Community grieves sudden loss of Michelle Hernandez – doting mother, devoted daughter, fierce women’s advocate

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Photos  Melinda Cuellar:  Michelle Hernandez dedicated herself to her children, her family and victims of domestic violence through her work at Divine Connections HOPE, Option House and The Way World Outreach.
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Michelle Hernandez of San Bernardino, a beloved mother, daughter, friend, and community member who dedicated herself to helping those most vulnerable, died unexpectedly at the age of 41 from COVID-19 on January 12, leaving behind two adult daughters, two tween/teenage sons, and her mother, Joann Lopez.

Michelle worked tirelessly alongside Melinda Cuellar, CEO and founder of nonprofit organization Divine Connections HOPE that provides support and resources to victims of domestic violence, as the administrative director. Michelle advocated for abused women as a certified Domestic Violence Advocate, Facilitator for Batterers Prevention, self-esteem coach, designed a curriculum for and taught a teen domestic violence class.

“She loved to teach, she had a knack for it,” Melinda shared. “She was so down to earth and connected with people, she established relationships.”

Michelle provided comfort and support to struggling women.

Michelle gained employment at the nonprofit organization Option House as a Domestic Violence Advocate in 2019 after she volunteered for three years, taking the lead in case management and support who became a key trainer. According to Option House Executive Director Heather Stevning, Michelle also created and headed a support group for victims of domestic violence at the homeless shelter and administrative office.

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“She would share her personal survival stories; her heart was just in it, her compassion for others was exemplary,” Heather remarked. “Everybody loved her, she always walked the extra mile for everybody. She is sorely missed.”

Michelle managed to find time to dedicate herself to the Way World Outreach for many years as a Children’s Ministry Leader and worked with women who struggled with drugs, physical abuse, domestic violence, and abandonment.

“She encouraged a lot of women to get a grip on life and to trust in the Lord,” The Way World Outreach Pastor Robert Vega said. “Her heart was there for those who were broken. She was an amazing young woman, a great mother. I can’t say enough about her.”

Michelle, middle, with the Divine Connections HOPE team, clockwise from Michelle: Laura Murrin, Leanne Nuckolls, Melinda Cuellar, and Maribel Belmontes.

Michelle was the sole provider for her children and mother, Joann Lopez, for whom Melinda has launched a GoFundMe page to help pay for the day-to-day expenses – rent, food, utilities, etc. (link at bottom), including Michelle’s “farewell” services.

“She was the most loving person, so giving, she gave me her all, she put so much into everything she did,” Melinda shared. “I don’t understand why someone like her is taken so soon.”

According to Melinda, Michelle earned an associate degree in Christian Leadership from The Way Leadership University but needed financial assistance to purchase her cap and gown, and other expenses; Assembly Majority Leader Eloise Gómez Reyes stepped In and paid those expenses.

“Michelle was a fearless warrior for children and their mothers. She was a wonderful and compassionate human being who put the needs of her community above her own – except when it came to her children whom she adored,” Reyes said. “It was a blessing to work with her to uplift our community. She will be sorely missed. May she rest in peace.”

Services will be held at the Way World Outreach at a date to be determined.

If you would like to help support Michelle’s family, please visit her GoFundMe page: https://gofund.me/b2e23d3b.

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