Local Hero: Teresa Campos Hernández

Teresa Campos Hernández

"At this stage in my life there are two principles that I embrace and are the driving forces behind my actions: Teach respect, compassion and dignity to our youth so that later in life they do not suffer the pain of their mistakes, and, I do not give because I have, rather I have because I give, and giving fills me with a satisfaction that is beyond me."

From Tuesday to Sunday, Teresa Campos Hernández has served delicious traditional dishes at her eatery, Teresita's Restaurant, since she and her husband, Antonio Hernández, first opened its doors in 1983. Located in East Los Angeles, the cuisine is derived from her homeland, El Teul Zacatecas, Mexico. In addition to serving these fine meals, Teresita's Restaurant also serves as a haven of hope and compassion to those in need, whether near or far.

Regarded as the "Angel de Los Angeles" by many community members, Mrs. Hernández's spirit of giving is immeasurable and her determination is unsurpassed. Grassroots and informal at best, the 77-year-old raises funds the old-fashioned way - by way of a jarrito, or collections jar, in the restaurant and through conversations with her guests. Mrs. Hernández's effective method of persuasion, organization and fundraising has earned the attention of key politicians such as Los Angeles City Councilmember José Huizar and Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina.

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Locally, Mrs. Hernández has helped impoverished families and women who have been sexually assaulted, provided meals for the homeless, gathered more than 600 signatures to save the historic landmark, Golden Theatre, fought against the objectification of women in billboards sponsored by a Spanish language radio station, and provided funds for families who have lost their loved ones and who couldn't afford the funeral. Victims of violent crimes, children in crisis, veterans and seniors in need of medical equipment and strangers all have been touched by her kindness. In addition, Mrs. Hernández has donated to schools such as Los Angeles Music and Art School and Roosevelt High School, churches such as St. Mary's Church and Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and nonprofits such as Familia Unida Living with MS.

When a natural disaster strikes, Mrs. Hernández responds wherever it may be. She has provided emergency funds for victims of Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan and earthquakes and floods throughout Mexico. She has also raised funds so that rescuers could purchase an ambulance after a major earthquake hit El Salvador.

In addition to raising emergency funds to Mexico for natural disasters, Mrs. Hernández has also provided nuns with supplies in Tijuana, purchased a truck for a missionary that services a convalescent home in Tecate and donated a van to El Teul Zacatecas.

Ms. Hernández makes it her personal mission to provides at least one-third of the funds and raises the rest. It is estimated that her grassroots efforts have raised more than $80,000.

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