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Giving Back: How Hughes Marino Team Members Bring Passion and Purpose to their Communities

As a commercial real estate company, we have insight into how shifting real estate trends and economic factors are impacting the surrounding communities where we work and live. And in seeing these issues—lack of resources, housing insecurity, environmental concerns—we are called to take action. Our core value #8 is “generously give to others” and we are proud to live out this core value across all our offices. In addition to each of our team members receiving three days off per year to volunteer, each of our offices contributes to volunteer efforts within our local communities, in areas where we can be uniquely effective.

“Giving back is a foundational aspect of our organization,” says Owen Rice, Executive Vice President and founder of our Seattle office. Across our offices, team members have contributed thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars to organizations including Autism Speaks, Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Special Olympics, to name just a few.

Making Cross-Country Skiing Accessible

Like many in the company who live in mountainous regions, Owen is an avid skier. He’s deeply appreciative of the serene, idyllic environment in Washington’s Methow Valley, where he has a family home to retreat to when he needs a change of pace from the bustle of Seattle, but he’s also seen the way real estate prices in the area skyrocketed during the pandemic as people purchased second homes and vacation homes. “During the pandemic, there was a land grab,” Owen says. “This is a small community, where many local incomes are modest compared to the rising property values.”

Giving Back Article Image
Owen Rice (left) and Erik Bjornson (right), a two-time U.S. Olympian who skied in the World Cup for seven consecutive years, pictured together at the Boulder Mountain Tour, a Nordic ski race located in Sun Valley, ID.

Although the valley boasts North America’s largest network of Nordic ski trails—comprising 200 kilometers of groomed trails—the cost of ski equipment can make Nordic skiing less accessible to some local residents. Owen joined the board of directors for the Methow Valley Nordic Ski Educational Foundation, an organization dedicated to engaging, developing and inspiring individuals through Nordic ski programming and events. The foundation provides training for Nordic and biathlon races, as well as clinics for para-Nordic athletes. Leveraging the area’s world-renowned trail system—which includes trails at the local high school—the organization uniquely positions itself to cultivate both competitive athletes and recreational skiers from diverse backgrounds, starting from an early age.

“Our organization supports hundreds of children in K through 12th grade who want to ski. We don’t turn a single child away,” Owen says.

In addition to training, the group provides budding athletes with supplies—including two sets of skis (skate and classic), boots, poles, race suits and travel to and from races. During the summer, they offer training on roller skis, a cross between roller blades and skis.

Eight athletes who trained with Methow Valley Nordic have gone on to represent the United States in the Olympics, including 21-year-old Novie McCabe, who competed in the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.

Giving back can come in many forms, says Owen, but it’s important to become attuned to the local community and find ways to plug in—whether that’s through volunteer work, raising funds, or providing support through education or mentorship.

“It’s a mindset,” he says. “I live by the notion of ‘no zero days.’ Do something every day that pushes the ball forward, with both personal life and work life.”

Preserving the Night Sky

Another local cause in the Methow Valley community that has become a central focus for Owen is preserving the region’s nighttime darkness. Thanks to its spaciousness and minimal development, Methow Valley is considered one of the best places for stargazing in the nation—with some 900,000 acres from Canada to the North Cascades designated as a dark sky preserve.

Owen is now a board member of the local Dark Sky Coalition, and says he became aware that light pollution was increasing each year, and felt called to protect the area’s natural beauty. “If you look up, it’s astonishing how many stars you see,” he says. “There are not many places in the world with an average of 2 on the Bortle scale (1 is the darkest possible rating).”

He says the organization focuses on public education around the impact of outdoor lights, how to keep lights shielded, and how nighttime lights affect not only peoples’ ability to see the stars but also the navigation of migratory birds and nocturnal animals.

Impact in Action

Like our other Hughes Marino team members, Owen wanted to contribute directly to the community where he lives—to get actively involved, and share his passion with others.

In San Diego, our team members volunteered their time to sort food for the organization Feeding San Diego, which provides tens of millions of meals to residents in need. Other team members in San Diego have turned their love for surfing into an opportunity to give back—participating in the Luau and Legends of Surfing Invitational benefiting Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health. Our entire Hughes Marino Seattle team works with the organization Wellspring Family Services to prepare donations of backpacks and school supplies for families in need. Our team in Boston had a great time volunteering at the Boston Nature Center and spent the day removing an invasive species of plant that is detrimental to other native plant life.

“It’s cool to be at a company where everything we do is very intentional,” he says, “and to see all the work our team is doing on their own endeavors. Making our communities a better place is part of our team’s DNA.”


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