HINESVILLE, Ga. (WSAV) – This mother of many might come from a tucked-away community, but her impact is anything but small.

At age 4, Suerena Duvall suffered second and third-degree burns when her flannel nightgown caught on fire as she tried to stay warm by an open fire. Spending months in the hospital, the community caregiver said years of bullying led her to find her faith — choosing to not let adversity stand in the way of her making a difference.

“There were times when she would bring her lunch home to feed us,” Suerena said of her mother. “It could have been a hamburger, but she would split that hamburger for seven children. One chicken to feed seven children plus her and my dad if there was something for her.”

Suerena paved a path beyond poverty, offering a hand up to the thousands of families she serves every year through her nonprofit Fostering Care and Hope Inc.

“I just don’t feel that no child, no family should have to go to bed hungry,” Suerena, who said she knows what it feels like to go to bed cold and hungry, explained.

Brenda Hall, a sister-in-law to Suerena, said the fearless leader would give anyone the shirt off of her back if they had the need.

“There’s not one time I’ve called her she has turned me down for anything,” Hall said, explaining Suerena’s dependable nature regardless of the hour.

Running food distributions throughout the pandemic, the community caregiver created access to healthy food for thousands of families — providing more than 50,000 pounds of food in 2021 alone.

“Not just a handout but a hand up. She’ll go above and beyond what she can to help anyone,” said Lori Poole, who has been friends with Suerena for 30 years.

The public health professional, who works on Fort Stewart with her military spouse, is a constant for the military families in Hinesville who struggle to feel like they have a home.

“Traveling from place to place, you sort of feel like you never fit in or like, ‘I’ll only be here for a little bit, I’ll be OK by myself,’ but she didn’t allow that. She’s like, ‘No, you need a community,’ I had four children at the time, and she’s like, ‘I got you, you know, whatever you need. I’m here, I’m your community,'” Monica Munden, a military spouse on Fort Stewart, said of her friendship with Suerena.

As a mother figure in her hometown of Hinesville, Suerena always makes time for others.

“I don’t think when Serena started out, she knew that it was going to be this big,” said Chrystal Irving, a friend of Suerena. “I think it started small in her heart in that, ‘I wish I could.’ And then some support came along, and then she took a small thing and made it really big.”

What began as a hope to expand her family — after Suerena and her husband struggled to conceive after their first biological son — is now devotion to providing children with the resources they need to succeed.

“We started fostering in 2000,” Suerena said, describing her first placement, who she picked up at seven days old. “He’s also my first adopted.”

“I’m smiling so big because that’s my heart. I call him papa, he don’t like for me to still call him papa,” Suerena said laughing as she talked about her 21-year-old son who is now a soldier in the U.S. Army, stationed in Hawaii.

“I hadn’t seen a Sunday where she didn’t come with different kids on her arm: little ones, babies. And she’s just all heart, she’s all heart,” Hall added.

Serving as a mother to more than 100 foster kids, Suerena accepts children just as they are and shows them what they can become.

“Our children are our most valuable resource, and if we plant good seeds in them, they’re going to be productive citizens.”

“She loves kids, she see how bad the system is and how much the kids are suffering,” Lissa Belle Martinez, who is Suerena’s supervisor at work, explained — adding insight into her devotion to educating the community about foster care and her commitment to garnering more resources.

Suerena kept her heart open even through the unthinkable.

“In 2001, one of my foster sons set our house on fire. In that process, I lost two babies. I could have called it quits, but I didn’t, and the reason being is because I know those babies would have wanted me to continue to provide a home for children just like I had done for them,” Suerena tearfully explained.

“She just has this compassion about her that she feels like there’s never a child that she can’t handle, it doesn’t matter…if it’s developmental, if there’s maybe behavioral, because some of these kids have come from, you know, some pretty rough situations, and she just offers that love,” Munden said. “I just have seen transformations with every child that’s been in her house.”

Proving there’s always a way forward, every day Suerena inspires those around her to get started.

“When you think she’s run out of it, she just finds a little bit more,” Munden said.

“And if she can’t do it, she’ll find somebody. And I’m a witness to that — she will find someone who can,” Irving added.

Suerena said she knows what it is like on the other side, but said she believes that should never stop anyone from doing everything they can to help make the world a better place.

“It could be like a roller coaster ride, the highs the lows,” Suerena explained, “but if your heart is in it and it’s your passion, you’re going to go through the good times as well as the bad times because you’re there for the right reason.”

WSAV News 3’s Jessica Coombs has been featuring Remarkable Women throughout March, Women’s History Month.

Read about the four finalists from the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry at wsav.com/remarkablewomen.

The winner of WSAV’s award will be announced on Friday, April 1, and will then be considered for the “Nexstar Woman of the Year” award.