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Home | Tag Archives: Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care

Tag Archives: Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care

Audio+Gallery+Story: New team member renews focus, purpose at Ysleta Lutheran Mission

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.

Video+Story: Fight Against Hunger Continues, Even During Summer Vacation

I want to share a thought with you. It’s not a warm and fuzzy thought. No. This is the reality of some families within our community.

School is out. Summer vacation is upon us, and kids are running wild. They are playing, dreaming, hoping the summer would last forever. They are also working up an appetite.

The school districts within El Paso provide breakfast and lunch to many kids who would otherwise not have anything to eat. Families depend on these meals, as meager as they are, to help sustain their children. Now that summer is here; they will be missing meals. That shouldn’t happen at all.

Yes, some schools do provide meals throughout the summer. Not all of them, but some of them. For some families, transportation becomes a problem. Lack of transportation can be enough to keep a child from eating. Again, that shouldn’t happen.

Throughout El Paso, there are groups – such as Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care – who provide meals, and food baskets to individuals and families in need. That need is great.

Each Saturday, YLM provides upwards of 300 food baskets to families and individuals in need. Then Monday to Friday there are those who visit the Mission’s hot meal program to eat what may very well be the only meal they have for the day.

Being able to eat, putting food on the table, is a basic human right. It should not be a privilege that can be snatched away like food stamps. We’ve seen the food stamp program be gutted to balance governmental budgets, but that is hurting people, hurting families and children.

That’s where YLM steps in to fill that ever-widening gap.  The way Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care obtains food for distribution is twofold.

The first source of food comes from the El Pasoans Fight Hunger food bank. Each week YLM spends about $200 to purchase food that can be distributed to those in need. The next source is donations of food items. On Friday, if one were to come by the Mission, you would see volunteers working very hard sorting food, and creating the boxes for distribution.

That’s the weekly food giveaway.

Then, Monday to Friday, you have the hot meal program. The food for this is also purchased by the Mission, with occasional donations coming in. The kitchen is open to everyone, regardless of ability to pay. The hot meal program does provide lunch, starting at 11:30, for a very nominal price – only $1.50 a plate.

What monies do come from sales are put right back into the program to help feed those who cannot afford to eat.

In the case of those who simply do not have the money to spare, they still eat. The YLM office provides them with a voucher so that they too can have something for the day.

Now, imagine all of this goes away. Where will those people get that one hot meal? With school being out, the numbers begin to swell. How will they be provided for?

What about the individuals and families who come on Saturday mornings for the food boxes? It is a vital part of their pantry at home. What would happen if they were unable to obtain the extra food to help stretch out what they may already have? How many families, how many children would be affected?

The food programs are not the only thing going at YLM. Each year they distribute backpacks and school supplies to children going back to school. There is the Christmas toy drive. There is also the free medical care they host each Saturday. (Yes, FREE medical care provided by RotoCare.) The clinic is free to anyone and everyone. It is open Saturdays. Doors open at 9 am.

So, how can you help?

You can give the Mission a call at 915-858-2588. Or, if you are in El Paso, you can bring your donations to them at 301 S Schutz Drive, off Alameda. You can also find Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care on Facebook or online.

If you would like to give a cash contribution, you can do that as well. You can click here and select the food program, or any other of their other programs, to support. The donation will be tax deductible.

Let’s remember that El Paso is one community. When one person suffers, we all suffer. You never know, the person you may be helping by supporting YLM just may be a neighbor, coworker, or the children you see playing down the street.

Video+Gallery+Story: Minnesota Teens Volunteer to Build Homes in Juarez

Late last year, a busload of teenagers pulled into Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care (YLM), in El Paso’s Lower Valley. More than a few of the kids had a look of expectant wonder on their faces as they had made this trip before. Others were beginning to wonder what they had signed up for.

Yet, here they were, ready to begin a trip that would help shape their futures.

I’ve previously written that I am the type of guy that tends to view everything through a jaundiced eye. With all I’ve been through, it’s hard not to. That’s why, when I see something positive, I must write about it. When that story also involves a group of fifty teenagers spending their Christmas vacation building homes in Juarez, I really must write about it.

Imagine, a group of kids coming from Mayer, Minnesota, to build homes for people they don’t even know, in a country, most of them have never visited before. Then, learning that the youngest person on the trip is thirteen-years-old, and you have something you take notice of.

Mayer Lutheran High School is a school within the Lutheran Church Missouri-Synod. At the core of their teachings and beliefs is service to others. The same is true of YLM. For over thirty years YLM has been striving to change lives- Changing Lives Through Simple Acts of Kindness, is their motto.

I’m not going to tell the story of the kids who came down to build these homes; it’s better to hear it from them directly. You can watch the video I made with them here above.  The story I am going to share with you is quite different. The story I want to share with you is about
need, about unity and about how it shouldn’t matter where one is from, or where one decided to help.

Over the last year, I have seen our country become polarized. Simply put there are two schools of thought. You either agree with the mainstream view, or you are labeled as a leftist, close-minded, or a moron.

It seems you must agree with everything the current administration preaches, or you will simply be an outsider looking in.

When I was considering this article, in early January, I spoke to several individuals about the work YLM is doing, and more specifically, the homes these kids are building in Juarez.

The most common refrain was that they should be working over here, in the United States. So, I spoke to Dave Lane, one of the teachers on this trip to El Paso, and Juarez.

“I had a lady, in one of our fundraising events, for this, tell me that specifically.” said Dave Lane, “I said, I don’t think it’s either-or, I think it’s both-and. Of course, people need to be helping people in our country, but who’s going to help those people in Anapra?”

As Dave said, he doesn’t see any agencies in Juarez working to help families in need. Don’t get me wrong; there are people who do help. But how far can their limited resources go?

That’s why it’s important that individuals such as Dave Lane, and his group of kids come down to help families in need.

Now, imagine a world where Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care or Mayer Lutheran High School didn’t exist. Imagine those individuals who have received home, home extensions, food baskets, or the free medical care that is hosted on their Lower Valley campus. Where would those people, those families be?

Were it not for those groups, there would be 3,000 families, on both sides of the border, who would possibly be homeless, or worse. There would be families who would not be able to make their limited supply of groceries last between paychecks were it not for the food baskets provided by YLM to families in need.

Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care is one of a limited number of groups reaching out and serving those in need. Regardless of religion, race, or political leanings, YLM – and others – exist to help.

This is what we need to remember, to serve others.

Rabbi Shalom of Karlin, in the 18th Century, said “If you want to raise a person from mud and filth, do not think it is enough to keep standing on top and reaching a helping hand down to the person. You must go all the way down yourself, down into the mud and filth. Then take hold of the person with strong hands and pull the person yourself out into the light.”

Any group that is willing to get down into the “mud” and help, they are worthy of our help and support.

“G-d does not need our good works,” Martin Luther, Father of the Reformation said, “but our neighbor does.” (Wingren, Luther on Vocation, 10).

So, I want to challenge you; I want to know where you are. Are you sitting there, on the sidelines, waiting for someone to help? Or, are you willing to help? That’s where I challenge you, to get up, get out and help.

Take a moment this week to speak to your Rabbi, your pastor, your parish priest. As them how you, as a community of faith, can help those who are hungry, are homeless, who are sick. Ask what can be done, and where to begin. You may be surprised as they just might be waiting for you to get the ball rolling.

Hillel the Elder said, “If not us, who? If not now, when?”

My answer to Hillel? It is us; it is now.

Photos provided by Mayer Lutheran High School.

Community Partnership Program Helps El Pasoans Obtain State Benefits

For some El Pasoans, trying to apply for Food Stamps, TANIF, and even Medicare can be hard; as the application is thirty-three pages long. If that wasn’t enough, trying to figure out which items are needed to send to support the application can be even harder.  And if you’ve ever had to call 211 for help, you know how long it can take just to get someone on the line.

Fortunately, the Texas Health and Human Services has created the Community Partner Program. The El Paso Community College was host to the Upper Rio Grande Valley Regional Community Forum.

The Forum was an opportunity for community groups to meet with, and learn from individuals and groups who are part of the Community Partner Program. A program that connects partner agencies with individuals within the community who need help applying for state benefits: filling out applications, compiling supporting documentation, when and how to appeal, and more.

“Until a few years ago, Benefits applications were complicated and submitted as paper applications,” said Lilia Herrera-Estrada, Regional Partnership Specialist for El Paso. “But there can be errors with paper applications, such as misreading a number, or not understanding someone’s handwriting.”

As of September of last year, almost 4.5 million people received healthcare benefits, and just under 4 million received SNAP assistance – plenty of opportunities for mistakes, leading to delays or denials.

Organizations such as San Vicente, Le Fe, Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care, and El Pasoans Fighting Hunger have partnered with HSSC to help connect individuals with state programs, as well a navigate the application process. “There are people that do not have internet access, or are unable to visit an office,” said Lilia. Others, I learned, just don’t like going online or need the extra assistance with the process.

What the Community Partner Program does is allow others to help in the process. Anyone can visit one of the Partner organizations, which can be found by clicking here.  At that point, you can walk-in, or set an appointment to see a case worker, or navigator who will sit with you and help you set up your account online as well as help you apply on-line for needed assistance and benefits.

Others, such as April Rosales of El Pasoins Fighting Hunger will go out and visit with members of the community. “I have a touchscreen laptop, and I show them how to use the system. That way they can become independent. My goal is to help them become independent.”

San Vicente, in addition to having affordable health clinics in El Paso County, they also assist as part of the Community program. “We help them apply for SNAP, TANIF, Medicare, Chip as well as assist them with the Affordable Care Act such as apply, or update information,” says Luis Galindo, Insurance Navigator with San Vicente.

Elvira Viramontes of Ysleta Lutheran Mission Human Care also assists individuals in their application process.

Like other groups, they also go a step further. “We also give referrals for other needs. Shelter, drug related programs, and other pantries. We also assist with immediate needs such as food baskets, clothes, and a hot meal.”

There is still a need for other organizations to join the Community Partner Program. If your group, be it a church, a medical clinic, or an organization that is in contact with the larger Community, and would like to become part of the Community Partner Program you are encouraged to send them an email at or,

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