UNION PARISH, La. (KTVE/KARD) — A Union Parish teen is giving back to the community through her own ministry. At 17 years old, Serenity Soto has helped hundreds of families throughout Northeast Louisiana and other neighboring states.

Soto was born with a heart condition. Growing up, she spent most of her days going in and out of the hospital. But, that didn’t stop her from volunteering and serving her community.

At the age of nine, she decided to create her own ministry by giving out gift bags to the people that stayed at the same hospital she stayed previously in.

“I love kids. So, it’s something about how pure they are in almost every aspect, and I love that about them.” Said Soto. “That makes me feel good because I know what I’m doing and how it feels to be on the other side.”

But she wasn’t on this mission alone. Her and older brother Adam shared the same passion for serving their community.

“We originated giving gift bags to kids in the hospital because me and Adam knew how that felt when people came in and gave gift bags,” explained Soto.

Adam was born without an esophagus. He also spent days and months at the hospital. He died in August of 2022 at 30 years old. Serenity says her brother is still her biggest motivation.

“Most definitely yeah. This was a project that was already set when he was alive a few months before he passed.”

“Before he passed people have come to me, you know, through the years, and said to me, if it wasn’t for talking about Adam, I wouldn’t have felt the way I do now because we saw him struggle, and we thought we were having bad days and we look at him with a tube walking around like nothing.” Added Serenity’s mother, Teresa Soto.

Serenity’s Gift Bag Ministry and community projects have helped local families in need. Especially those who lost it all due to the tornado damage this past December. Patsy Andrews was one of the people helped by Serenity’s ministry.

“I know God has put people in my way to help me get through this. They cooked and brought something. She loves cooking, and she had called and said I got this. Do you all want some? I said, sure, why not because I’ve been here all day.

Serenity’s efforts to bring a smile to those in need have crossed borders. She says she knows her brother will always watch over her. She says wants her ministry to grow.

“I want it to expand into different areas and for me to have that capability of expanding further than what it is currently.”

Serenity will be hosting a fundraiser/donation drive Saturday, May 6th at the Downtown Heard Freight House food park in memory of her older brother. The event will run from
2 p.m. to 6pm.

The block party will feature a jenga tournament and a treasure hunt around the town for people to find prizes.

Local merchants have donated prizes and gift cards for this event.

Proceeds will go towards community projects and the Ronald Mcdonald House in Birmingham, Alabama where her and brother spent most of their time together.

If you would like to contact Serenity’s Gift Bag Ministry, you can reach out to her at (318) 366-5321.

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