Rut and Manuel Rivera are proud of their Christmas tree. Post-Thanksgiving tree trimming with the family is one of the American traditions they cherish, along with their favorites from their home cultures.
“When we were little,” Rut remembers, “our Christmas tree was tiny with hardly any leaves - and we painted it. Manuel’s had only a few ornaments, but he was still happy with it.”
Four generations of the Rivera and Soto family now call Greenville home: Rut and Manuel Rivera and their young children, Milena and Marcel, as well as Rut’s parents, Erwin and Jenny Soto, and Erwin’s mother, who just recently traded the unrest in Venezuela for a cold American winter.
For Rut, providing a beautiful tree for Marcel and Milena is a symbolic reminder of the opportunity and resources the family enjoys in America – a sign that she has been successful in offering them a better life:
“I think about all that our kids have now – a huge tree (I insist on getting a real tree) with nice ornaments, a nice house, and their own rooms, with their own beds…it is very different from how we grew up.”
In the Rivera - Soto family each person has taken up the responsibility of helping the local Hispanic community to flourish. They succeed in this by maintaining the Latino tradition of a strong family, and engaging with the opportunities and resources offered by Hispanic Alliance to prosper themselves and their community.
Rut is passionate about championing the value of La Familia Latina: “We make decisions for everything together, and we are there for each other no matter what. The best thing that our community brings, other than our hard work, is that culture of “familia.”
As a long-time volunteer, and now the Health Team Vice Chair, Rut is contributing to the future well-being of her own family, and supporting the Hispanic Alliance vision of creating a thriving community with access to opportunity for all.
Rut currently works as the Greenville Area manager of PASOS SC, but when she was a young teen growing up in Camden, she didn’t have a vision for herself as a leader. She says she was blessed to be raised by parents who cared deeply about the community and taught their children through the example of servant leadership. Today, her father, Pastor Erwin Soto, leads the Monaghan en Español congregation at Monaghan Baptist Church. This spring, he proudly hosting his daughter’s team when they presented their Healthy Cooking Class for the Hispanic community.
“He really enjoys seeing the work that I do,” she says. “I see his sense of pride because he is thinking: ‘She is doing what I taught her to do.’”
Her husband, Manuel Rivera, is from the Dominican Republic, the youngest of eight children, and a frequent volunteer at Hispanic Alliance. Recently, he and Rut have been dreaming of starting a bilingual baseball coaching academy for children, so that he can use his eight years of professional baseball pitching experience to develop young players.
“Manuel is really good at teaching and educating!” Rut shares.
Because neither had any business experience, it was a godsend for the couple to attend the Start Your Own Business Class by the Hispanic Alliance Financial Stability Team.
“This class was a game-changer for us, and the fact that it was in Spanish was so helpful. We may not have gone forward with our business without it.” Rut insists.
“I learned how to set up insurance and LLC status for our business, and the importance of a business plan,” Manuel adds. “Without a plan your business might make it a short time, but not in the long term.”
Rut praised the spirit of mentorship and generosity from experienced Hispanic professionals that led the class:
“Hispanic Alliance is selfless in the way you give of your resources and connections. You work so hard and have connections to so many great things, and then you give them out to everybody!”
Rut believes that this selfless care for every community member, and investment in the next generation, best reflects the sense of familia within the Hispanic Alliance.
“That’s the thing about our community,” says Rut. “we do everything for our kids. We work hard for them to have a better future.”
Rut and Manuel look forward to raising their children with the same spirit of servant leadership that her parents passed to her. As soon as they are able, Milena and Marcel will become active volunteers with Hispanic Alliance.
When the children are old enough to understand, Rut and Manuel will take them back to Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, to connect to their heritage and gain an appreciation for the gift of living in the United States. Hispanic Alliance, in turn, will strive to ensure that all the advantages of America become, and remain, available to our Hispanic community, building a future of opportunity, promise, and familia.