Never believe that one person can not make a difference. This is especially true if that one person is multiplied by hundreds, even thousands over the course of 25 years.

Agape House received its breath of life when Kathleen Knudsen, a member of First Baptist Church, decided to do something about the hungry families she saw around her. She called in some of her friends and simply asked, “What can we do about those who need food?”

The answer was to start dispensing excess produce, such as potatoes and onions, to needy families. This small movement to find food for those who had little has grown into Agape House. It has jumped from one to a broad range of programs with a large number of community partners and a 100-strong troop of volunteers.

There has also been another strong person who has helped make the Agape House what it is today. Dave Hughes agreed to take on the challenge eight years ago  as executive director after a successful career as the owner of a real estate appraisal company in McMinnville.

He came to Hermiston with his wife, Jodene, and went to work. They both went to work is the truth, along with a growing number of volunteers.

One of the Hughes’ initiatives was to build a new storage facility and headquarters five years ago. Agape House needed room to store the food and other goods such as furniture, clothing and various essentials required to help the poor in Umatilla and Morrow counties.

Now, five years later, Hughes is opening the facility for community tours and refreshments. The event is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 5. Agape members will conduct a short program and share information about the last half decade at 3 p.m.

Agape House is serving some 750 families. One of its new goals is to help make those families more self sufficient. There may be announcements at the open house celebration about some new initiatives along these lines as well as other ongoing programs.

As fate would have it, Executive Director Hughes, who always diverts attention from himself, is also being honored this month. A national organization, Civic Ventures, has named him the Purpose Prize Fellow. This recognizes a social entrepreneur over 60 who is “using his passion to make an extraordinary impact on society’s biggest challenges.”

“Purpose Prize Fellows show what’s possible in our communities when experienced adults apply their passion and skill to improve the lives of others,” Alexandra Cespedes Kent, a prize director, said in announcing the award.

There again, the theme of one person making an impact is playing out.

Hughes is right to share his honor with so many others in our Eastern Oregon region. He marvels about how often he picks up the phone at Agape House to find some other “one person” making a difference through an offer of food, help, a new program idea or just a donation of their personal time.

Please, if you have not seen it yet, take a little time out on Dec. 5 and take a tour of Agape House. You will be amazed at what is there.

You will never again doubt that what each of us decides to do individually does matter. What if Kathleen Knudsen had just shrugged her shoulders and said, “Well, there is really nothing I can do to help the hungry that matters. I am just one person.”

Agape House may have died in that moment and not grown into the wonderful community service it has become. And Dave Hughes might never have moved to Hermiston and worked his magic.

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