Agape executive recognized for service, readies new programs

Dave Hughes, executive director of Agape House.

For nearly a decade, one man in Hermiston has responded to an increase in responsibilities, requests and stressful demands with his signature smile and a constant willingness to help.

For eight years, without hesitation, Dave Hughes has lived the motto of Agape House — love in action.

The executive director has carried a heavy workload lately, making plans for a 25-year celebration and developing new programs, which he’ll introduce at that event.

Agape House’s party will take place at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5, and until that time, Hughes will be keeping on with his daily tasks, which include everything from loading firewood to meeting with local business leaders.

Less than two weeks ago, on the weekend of Nov. 12-14, Hughes made a trip to the city appropriately nicknamed the city of brotherly love — Philadelphia.

Civic Ventures, a self-named “national think-tank on baby boomers, work and social purpose,” named Hughes a 2010 Purpose Prize Fellow and invited him to the East Coast for a ceremony.

The award recognized his work as a social entrepreneur older than 60 who has expanded the work of Agape House by establishing partnerships with other organizations in the area.

Those partnerships include the receipt of surplus building supplies from Home Depot and the feeding of families with produce donated by local food producers.

Hughes’s life of service — and now national recognition — started in the McMinnville area in western Oregon.

He received a degree in mathematics from the Linfield College and served in the Air Force for four years until he was discharged in 1972.

His knowledge of numbers helped him a career as a real estate appraiser, but in 2000, Hughes and his wife Jodene decided to leave the moist Willamette Valley.

“Jodene said she had moss growing between her toes,” Hughes said in a recent interview.

The couple closed the appraisal shop, packed up their belongings and moved to Hermiston, not knowing a soul.

After a brief stint working at the Pendleton Walmart, Hughes applied for a job with Agape House.

“I wanted to find a non-profit where I could give back to the community,” he said.

The charitable organization selected him as executive director and Hughes secured a job that he claims gives him “wonderful rewards.”

“It makes you look forward to getting up each day,” he said.

In his eight years as executive director, Hughes said he’s seen a steady increase in the number of people coming to Agape House for service.

They have countered that, he said, with a growth in the number of programs they are able to offer.

With the new building on Harper Road rising five years ago, Hughes estimates Agape House has been able to serve four times the number of people compared to their old setting.

Hughes will reveal a new program at the December anniversary party, along with providing tours and showing people the things that provide him with “an amazing life every day.”

“Seniors are making a big difference in this world,” Hughes said.

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