Citizen of the Year Elvia Hernandez

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Photo by Peggy Kelly. Elvia Hernandez receives the Santa Paula Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year Award from former Chamber Board President Jose Melgar, who hosted the gala at his Palazzio Event Center on Santa Paula’s Main Street.

Celebrated for community care

Elvia Hernandez was celebrated for her behind-the scenes activism at the May 19 Santa Paula Chamber of Commerce Awards Dinner.

Hernandez was applauded and lauded for her good works on behalf of the community, including helping provide for the physical and mental well-being of residents by linking them
with social services, COVID-19 prevention/vaccination, the Census, and housing placement and rights.

Hernandez received her award from longtime friend Jose Melgar, who hosted the awards ceremony at his Palazzio Event Center.

“I am privileged to have known Elvia for 30 years,” when she was active with the Our Lady of Guadalupe Youth Group, Melgar said.

“She has made me happy in my saddest moments and my proudest moments; she gives so much love to every member of the parish,” he said.

Thirty-two years ago, Hernandez arrived in the United States from Mexico City with her husband, three daughters, parents and siblings.

“She is thankful to God for giving her the opportunity to make this country her home,” said Melgar. He added that Hernandez volunteered at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Santa Paula “with all her heart, with the intention of helping her peers in whatever way she could.”

Hernandez became involved in groups in the city through Proyecto Esperanza, in conjunction with the Mental Health Department of Ventura County. She has participated in many events, helping the people of her community whenever she could, according to their needs and referring them to appropriate agencies for assistance.

During the pandemic, Hernandez worked with several agencies to distribute food, masks and diapers.

She currently works with the Housing is Key program, assisting families who have difficulty paying their rent, helping more than 2,000 families to apply for assistance online.

Moreover, in collaboration with the county Public Health Care Agency, Proyecto Esperanza has helped facilitate the COVID-19 vaccine outreach, and the mobile testing clinic on Sundays.

In addition, Hernandez coordinates the annual visit of Santa Niño de Atocha, the icon that draws thousands of worshipers to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church.

She started a Thanksgiving program and “personally supervises the crews and cooks” to feed hundreds. Whatever she tackles, “she never gets stressed out,” Melgar said. “She wears many hats in the church and nobody says no to Elvia… we
would risk going to hell!”

“Elvia is one of my closest friends, and I love her very much,” Melgar added.

Hernandez, who was surrounded by family and friends, thanked them for their support and noted the support of the parish priests, Father Thomas Gomez and her close friend Father Charles Lueras of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, where so many services have been given.

This article was originally published in the Santa Paula Times.

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