Money may be tight these days for many in the region, but one thing local leaders can agree to spend a little money on is the future of the youth in the area — or at least that was the impression for anyone attending last week’s appreciation dinner for donors to Project Hope, a non-profit project designed to help at risk male youth in Perry County.
Project Hope was formed in 2009 after local officials noticed a trend in juvenile cases, attributing the reason they were in trouble to there being nothing better to do. Now, with donations and volunteers from the Kentucky State Police, the Perry County Fiscal Court, local businesses, and many other places in the county, those kids have something to do.
Chris Fugate, pastor of the Gospel Light Baptist Church in Hazard and a newly-retired KSP officer who is also one of the leaders of Project Hope, said the over 100 volunteers the project gets each year only hope to better the lives of those kids who need help.
“We just want to be an influence on the young men in our county that have strayed away or maybe don’t have the help at home that they need,” Fugate said. “We encourage them, of course, to stay in school, go into some kind of trade, whether it’s vocational school or college, to learn a trade, and so they better their lives.”
Fugate said while the boys chosen for the program are nominated by school officials, counselors, parole officers, or parents, that does not necessarily mean they have all been in some kind of trouble.
“Some of them have been in trouble, but not all of them. They’re good boys, some of them just don’t have the leadership that they need at home maybe,” Fugate said.
Fugate said the boys who are chosen for the project get to do numerous activities throughout the year, including going to Mammoth Cave and Natural Bridge this year, all free of cost. The project has also hosted a camp, Camp Promise, every year since it was founded.
The camp takes 50 campers to the Twin Rocks Bible Camp located on the Middle Fork of Maces Creek for four days in June. The campers have camp dads, who are KSP officers, Fugate said.
“Every person that works at camp is a volunteer, most of the cabin dads are troopers with the state police, and we just try to interact with the boys,” he said.
Fugate said he would love to see the project expand to not only other counties, but to also include both boys and girls.
“It would be a blessing to see other communities and other groups of people come together, and we’d love to help with that,” Fugate said.
Project Hope and Camp Promise would not be possible without the care and donations of businesses, organizations, and citizens of the county, Fugate said, and he and his fellow volunteers are extremely grateful.
“You can see by looking in the full room in there, a lot of people invest in our kids and they care about them,” he said.