Hometown Hero Ernest Hernandez
We live in a world where many people don’t feel like they have value. Because of the experiences they’ve had and the beliefs they hold about themselves, they’re filled with despair, often turning to drugs and alcohol for solace and winding up losing years of their lives in prison or in homelessness. Ernest Hernandez was one of these people. Now he’s the guy who helps those people find their way back to life.
When Ernest was released from prison eight years ago, he committed to living the rest of his life to the fullest and to helping the people around him who suffered in the same ways that he had. Two or three times a month, Ernest, now a practicing Christian, visits prisoners with the goal of making them feel heard and understood. He encourages them that their lives aren’t over; that they can build a bright future, even from a really difficult past and present. Ernest knows there are lots of groups who visit prisons. But his experiences give him a unique ability to connect and empathize with the prisoners he sees. They know he’s walked through some of what they’ve walked through…and he made it to the other side.
Ernest doesn’t just visit the prisoners, he builds relationships with them and serves as a resource when they’re released. Many have lost contact with their families, so Ernest offers to pick them up when they get out—so a friendly face is there to share their first moments of freedom—and takes them to a safe house or church to begin their second chance. He encourages them to do what he has done and find meaning in connecting with volunteer organizations and helping others.