I’ve written about Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care (YLM), and what they do, before. I’ve written about their outreach to the community, and their needs so that they may continue to do so. As school is out and the summer is upon us, I thought I would catch up with the happenings at YLM and the newest member to the family, Luz Soto
Luz Soto is an El Pasoan who graduated from Concordia University, in Texas. Her involvement with the Mission goes back to when she was seventeen years old, both providing service to those in need as well as receiving life-changing service from the Mission. Now, taking over for Chris Hill, Luz is the communications director for YLM.
“I love to write. I love talking to people. I love getting the opportunity to share things that I’m passionate about. So, when I was given the opportunity to step in and take over the position as communication specialists here at Ysleta, I took it without even thinking about it,” says Luz.
What does her job entail, being the communication specialist for a nonprofit organization?
“I basically, I like to say that I am pretty much in everybody’s business,” says Luz Soto. “Because I want to know what’s going on in any aspect of Ysleta because it is my job to let our donors, our supporters, our volunteers, those who come to serve, those who are being served know what Ysleta is about what we offer and what we are striving to work towards.”
Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care stems from the ministry of Rev. Dr. Karl Heimer and San Pablo Lutheran Church. Pastor Heimer was called to El Paso in 1982 and given leadership over the Church, located at 301 South Schutz, in El Paso’s Lower Valley.
In those days, back when the Schutz was a dirt road, and you couldn’t get anyone to deliver a pizza to the area, it was called Centro Cristiano De Ysleta.
“Which was kind of a misnomer because really it didn’t relate well to the community itself. So, we changed it to San Pablo Lutheran church, which relates more to the area,” says Rev Dr Heimer. “We have 400 years of Catholicism around us and think they could understand us better. And I think that made a little bit more sense. And, and that’s how we kind of got started with the 4.2 acres and 15 buildings that the district had bought here.”
When Luz accepted the job, she stepped into a role at a Mission that has a thirty-two-year history within the community. A history of reaching out and assisting those in need, no matter who they are, where they come from, or what their situation in life might be.
“I literally jumped right into newsletter a season, which means that was my first crash course on how to put together a newsletter, what to put in, what pictures to do,” says Luz. “One of the things that I’m really enjoying is finding the different mediums of communication. I’ve got my social media down. I’m constantly putting up on our different social pages: Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care, Ysleta Lutheran Mission Servant Events, even our Thrivent for Ysleta, our Amigos page. And, getting the opportunity to share what’s going on here every day because there’s always something happening every day. It’s what’s amazing about Ysleta. I mean, we have so many nonprofit organizations in El Paso. But, here at Ysleta, there’s something happening every day; something that’s coming in, something is going out. People are getting the help that they need when they seek it. It’s amazing.”
That’s what everyone at Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care does, help those in need of spiritual and material things.
“Every Saturday morning, we give out food baskets. Basket is just to cover up the amount of food they get,” says Soto. “It can very easily be a bag filled with rice, beans, cereal, peanut butter. And we throw in lentils and then eventually you’d get the fun stuff. This last Saturday we gave out eggs by the dozen. We gave out watermelons; we gave out sweet corn, we gave out bread.
“Whenever we have those donations, whether they are monetary or people who do food drives, that helps be able, and we feed about 260 families. Then there is our thrift store, which makes it possible to be able to get clothes and a very, very low price. If you’re struggling to be able to close yourself or clothe your children, we also have the opportunity,” Soto added.
That’s just one of the many things Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care provides.
Besides the food bank, there is the free medical clinic each Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. hosted by RotoCare and staffed by doctors, nurses and students from Texas Tech.
During the week, when they have volunteers to help prepare the food, there is a daily hot meal program from 11:30 a.m. until the food runs out.
On Fridays, there are volunteer opportunities to help prepare the food baskets for distribution the next day, as well as opportunities to help distribute that food the following morning. There is a need for volunteers to help build homes, to help add additions to homes in Sparks.
There is even volunteer opportunities to help repair the buildings on the campus itself, like the covered walkway that was destroyed in the winds last month.
“The point is not the physical stuff, the physical kindness that we give,” says Luz. “The point is the hope that comes with those acts of kindness, whether it’s just bringing in kids to play with kids or bringing in kids to help kids.”
“Well, hope is important because there’s some much of tragedies in each person’s life that I look at and listen to and hear all around me,” says Pastor Heimer. “The detention center where we go on Saturday, you see people that have been coming from so far away. Some of the women have been abused, and all kinds of things have happened.”
“Hope is something that we teach a lot is, and I use this all the time and that nothing can separate you from God’s love. The hope is to know that there is a God that is there, that everything happens for the good, for those who love Him. And, to have that assurance, that peace that can be given to people that is a real good sign of hope…”
The motto of Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care is “Changing Lives Through Simple Acts of Kindness.” Each day they try to share kindness: a smile, a kind word, a hot meal, a change of clothes. It’s not easy to do.
Every member of staff worries about where the food will come from and who will pack it; where the clothes will come from; where the monies and other physical items will come from to help change someone’s life.
“This is a place that will change your life, no matter how you come in, you step foot onto these campuses, your life will be changed,” said Soto.
How can you change your life while helping to change the lives of others? YLM welcomes you to call them and discover all the volunteer opportunities available. You and your church can come and help prepare food baskets, start a pick-up soccer game, staff the kitchen during the week so those in need can have a meal.
You can reach Luz Soto by calling 915-858-2588. Or, visit YLM online.