elbow room” they found here in Bethlehem to raise their kids. Although they moved to Bethlehem for more room and a different type of family atmosphere, they discovered something more: a passion for building strong community networks that uplift all neighbors. The family truly feels they are making a difference in their community at the Lynfield Center, and are deeply moved by the love and support they receive in response to their work.
After raising three sons and two daughters of their own, the youngest of which is now 19 years old and attending college, they continue to fill a parental role for the children in their community. Both Malta and Roy lost their fathers at a young age, so they understand first hand the challenges that come with growing up with single parents. They were lucky enough to find guidance from members of their New York City communities growing up, and they now strive to provide a similar support system to the members of Lynfield. When single and working parents may not be able to pick up their child from school, or take off time on snow days, the Ortiz family offers a safe place for the children of the Lynfield community to grow, learn, and have fun.
Roy has become a pillar in the community both because of his work at the Center and outside of it. He takes the name Coach Roy from his days coaching baseball. He is also a director of the Bethlehem Area School District school board and a Commissioner for the Bethlehem Housing Authority. Malta leads the maintenance of a beautiful garden for the Lynfield community. She also spearheads cooking classes for the kids where they are able to learn to cook with the vegetables they grow. Both take any opportunity they have to help all residents of their community. In this way, both Roy and Malta are dynamic community leaders who show exemplary commitment to representing the needs of South Side residents.
The Lynfield Center provides many opportunities for the neighborhood. Students from surrounding colleges stop in weekly for tutoring sessions at the homework club. Ebenezer Church offers a one week long Vacation Bible School over the summers, as well as Bible classes for men and women and Christmas gifts and various supports for residents throughout the year. Coach Roy can often be found throwing a football or playing basketball with the kids. This summer, Malta and Lynfield’s 4H club grew tomatoes, basil, cilantro, and chives as well as other vegetables and herbs in the community garden. They also visited with the horses of Bethlehem Police Department.
Malta and Roy are motivated by their goal of providing kids with a good education and a safe haven. Their motto is “leave no kid behind.” For them, this phrase means that they are committed to ensuring that kids can experience as much as possible, whether that be swimming at the pool, watching movies in the park over the summer, hiking, tubing, or fishing. The sky is the limit in terms of how far the Ortiz family will go for neighborhood kids.
The enthusiasm and pride Malta and Roy have in their Center and in the community they have built is obvious. Their passion can be seen in the murals lining the walls of the Center, or the stories they tell of the kids who have been a part of the Lynfield community. As much as they impact the community, they note how greatly the Center empowers them. Their dedication to the community can be seen in the kids they watch grow up, in the families they take in during disaster, and the pictures hanging on the walls. There is not a single day in the year where the couple puts anything less than 100% into providing a safe place for the Lynfield community. Coach Roy and Malta are incredibly proud of the Lynfield Community Center and have cultivated a culture of growth, trust and fun tucked in the hill of South Bethlehem.
*Feature photo credit: Ashleigh Crawford*