Mike Hughes, 29, is back helping to spruce up Shepherd’s Village where he once lived.
BELLEAIR BLUFFS – The saying, “everything that goes around, comes around” is true for a Dunedin man who recently found himself back at his Belleair Bluffs roots and didn’t even know it.
On May 16 Mike Hughes, 29, was unemployed and practically homeless when an old friend from high school, Tiffany Miller, called to ask him if he could help with a volunteer program painting a building.
“She knew I was a painter,” he said. “I had nothing else to do so of course I said yes.”
Miller, it turns out, is a community outreach employee of Home Depot, and she was heading up a volunteer weekend to paint and spruce up Shepherd’s Village in Belleair Bluffs. She didn’t know Hughes had a connection with the place and he didn’t know where the paint job was. It wasn’t until he got there and recognized the founder Dr. Phyllis Alderman that he realized he had come home in a way.
Shepherd’s Village is a home for single mothers and their children. They can stay there, in a two-bedroom apartment at modest rent, until they can get back on their feet. Hughes was one of the children.
“My brother and I and our mom were here for a couple of years when I was 14 and 15,” he said. “There was no father figure in my life at the time and this place filled that need. I liked it here a lot.”
Hughes admitted that he and his younger brother caused some headaches around the place.
“They handled it; we made it through all right,” he said.
Alderman was delighted when she discovered Hughes was the young man recruited to help paint. She remembered him well.
“Mike is just the type of person that makes our investment in these families worthwhile,” she said. “They mature and end up helping others. It is a miracle that God would bring him back to his roots and give him the opportunity to help other young boys who live here now.”
With that Alderman pulled out a picture of Hughes standing with a 14-year-old boy who is currently a resident of Shepherd’s Village. A boy the same age as he was back when he lived there.
“He has the opportunity to help other young boys who live here right now,” she said.
Life hasn’t been all that easy for Hughes. His biological mother died when he was in high school. When that happened he was away in Holmes County in Florida’s Panhandle at a boot camp for challenged teenagers. He helped teach at the facility and he played football. He had gotten hints that a football scholarship was a possibility, but when his mother died he came back to Pinellas County.
He then began working in various construction trades and that’s how Tiffany Miller knew he was a painter. When she brought him to the job at Shepherd’s Village she had no idea that Hughes had anything to do with the place.
“I told her that I used to live here,” he said. “It was a big shock for her.”
The weekend of May 16-18 was a major volunteer weekend for Shepherd’s Village. Arranged and organized by Home Depot, volunteers came from two local churches and among employees of Home Depot and anyone else they could find to help.
Once the weekend was over everyone had to go back home to their lives and their jobs. But there was still work to be done. Hughes stayed on.
“I come in to work around 6:30 in the morning and stay until 6:30 in the evening,” he said. “I’m doing this to help a friend and for sure it is more satisfying to help Phyllis and the families here.”
Hughes will tell you that he didn’t come to help for any reward, but he has been rewarded nonetheless. Since it started he found a new place to live in Dunedin so he can’t be called homeless any more. And there is a good possibility he might land a permanent job in the community. His volunteer effort has put him in touch with the right people who were able to steer him in the right direction.
None of it is a surprise to Alderman, who has been helping families for more than 20 years.
“This just goes to show you that God is into still changing lives,” she said.