His brown eyes are earnest, pleading as he hands out fliers in search of a woman he's never met. "Missing girl. Linnea Lomax," he says to the throngs exiting the California State Fair, holding pictures of Lomax, 19, who disappeared from a mental health facility June 26.
Instead of having fun like most people his age, Avery Hughes, 18, volunteers full time during summer break before his senior year in high school. He joined the search on July 11, when the search effort slowed from having hundreds of volunteers to less than twenty. After two hours on the job he was crying. Later, he cleared his schedule to volunteer indefinitely.
Last year, Hughes spent two months on the streets in Germany, never knowing where he was going to sleep or get his next meal. "I'm a guy and Germany's not as dangerous. This scares the pants off me," he says. "She's young. She's beautiful. She's just really vulnerable." Hughes does whatever is needed to help find Linnea - including interviewing the homeless, mopping the floors, providing tech support or answering the tip-line. He barely sleeps at night always knowing there's something more he could be doing. "Emotionally it's the most taxing thing I've ever done," he said.
Craig Lomax, Linnea's father, appreciates all the help the receives from the volunteers. "When you go through something like this it's unbearable," he said. "But when people around you get things done you don't feel abandoned. It makes the pain tolerable."
Hughes feels strongly about helping the Lomax family and hopes that his efforts will make the difference in finding Linnea safe.
A sign above the cot Hughes barely sleeps on at night inspires him. "All gave some. Some gave all," it reads. "I'd much rather be in the group that gave all," he said.
To nominate an exceptional volunteer for the I Care column please email firstname.lastname@example.org.