Summer 2024
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Walking Alongside the Disadvantaged

As marketing coordinator for the Union Gospel Mission of Salem, Josh Hren serves the local homeless population while inspiring others to do the same By Emmy King

Josh Hren (B23) has always had a heart for the homeless. Growing up, he volunteered with the local mission at his church, helping to feed the hungry in his community. He even dreamed of one day opening his own soup kitchen.

“I’ve always had a passion for that community, for showing them compassion, whatever that looks like,” he says.

As graduation approached and it was time to start his job search, Hren felt that anything short of landing a job in the corporate world would be a failure. “I thought that if I didn’t do some big, shocking thing, my work would mean nothing,” he says. So he turned his focus to those jobs. But soon, he began to reassess his values.

“One night I was sitting on the couch and I pulled up the Union Gospel Mission of Salem website, and I felt this nudge,” he recalls. “I had driven past the Mission building before, and I had felt like it could be a great opportunity to continue pursuing that passion I had as a kid. So I thought to myself, ‘You know what? Just drop the act. Do something that you enjoy and everything else will follow.’”

Hren applied for a marketing position at the Mission and was hired right after graduation. Immediately, he felt at peace about his decision. Today, as the marketing and public relations coordinator for the nonprofit, he gets to use his marketing skills to help those who need it most, combining his career with the calling he’d felt since he was a child.

“When guests come to the Mission, we provide them with meals and safe shelter,” Hren explains. “But beyond that, we help people navigate state services, find sustainable jobs, and provide them with one-on-one counseling. We provide opportunities for them to experience true life change, free from homelessness.”

In his position, Hren creates marketing initiatives and works with the Mission staff to educate the broader Salem community about the work they’re doing for the homeless population. His storytelling work helps raise awareness, as well as much-needed funds, for their operations.

“I interact with the community and figure out ways to educate them while inspiring them to support us through volunteering, through prayers, through giving,” he says.

The work varies greatly from day to day, based on the Union Gospel Mission’s marketing and PR needs. It’s an environment where Hren feels right at home, thanks in part to his experiences at George Fox.

“When I went to Fox, I knew I wanted to get involved in as many different pockets as I could,” he says. “I learned how to communicate because I was able to dive into those different pockets and meet so many people with different personalities. But it’s also about confidence – George Fox allows students to feel confident and valued in whatever they’re pursuing.”

One of the most important things Hren learned during his time on campus was how to be bold and get out of his comfort zone. If he hadn’t first pushed himself to apply for the Union Gospel Mission job, he wouldn’t be engaging in the important restorative work he is today.

“Just go out there and try things,” is the advice Hren gives to current students he stays in contact with. “Find your joy, find what gets you excited and what you look forward to. Find something that excites you and gives life.”

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Summer 2024 Journal Cover

Cover of Summer 2024 issue

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