Beauty pageant winner hopes to comfort military families

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Suffolk News-Herald

Competing in a beauty pageant isn’t always about being photogenic, well-spoken, or drop-dead gorgeous. For some, it’s about a new opportunity to speak to the public. It’s a chance to bring attention to a cause – one that could grow to help the entire community.

That’s what Amy Spencer hopes for. as she prepares to take the stage at the Mrs. Virginia America 2005 Pageant in May, open to married women across the state, the two-time Suffolk beauty queen wants to start off her Carrying Our Military Families Over Rough Times (COMFORT USA) organization, which might end up aiding military families across Hampton Roads.

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&uot;(Pageantry) is something that I’d wanted to do since I was little,&uot; said Spencer, who first competed in the Mrs. Norfolk International event in 2000. She won the pageant the next year, then took the Hampton Roads International in 2002. Spencer grabbed the Mrs. Suffolk International in 2003, then grabbed the Mrs. American Liberty crown later that year.

After sitting out the 2004 event, Spencer came back to grab the 2005 Mrs. Suffolk Virginia America title in late December, which propelled her to the state event in May. By then, she hopes to be COMFORTing several local families.

A 10-year veteran of the Coast Guard, Spencer left the military in 2002, and now works as a placement specialist at Suffolk’s Reliance Staffing. When she and her husband Timothy discovered last summer that he’d have to head to the Persian Gulf to serve on the USS Barry, Spencer decided to reach out to others with a similar plight.

&uot;Being in a pageant,&uot; she said, &uot;gives you an opportunity to speak in public and work in your community. You get the chance to help people. When you have a voice like that, you’re able to lend help to whatever’s close to your heart.&uot;

That’s the predicament faced by families across the area – having a spouse halfway across the world. The first part of COMFORT deals with a support group for such people.

&uot;I want a place where people can come together and share their grievances,&uot; said Spencer, who hopes to hold her first meeting in late January. &uot;I want them to have someone they can talk to who knows what they’re going through.

&uot;It’s hard being the only one responsible for your kids. If there’s a malfunction with your house or car, you have to handle it yourself. You can’t tell your spouse about it, because they’re halfway around the world, and it just stresses them out more. They can’t tell you where they are, especially when there’s a war going on.&uot; Aside from the ongoing conflict in Iraq, Timothy’s fleet was also affected by the recent tsunamis that have killed over 130,000 people in southern Asia.

COMFORT’s second side is a resource network for affected families. Spencer is putting together a database full of local volunteers to aid in household, vehicle, health and other issues.

&uot;This is for people who might not know how to help themselves,&uot; she said. &uot;People need to know that they have someone to call in case of an emergency.&uot;

For more information, contact Spencer at 923-0921 or 613-0544.