Denver resident Shantil Gallegos, born and raised in Denver, had always wondered about the birth father and had been trying to track him down since she was 13. Gallegos was up late on July 14, 2017 using google to try to track him and found my name, Jenny Paulson, popular in social media in Pueblo, while researching Dog Patch, a small community within Pueblo, where I had written a story about a local activist living there. I immediately shared the message from Gallegos to her almost 5,000 friends of facebook, asking if anyone knew of her father. And what began with this simple post on my Facebook page became a big hearted story of new beginnings after nearly four decades of time lost:
“Hi I’m from Denver. I’m 40 years old and I’m trying to find my dad or his family who live in dog patch projects in Pueblo. I only met him and some of his family once when I was 6 years old. I was hoping that maybe you can help guide me. All I know is my dad’s name is Jesse Joe Hernandez and he is in his 50’s my grandpa who is his father has the same name from what I was told. I also recall him having a brother named Paul and a sister named Linda.If you can help guide me on how to find him or his family. I greatly appreciate it. Thank you I seen this site on FB for dogpatch pueblo & thought this would be worth a try. Since everything else I’ve tried has failed.”
Upon reading the words in this post, Pueblo locals immediately spread the word to thousands through social media and made calls to help Gallegos find her father. Within a day, I told Gallegos to review the first comments made by locals in Pueblo, that some think they know who he is. Gallegos and I talked on the phone and she shared more details including that her birth mom and dad dated a year when they were both very young, that her mother had moved to Denver and that her grandmother ad raised her. She figured she may have a lot of relatives in Pueblo because she was told her father came from a family of 13 and her mother of 12.
Just a few days later, I shared the good news, that Pueblo Facebook friends had helped Gallegos successfully locate her birth father after locals deliberated over what Hernandez
family she could be related to. Gallegos had always carried a picture of her father with her when he was young. She showed it to those who contacting her, and they not only confirmed that he was Jessie Hernandez, but told her that she had a huge line of blood relatives in Pueblo, including two older half siblings and a younger half sister.
I posted a thank you to Facebook friends as the story unfolded, “Pueblo you helped this woman find her dad whom she’s searched for since she was 17 because of this post. I talked to Shantil this am on the phone, she called me, and she thanked Pueblo for helping her – this is a great story – this post went all over FB in a half day and turns out she has tons of relatives here. Way to go Pueblo – this town has a huge heart, we are dealing with so much ugliness here, we are seeking solutions for our city – and we have such a beautiful story amidst all of this – I’m glad my fb account that has so many followers can be used for good – so many pitched in to help this young woman trying to find her family – Pueblo has a huge heart and it worked.”
Gallegos birth father’s relatives posted comments saying they were shocked to find out about her but immediately welcomed Gallegos into their lives and quickly planned a family reunion to meet her. Gallegos said her mom and dad had dated for about a year, when they were both very young, and that her father had never denied her. Hernandez has carried a birth picture of her for years and turned out just as excited to meet her as she was him. Gallegos said this after finally meeting her father who traveled to Denver, “Took a midnight stroll with my daddy… Showed him some of downtown… And then to my favorite place… Inspiration Point to see the beautiful view… And Dtown all lit up… Thank u lord for answering my prayers and Jenny Paulson and Jessie Hernandez,” said Gallegos on a Facebook post.
The pictures and posts of both families on Facebook show such joy ever since, with constant updates on meetings and activities together. Gallegos has traveled multiple times to Pueblo and Hernandez has traveled to Denver to go to Broncos and Rockies games with her, and share some beers at local pubs. He finally met his grand children, Gallego’s two children, for the first time in August with smiles from everyone.
Jenny Paulson is publisher of the new online Pueblo Magazine Magazine. She has lived in Pueblo for 12 years and formerly owned alternative magazines in Northwest Colorado over a decade.