A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky by Heart: ‘Dream Catcher’ Chase Fulcher helping Henderson neighbors achieve their dreams

Chase Fulcher decided long ago to live his life fueled by burning passion and a desire to improve others’ lives. He also understood unrelenting hard work and intense preparation were the best way of reaching his major life goals.

Those timeless ingredients for success have worked quite well for this gentleman from the Ohio River town of Henderson, and consequently for the people of his Henderson County community. You might go so far as to call Chase a “dream catcher,” and better than that, one who helps his neighbors catch their dreams. And how is that so?

Using the personal and salesmanship skills he honed as an award-winning agent of the Kentucky Farm Bureau Insurance over the last two decades, he took over the reins of the Henderson Community Foundation (HCF), a struggling philanthropic organization, and increased the fund balance from about $10,000 to over $1.75 million and, according to the HCF website, “personally set up a $3,000,000 endowment for 42 charities.”

Chase Fulcher

Chase has embraced a love of the bow and arrow since childhood, and he has made his mark for the community’s youth by helping raise $600,000 to establish two National Archery School Program (NASP) buildings of 10,000 square feet each. With that financial support and Chase’s unrelenting desire to get all schools in the county involved, the program at Henderson ranks as the premier one in the nation as it has won state, national, and world archery events. Most importantly, nearly 800 students, many at-risk, are helped daily by participating.

“If you’re not helping or giving back, you are not serving a purpose,” Chase likes to tell anyone who will listen. You can tell he means it by the way his daily actions line up.

As if his days have magically lengthened to more than 24 hours, he has served on numerous boards around town: Airport, the Chamber of Commerce, the Hospital Foundation, the River City Renaissance, the YMCA, Independence Bank, and he is a sought-after professional speaker who motivates his audiences to discover the blessings of a “give back” mentality. He has given countless hours of his time and talents to all new agents who requested his help over his 35-year career, including to those in direct competition.

And in his chosen profession, the insurance industry, he has reached elite status. He‘s been a Kentucky Farm Bureau agent (now an agency manager) or over three decades and has been selected “Agent of the Year” and/or “Agent Manager of the Year” over twenty times. Competing against 4,600 agents, he has garnered the award five times with the regional Southern Farm Bureau while competing with ten other states.

Chase’s advice commonly related to his colleagues is this: “One needs to treat your job as a higher calling to help others, whether it’s related to Farm Bureau or not.” He has internalized and shared an oft-heard spinoff from that advice: “If you love what you do helping others, you’ll not have to work another day in your life.” He believes that living the right priorities, caring about others and doing what is right will cause the money to follow.

He was named by KYNDLE, the four-county business/economic support organization, as the “Distinguished Citizen of the Year” in 2014. Award presenter Rick Tappan opined that the archery program Chase championed for the Henderson County schools was his biggest accomplishment. “How many people do you know that changed the lives of young people with just one project?” asked Tappan.

Many across the country have sought out Chase’s advice on starting their own NASP programs, and over the years, he’s spent thousands of hours mentoring those involved, emphasizing the need to have local champions who show leadership demonstrating the fortitude and strength to see it through while raising significant sums of money and gaining many volunteers to the cause. Things, also, like “being up on a ladder, meeting contractors on weekends…somebody needs to spearhead and keep things going,” said Chase.

Earlier in his life, Chase admirably served his country for four years in the United States Army Airborne Air Assault. He received a coveted top secret clearance designation, was chosen as the top graduate of the Airborne Academy, and was named “Soldier of the Year” for the 5th Signal Brigade. Though he turned both opportunities down, he was given options to join Delta Force or to attend prep school for West Point.

Taking a look at Chase’s challenges as a young person, one might not have predicted great things for his life. “Mom and Dad separated when I was one-year-old, and she was pregnant with my brother Kirk, who later died at age 20,” he explained, “My siblings and I moved in with my grandparents.” In time, his grandparents moved to Florida, leaving the Fulcher kids in Henderson. There were difficult financial times when, back with his remarried mother, he was told at age 18 that he’d “have to help pay the household expenses.”

His self-esteem took some big hits in those early days. “I always had a fear of failing. When I got out of high school, I didn’t think I was very smart,” he said. “The teachers were always calling me down and saying ‘You’re not paying attention.’ But I always knew that God blessed me with great health, a work ethic while working three jobs. I always knew to surround myself with great people and to never try drugs or alcohol.”

With his family having few financial resources, Chase figured his best option was to join the U.S. Army, and some needed encouragement came his way after the evaluation showed strong ability. “They said: ‘You can be anything you want to be,” he noted, and it pretty much has played out that way for this high achiever.

Chase mentioned four strong role models of his youth: His mother, Becky Fulcher, grandparents Les and Freda Reynolds, and Dr. John Jenkins, a pediatrician who practiced in Henderson. “He came and got me every weekend to train dogs…black labs,” he said. “I watched him give and give. Poor kids would come in often (and) he would send his wife to get them shoes.” According to Chase, bills for his services were sometimes not paid because of patients’ lack of finances, and Dr. Jenkins didn’t demand payment. That impressed Chase.

“I thought if I ever have a chance, I’m going to give back everything,” he said.

I asked him about, in such a competitive industry, he’s been able to sell such a tremendous number insurance policies. He gave me no real secrets, just ways to get it done. “Be personable, have persistence, perseverance, and be able to accept rejection,” he said. “With every rejection, you’re that much closer to gaining another client and friend.

“The fear of failure pushes me to work twelve hours a day. Most days I don’t take a lunch break…it’s an hour a day I could be helping somebody or doing something for the community.”

Steve Flairty grew up feeling good about Kentucky. He recalls childhood day trips (and sometimes overnight ones) orchestrated by his father, with the take-off points being in Campbell County. The people and places he encountered then help define his passion about the state now. After teaching 28 years, Steve spends much of his time today writing and reading about the state, and still enjoys doing those one-dayers (and sometimes overnighters). “Kentucky by Heart” shares part and parcel of his joy. A little history, much contemporary life, intriguing places, personal experiences, special people, book reviews, quotes, and even a little humor will, hopefully, help readers connect with their own “inner Kentucky.”

I could see Chase’s intensity full-bore as he talked about embracing the challenge of adding value to the HCF. “For two weeks I prayed. I told them I’d like to help you all raise two million dollars for the foundation,” he said, “(and) I’m going to take off work for ninety days for the Foundation. Everybody I see, I’m going to tell them I need twenty-five to a hundred-thousand (dollars).” He went to the most successful people in Henderson and told them ‘I need you and your community and your home needs you. This attempt was started twenty years ago and it can’t fail this time.’”

The amount mentioned earlier, nearly two million dollars raised by a single-minded individual operating in a relatively small town, is almost too hard to fathom. Most of the donations came by one-to-one conversations, with Chase humbly appealing to the best instincts of each individual to support needs in their community. “There were fifty people who gave more than twenty-five thousand, and I still hold that close to my heart today,” he said.

Bringing archery to the youth of Henderson County seems to be a natural progression from Chase’s youth, when, he said, “I even got three or four rabbits when I was 5 or 6, my first deer at age 12, and went on to shoot and compete in Kentucky and national target archery.”

About fifteen years ago, some local individuals came to Chase and asked for his help in getting a viable archery program going in the schools. After initially hesitating because of an already super-packed schedule, he went to work. He acted as a mediator over what he called a “20-year impasse” between a landowner and the school system in acquiring a location for the two archery buildings. He talked to school officials in individual schools to get them onboard as to the importance of the program.

There were turf wars around the county that needed to be confronted, much money to raise, and the normal startup issues to navigate. Chase showed the leadership needed to see it happen. Today it thrives, and as well as bringing national recognition to the schools for winning competition events. Just recently, Dalton Hinkle, a Henderson student, won an individual national’s event. Beyond that, the Henderson County Archery Program enriches the education of multitudes of youth and encourages struggling pupils to stay in school. More recently, Chase helped start 3-D Archery Initiative, now spreading quickly around the country. 3-D expands greatly the reach of the NASP outside the school setting. It is now in 38 states with over four million dollars in scholarships given in 2017.

In his limited spare time, Chase is an elite bow hunter while completing his North American Super Slam. He has been recognized on the front covers of numerous trade journals, respected as one of the top bow hunters in the country.

He is a faithful member of Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church, Henderson, and he has two grown children, Dale and Katelyn, along with two grandchildren, Paisley and Cru.

Chase Fulcher, in his mid-fifties, has a resume that shows he’s produced great income and, at the same time, produced a world of better opportunities for others. Some might easily call him “blessed to be a blessing.” I asked him about what he sees in his future endeavors, and wasn’t surprised by how he responded. “What I do with my time and money now that I’ve made it will define who I really am,” he noted. “Now the job’s really begun.”

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steve-flairty

Steve Flairty is a teacher, public speaker and an author of six books: a biography of Kentucky Afield host Tim Farmer and five in the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series, including a kids’ version. Steve’s “Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes #4,” was released in 2015. Steve is a senior correspondent for Kentucky Monthly, a weekly KyForward and NKyTribune columnist and a member of the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. Contact him at sflairty2001@yahoo.com or visit his Facebook page, “Kentucky in Common: Word Sketches in Tribute.” (Steve’s photo by Connie McDonald)

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