Originally from Connecticut, Hughes ran a Boys and Girls Club in his home state from 2000 to 2010, in which time he worked with a team that secured more than $10 million to build a new facility.
“I was looking for an opportunity where I could do this in an area where it was really needed,” he said.
Through the Boys and Girls Club network, he heard that the Astoria location, at 21-12 30th Road, needed new leadership. So in May 2010, he joined its team.
“I love the community,” Hughes said of Astoria and the rest of Queens. “It's truly the melting pot of America here.”
He said it's rewarding to see the club's impact in an under-served area where youth don't have many other opportunities. For example, he said, a teenager who wants to be a dancer has the chance to perform at the Club.
“To have the opportunity to work with these kids and these families in this community - I'm very, very fortunate,” Hughes, who stopped mid-interview to provide homework help to a club member, said. “You can tell that we're having an impact on kids.”
In the future, Hughes said he wants to keep increasing the population of high school-aged members. Part of his mission is to communicate to local residents that the club is not just for elementary and middle school kids.
However, like many other programs across the city, the Boys and Girls Club struggles for funding, Hughes said.
For starters, the building is more than 50 years old. When the roof was torn off during the 2009 tornado storm, the club replaced it. The pool will reopen soon too. But Hughes said the rest of the building also needs repairs.
“We need the community to understand that these kids, without a Boys and Girls Club, have no place to go after school and they're going to hang out on the streets,” he said.
Hughes added that the most influential time of a child's life is between three and 7 p.m., after school.
“We rely on corporate and foundation support, and in difficult economic times, those are budgets that scale back,” Hughes said.
For more information, visit vbgcq.org.