Xenia Hernández has collaborated with agencies and nonprofits to help families and businesses in Saint Paul, MN, most impacted by the economic fallout of the pandemic.
Hernández led an eight-person team that set up a call center in the early weeks of the pandemic to connect families and businesses with resources, especially $4.1 million in grants from the city’s Bridge Fund. The team provided a sympathetic, positive connection for dozens, then hundreds of callers per hour, and made referrals when callers didn’t qualify for the program. “As a team, we became hyper-aware of the health, economic, and social injustices behind every call,” Hernández says. To ensure that library staff were cared for during this challenging time, Hernández also organized Bridge Fund team check-ins three times daily to support the team’s emotional well-being.
Hernández then partnered with Ramsey County Workforce Solutions to build Career Labs at four libraries to provide safe, in-person rapid-response support. The Career Labs team walked through targeted neighborhoods, posting fliers and connecting with the community to promote the labs.
The labs also distributed 2,100 TechPaks with laptops and hotspots. For months, her team provided the only in-person workforce support in Minnesota, facilitating 3,441 help sessions in 2020 and 2021.
In 2020, Hernández coordinated staff training with Ramsey County Elections to offer absentee ballot drop-off at library Career Lab sites. “Libraries are trusted institutions, and this was an opportunity to increase access to information and remove barriers to the voting process,” Hernández says.
Maureen Hartman, Deputy Director of Public Services, who nominated Hernández, says, “Xenia has an amazing gift for quickly building equitable teams to respond to community needs, challenges, and opportunities.”