Empty Stocking Fund
Community Story

Honoring Memories through Giving

How is a dog the connection to a special family memory and community impact? Read more as Phoebe Hughes explains how her giving connects these two things.

If it wasn’t for Sarge, their story might have been different.

“Years ago, we had a German Shepherd named Sarge because my husband Phil was in the military for 10 years,” recalled Phoebe Hughes. “And when [our daughter] Apryl was 3 years old, we feel that Sarge literally saved her life.”

Phoebe and her late husband Phil had been in the yard when their daughter Apryl, in a quick second, started toward the highway.

“Sarge brought her down without breaking the skin on her arm,” remembered Phoebe. “That memory has stayed with me — how our dog made a huge impact in our daily life.”

And it’s that memory that has fueled Phoebe’s desire to provide someone else in need with help. With support from the Athens Area Community Foundation, she’s in the process of donating a service dog.

“I was eager to find a nonprofit that would allow us to name the dog [Sarge] and to have a say in where it went — so that I would know it’s helping someone needing assistance in their daily life,” said Phoebe. “This service dog will go to either a blind person or someone who is incapacitated.”

She’s also hopeful the service dog could benefit a veteran, in honor of her husband Phil, an Army veteran who passed away in 2012.

Supporting this — and other projects close to their heart — through the Phil Hughes Family Fund they created at the AACF has allowed the family to continue Phil’s tradition of giving back.

“My dad was very philanthropic. Both my parents have been,” said Apryl, Phoebe’s daughter. “And after he died, we were looking for different avenues to continue that. … It’s just a wonderful way to honor him with causes that are important to us.”

For them, AACF simplified the process of giving back.

“When my mom said she was interested in the service dog, [AACF President and CEO] Sarah McKinney did all the leg work for us and had several different options,” explained Apryl. “They took over [the process]. They vetted the charity. They did all that for us. It’s a seamless way to become involved and make sure that causes you’re interested in are supported.”

Working with the AACF is also a way to make sure your giving has the most impact.

“It’s complicated doing this on your own,” said Apryl. “But this way — by giving through the AACF — Athens families as a collection, as a whole, can have their money invested and earning interest. It’s a great way for that money to grow and then, every family can choose where they want their money to go, whether it’s the Salvation Army, or a church — or for mom, a service dog.

“Our community is only as strong as what you put into it. And the community needs, especially during Covid, have been so significant. So many nonprofits and charities have needed help. Imagine if there wasn’t a philanthropic association in Athens that could facilitate those needs?”

For the Hughes family, giving is a way of life and working with the AACF helps them continue doing what they love.

“[Giving through the AACF] is a wonderful way to leave a lasting legacy for a loved one who has passed,” said April, “or a family member who has lived and served in the community.”


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