The story of Agape Network is one of diversity, need, determination, love, and faith. Founded by retired Commander of Miami Dade Corrections & Rehabilitation Chaplaincy, Jose E. Hernandez, D. Min., the organization was created to spread hope and transform the lives of those affected by crime and incarceration. It has grown to become a model of integrated behavioral healthcare and spiritual wellness.
The Cuban-born Rev. Hernandez was on a mission inspired by a higher power. It was 1981 and jails were overcrowded and overwhelmed due to the Mariel Boatlift. As a chaplain, Rev. Hernandez’s passion for sharing the Good News of the Gospel and connecting people to faith, brought zeal to the correctional culture. Soon, the Reverend would pave a new path of leadership for the county, going from chaplain to the first-ever religious coordinator, and later, the first-ever commander. At one point, Rev. Hernandez oversaw six correctional facilities and more than 100,000 inmates annually. His innovative contributions included the Faith Works ReEntry Program, the development of a robust volunteer network and building a multi-faith chaplaincy program that honored diversity.
In 1983, the tragic story of a woman inmate dying at the hands of her former pimp just hours after being released served as the impetus for creating the Agape Network. At the time, the newly founded non-profit was one of the only organizations in the county to offer residential programs, transitional housing, and wrap-around services exclusively for women and their children.
Today, the Agape Network’s dedication to women, children, and families runs in parallel with its robust jail ministry program. The organization's residential facility remains female but encompasses working with those impacted by substance use disorders and mental illness.
In 1992, Agape moved its headquarters to South Dade transforming a former nursing home into a nationally accredited and fully integrated community health center.
Through the years, Agape’s supporters have included prominent figures from government, law enforcement, the courts, the faith community, and business leaders.
Agape has been recognized for its excellence in service by various institutions including:
• The Children's Trust, Children of Inmates Service Partnership Award
• City of Miami Proclamation for Exemplary Leadership
• Certificate of Appreciation, Miami-Dade County Office of Mayor Alex Penelas
• The Key of the County Miami-Dade
• Jessie Trice Hero Award of Healthcare
• Community Action and Human Services Department Coordinated Victims Assistance Center (CVAC) Award
• Community Health Foundation Recognition Award
• The Flag of the United States of America by U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
• Certificate of Appreciation, The Miami Coalition for a Safe and Drug-Free Community
• Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida Appreciation Award
• Florida House of Representatives, Health & Human Services Commendation
• Special recognition from Governor Charlie Crist for Agape’s 25th Anniversary
• Recognition of Community Service, Archdiocese of Miami
• National Association of Counties Award
• Aleph Institute service award