Hazard Spotlight: Ben Fugate

All photos provided by Ben Fugate

Who are you, and what roles to you fill in your community?

I am married to my high school sweetheart and we have four amazing kiddos. I have the privilege of serving as Lead Pastor of Journey Christian Church and President of Hope House (Homeless Shelter).

 

What do you most appreciate about your community?

One of the things I love the most about our community is the generosity and unity that flow together when there is a need. I’m confident in saying that if there is a situation where someone doesn’t get help it’s only because the community wasn’t made aware. Social media can be a place where people engage each other in a certain way or post things that causes you to scratch your head, but Hazard also knows how to use social media as a tool to spread the word on a need or shed light on a dilemma and the response is always strong.

 

What’s your vision for Hazard, and what’s a community project you’ve been a part of that makes strides towards that vision?

This blog isn’t long enough to state my vision for Hazard. I see a thriving community with a vibrant culture built around tourism and our great history. I see scenic passenger train rides, railroad and coal museums, splash pads on vacant lots, sculptures on our sidewalks that visitors have to pull over and take a selfie with. I see kayaks on our river, I see the Hazard Yards transforming into a tourist magnet with zip lines, rock climbing walls, and canoe rentals. I see a downtown so full of things to do you can park your car and spend the entire evening enjoying town before returning to it if you desire. I see opportunity everywhere I look. Every time I see a building boarded up I feel personally challenged to do something about it. The answers won’t be easy but it starts with us. At Hope House I made the decision to deny Government funds because of all the red tape and the strings attached to it. While I think our town should be pursuing every dollar available to us, we shouldn’t become dependent on that being the answer. We should take the initiative to be the answer. We should invest in our people trusting that they will lead the way. And what that looks like is offering entrepreneurs incentives, including a business hub with cubicles in a building downtown where they can kick-start their business, plugging them in with mentors and resources, and waiving business fees for a set period of time. Coffee shops and boutiques are only doable if there is a shop local culture and the only way to have that culture again is to make big statements that we are making a comeback. The last thing we need is a smooth transition from the last generation to this one, we need a bold statement that says “We are back.” I’ve told everyone that I want our town to be better because of Hope House – not just as a resource for the homeless, but as a catalyst for change. We are pouring vision into our residents every day that with the proper steps their world can look different and so can our town. I’ve always wrestled with getting involved in city politics. My oldest is 10 years old and I made myself a promise a long time ago when we decided this is where we would be, that I will do everything in my power to make sure she doesn’t despise us for staying here. So, I’m working with a level of urgency, a clock ticking over my head and I’m ok with that, but if that means jumping in to push the change we need, I’ll jump in. Not because of the typical preacher/politics platform of keeping “In God we trust” on money (lol), but because I have vision that causes me to toss and turn at night for Journey, for Hope House, and for our city. I just want to see Hazard live out its potential.

 

Who is a member of your community that you admire and why?

I admire a lot of people in our community. Diana and Ken Patula are amazing examples of how we should give back to our community and be a part of its growth. Diana has some of the wildest ideas, but you just want to go with her because you see the fire and determination in her eyes. You can’t talk about advancing Hazard and not hear Betsy Clemons‘ name come up. She loves and fights for her town and I find that very inspiring. Another visionary I admire is Bill Hall. He is what I call a barbarian leader: his methods can be crazy and savage (lol), but he’s a “let’s-roll-the-dice,” “let’s-bet-the-farm” kind of guy. I admire risk takers and if we truly desire to turn our city around, we must be willing to take the leap of faith.