Image of Warde Hershberger

Warde Hershberger : The Volunteer Who Goes the Distance

(March 1, 2023) At 84 years old, Warde spends his days restoring his 1936 Chrysler and 1966 Dodge Coronet convertible, tending his three acres in Hubbard, and wearing the many hats of a volunteer who does not like to sit still for long. Most notably among them: operating a support vehicle for the Woodburn Fire Department filling oxygen tanks, his church, Zion Mennonite, the AWARE Food Bank, and North Willamette Valley Habitat for Humanity (NWV Habitat).

Hershberger seems to have discovered the fountain of youth. “My doctor tells me that he wants me to keep volunteering because that way he knows I’m going to live to 100.”

When asked if he will volunteer another 16 years to see his centennial, he chuckles. “Oh, maybe another 10. Then I might slack off a little.” Warde’s community service and retirement appears to flourish in fifth gear.

After Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf of Mexico in 2005, Warde traveled more than 2,600 miles with his truck and travel trailer from Oregon to Bayou La Batre, Alabama. Warde spent four months helping with recovery efforts through the Mennonite Disaster Service.

“We were down there rebuilding houses and things like that,” says Warde. “I was the gofer. It was my job to have the material at the job sites where we were working for what they needed. One week we had seven crews working so we had a lot of material to round up and get to each job site each day.”

Of his time in Alabama, one interaction stands out. “I talked to some people that were building Habitat houses down there. Talked to one little old lady when I first got there, had grandkids that lived with her. They were just finishing up her house. She called us her angels.”

Warde grew up as the third generation of the family business, Hershberger Motors in Woodburn. “We had a lot of really neat customers,” he says.  “That’s why I’m a volunteer fireman because I said, ‘I need to give back to the community that supports us’.”

Warde joined the local Habitat for Humanity in the early aughts, serving on the board as a member of the Woodburn community. Of his early days with NWV Habitat, he remembers helping grow the affiliate with community breakfasts to create awareness and attending a leadership conference in Las Vegas in 2003. In the years since, Warde played a crucial role in opening the Canby ReStore in 2012, including permits from the local fire marshal and was the assistant manager for the first six months. 

These days, Warde has a backseat role with NWV Habitat. Warde wears his Habitat hat on Wednesday on his route– A red billed ball cap from the early days of the affiliate before its service area grew. “I take my truck and that flatbed trailer,” he nodded in the direction of his three bay workshop, “and go to Do It Best Hardware and pick up their donations and take it to the Woodburn Restore.” From there, Warde shuttles goods from the Woodburn ReStore to the Canby ReStore before returning home - a circuit that racks up almost 1,800 miles a year. 

Bringing his community together is second-nature to Warde. It comes as little surprise that he recruited extra hands for a NWV Habitat home build. “The fire department went to a house [NWV] Habitat was building in Woodburn and put a morning in over there,” said Hershberger. “We got some volunteers and some of the full-time firefighters that were off to come put a half a day in.”

After many years and countless miles driven, the people he meets keep him coming back week after week. “I like to interact with people that have ideas and energy," he says. "They want to get up and get something done.”

With a smile he imparts some advice, “You know, life is short. We should enjoy every bit of it.”

Our Habitat hat is off to you, Warde. Thank you for all that you do!