BonnieAnne Fulghum: Psychological well being advocate finds ‘area of interest’ preventing for the underdog | Sunday Greatest

For all of her skilled profession, Aiken native BonnieAnne Fulghum has been preventing for the underdog – not solely preventing however ensuring the underdogs have an opportunity to succeed and win.

For 10 years as a theater trainer at Redcliffe Elementary Faculty, she was a refuge for troubled kids and was a “mommy” for the little boy who was appearing out as a result of he had no household current to share a Thanksgiving program.

For one more 10 years on the Tri-Improvement Heart, she was a powerful advocate for individuals with mental disabilities, together with her son, Dawson, who’s his mom’s greatest cheerleader.

Immediately, Fulghum helps individuals who have been identified with psychological sickness as the manager director of Psychological Well being America of Aiken, Barnwell and Edgefield counties.

“, my son mentioned it finest,” Fulghum mentioned. “He mentioned Mama loves to assist individuals. Actually, it’s not a job. I like what I’m doing. It’s sort of my area of interest.”

Making a house for the homeless

Fulghum has been with Psychological Well being America since April 2019. The community-based, nonprofit company is an advocacy program for individuals with psychological well being diagnoses.

“It’s mainly to offer individuals a voice who don’t have a voice,” Fulghum mentioned.

Fulghum has been with Psychological Well being America solely three years, however she already has made an influence, championing the wants of homeless girls who’ve been identified with psychological sickness at Nurture Residence, one of many company’s packages.

Fulghum mentioned Nurture House is greater than a “facility.” It’s a house for the homeless.

“It’s a household. It’s a house,” she mentioned, “And that’s the way in which I need it to be as a result of I believe that’s a part of therapeutic. We’re in a position to advocate for the ladies and convey therapeutic for his or her prognosis.

“I wished Nurture Residence to be a spot of peace the place they’re comfy. It wanted to be a haven for individuals who had been homeless. About 96% of the homeless inhabitants has an underlying psychological well being situation.”

Suicide prevention is one other of Psychological Well being American’s program, and since March 2020, Fulghum has taken 279 suicide disaster calls.

“I by no means will neglect getting off the primary suicide name that I had,” she mentioned. “It was a really traumatic expertise. The caller was very determined. I used to be simply shaken. I mentioned I don’t assume I can do that.”

However, once more, Fulghum’s son – and cheerleader – knew totally different.

“My son checked out me and mentioned, ‘Mother, however you’re good at it,’” Fulghum continued. “Right here’s my particular wants child saying, Mother, you’re good at this.

“It’s generally very annoying, however but, whenever you get that individual to security and you understand they’re going to be OK and also you test again in with them later they usually’re doing properly, you are feeling actually happy that you just’ve performed one thing proper.”

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Advocating for unheard voices

Advocating for her particular wants son led Fulghum from her first profession in schooling to her second on the Tri-Improvement Heart, which gives, promotes and coordinates “group companies in Aiken County for people with autism, head and spinal wire accidents and mental disabilities,” in accordance with its web site.

For a number of years, Fulghum was in some ways the face of the company, coordinating security packages resembling Protected Youngsters Aiken County and the annual Stroll to Faculty Day at North Aiken Elementary Faculty.

She additionally oversaw the Particular Olympics held yearly at Midland Valley Excessive Faculty. The favored program permits tons of of kids with mental disabilities and bodily disabilities from Aiken and surrounding counties to compete in a wide range of athletic occasions and simply to have enjoyable with their friends.

“I beloved that job, and I believed I’d be there endlessly. It match me so properly. However, actually, it was my bridge to this – that street that God carves out of you,” Fulghum mentioned of her place with Psychological Well being America. “I didn’t notice it was going to take a bend within the street.”

Fulghum mentioned she at all times will love the individuals she labored with on the Tri-Improvement Heart and the inhabitants they serve, however working at Psychological Well being America has given her a brand new perspective on individuals with disabilities.

“I believed that essentially the most unheard individuals on the planet had been people who lived with mental disabilities. However I used to be unsuitable,” she mentioned. “Probably the most unheard individuals on the planet are individuals with psychological sickness. The explanation for that’s as a result of individuals with mental disabilities are happy-go-lucky for essentially the most half. Individuals instantly see their deficit, after which they’ve a coronary heart for that.

“On this world, individuals don’t have a coronary heart as a result of they see that the individual’s intelligence is there, they usually don’t perceive why they will’t go to work. They don’t perceive that melancholy is debilitating. That it hurts. To not say that it’s any more easy of a path to soak up life, I simply assume that individuals don’t perceive psychological well being. They don’t perceive that it’s a chemical course of happening in your physique similar to another illness.”

For her work, Fulghum gained the state affiliate award for Psychological Well being America of South Carolina in July.

“That was fairly an honor,” she mentioned. “They’d not given it out in about six or seven years.”

Sustaining household roots

Born in Aiken, Fulghum has a coronary heart for and deep roots within the metropolis.

One among her grandfathers was Aiken’s chief of police a few years in the past. A cousin was one of many founders of George Funeral Residence. And her first cousin, Rick Osbon, is the present mayor of Aiken.

Her father, Owen Osbon, owned Triple “O” Business Artwork and Printing, and he or she and her mom, Sylvia Anne, ran Sylvia Anne’s Bridal Store. The home she owns now’s the house her dad and mom introduced her house to from the hospital.

“I lived away from Aiken for 2 years,” Fulghum mentioned. “Your entire time I lived away from Aiken I’d come again house to assist my Mother with the bridal store. I’d drive again in, and I’d say Aiken is such a reasonably little city and Aiken persons are so candy. I nonetheless really feel that approach.

“I don’t at all times see the beautiful facet of Aiken now. I see among the darker sides of Aiken, however I nonetheless adore it. It’s nonetheless at its roots a giving, loving little city, and even the people who find themselves transferring in right here see that it’s a particular place to dwell. I’m proud to say that I’m from Aiken. Aiken is a really loving, giving place, or locations like Nurture Residence wouldn’t exist.”

Rising up on stage

Fulghum acquired her bachelor’s diploma from USC Aiken in communications and theater and was one of many first college students to finish the college’s theater program.

Whereas at USCA, Fulghum competed within the Irene Ryan Appearing Scholarships program, successful the state and inserting third within the nation. Actress Irene Ryan was finest recognized for taking part in Granny on “The Beverly Hillbillies,” successful TV present within the Sixties.

Her theater diploma was a pure match for Fulghum, who from an early age was a natural-born performer. She grew up appearing in exhibits for the Aiken Group Playhouse, now the Aiken Group Theatre. She performed a doll in “The Mirror Man” in the course of the first season of Backyard Theatre in Hopelands Gardens and performed Tillie in “The Impact of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds” on the stage of the previous Playhouse on Two Notch Street.

“My favourite factor on the planet to do is to behave and carry out. That’s my very favourite factor: to tackle a personality position. I adore it,” Fulghum mentioned.

However most likely Fulghum’s favourite all-time position was as a singing sister within the musical “Nunsense.”

“I like that position,” she mentioned.

Between work and household, Fulghum hasn’t had time to behave recently however would make an exception for one director.

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“If Marcia Harris ever did ‘Nunsense’ once more, I’d carve out the time to do it,” she mentioned. “She made it enjoyable, however she’s very skilled. I like her for that. She’s very forgiving that you just’re human and this isn’t your job.”

Sharing her voice

Fulghum additionally likes to sing and, when she was 6, sang for First Girl Mamie Eisenhower on the first Coronary heart Profit present, which on the time was a vogue present. Later, she sang for a prince of England when she was the fairy godmother for the Scottish video games.

Immediately, Fulghum sings along with her church choir at Grace Covenant in New Ellenton. She participated of their senior expertise competitors and gained high vocalist within the state of South Carolina.

Fulghum attended Aiken Day Faculty and St. Angela Academy however graduated from South Aiken Excessive Faculty so she may take part within the U.S. Senate Web page program in Washington, D.C. She labored for Aiken’s personal senator, the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, on Capitol Hill. She additionally had the chance to work within the Vice President’s workplace.

“President Bush Sr.’s secretary was out on maternity go away, and I acquired to go in as a result of I may reply the telephones properly. That was due to the print store,” Fulghum mentioned. “I answered this child blue cellphone, they usually mentioned maintain for the president. I acquired to fulfill Imelda Marcos. I’ve met six presidents, I believe. That’s sort of distinctive. There have been so many superb issues I acquired to do due to being a Thurmond web page. I met individuals from all totally different walks of life and all totally different locations in our nation.”

Experiencing totally different cultures

As a youngster, too, Fulghum traveled the world.

Her father, who was a U.S. Navy veteran in the course of the Korean Struggle and witnessed the primary hydrogen bomb explosion within the Marshall Islands throughout Operation Ivy, labored at Fort Gordon in Augusta for almost 50 years. When Pan American Airways took over the contract on the fort, Fulghum acquired entry to close limitless air journey, usually top quality.

“It was nothing to go to Europe, Hong Kong, South America, all 50 states,” she mentioned. “It was an awesome childhood since you jumped on an airplane. My sister and I had been airline brats. We’d go to superb locations and see that the world’s not all the identical in every single place you go. I believe that gave me a love for the distinction of individuals. I believe I’m extra accepting of various cultures due to that have.”

Fulghum married her highschool sweetheart, Warren Fulghum, who’s the deputy tax collector for Aiken County. After Fulghum took over the Miss Aiken County pageant, she and her husband later grew to become employees for the Miss South Carolina pageant. She was the fairy godmother for Miss South Carolina for 10 years and went on to be the fairy godmother for Miss America. Her son’s encouragement of contestants gave her the concept to start out the Miss South Carolina pageant’s Palmetto Prince program.

“Up to now in my few years on Earth, I’ve had essentially the most great life,” she mentioned.

Getting artful

Though Fulghum doesn’t have a lot time for extracurricular actions, she enjoys crafting, particularly making paper crafts. However she nonetheless finds a solution to match her love of crafts into her work.

Earlier than Thanksgiving, she and residents of Nurture Handmade craft objects to promote on the annual Bagels and Bloodies, which advantages Psychological Well being America.

“We did little stocking stuffers,” Fulghum mentioned. “It is therapeutic for them, they usually can also increase just a little bit of cash to allow them to purchase one another presents.”

Fulghum additionally initiated a craft program to acknowledge Psychological Well being Month in Might. The ladies from Nurture Residence created ornamental work on rocks and included encouraging messages resembling “Hope,” “Peace” or “You bought this.” They then planted the rocks round city for individuals to seek out.

“We had been planting 100 rocks a day, and by the point we completed planting them, they had been gone,” Fulghum mentioned. “Our 300 rocks we had planted for the entire month of Might had been gone in per week.”

The subsequent 12 months, Fulghum superior the mission by placing a QR code of the again of the rocks to drive finders to the Psychological Well being America’s web site.

“I acquired this name from this woman, and he or she mentioned I simply need to thanks for planting these rocks,” Fulghum mentioned. “She mentioned I used to be determined when she got here to Aiken, and I went into Hopelands Gardens and located one in every of your rocks. Then I checked out your web site and acquired the assistance that I wanted. Simply figuring out that you just affected, with all of the rocks you painted, one individual was superb.”

This 12 months, this system went statewide.

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“I took it to a state occasion, and other people from everywhere in the state wished to duplicate it,” she mentioned. “It’s sort of a neat feeling to know you began one thing that went statewide.”

Pulling individuals off bridges

Along with preventing for the underdog, Fulghum mentioned she is most obsessed with “pulling individuals off of bridges,” and her job at Psychological Well being America has given her that chance – actually.

About six months after taking the place, Fulghum and her household had been touring to the mountains when site visitors backed up. As they acquired to a bridge, she noticed a younger man on the bridge.

“My husband pulled off the street, and I instructed an officer I used to be educated and requested did he want someone to assist,” she mentioned. “He mentioned our negotiator is an hour away. Would you please include us? I’ll always remember reaching throughout that bridge and that man grabbing my arms and me pulling him again over that bridge.

“I really feel like each time I take a disaster name that’s what I’m doing: I’m pulling that individual again over that bridge. That life is so necessary. So having the ability to be there in that second – that 30 seconds the place you’ll be able to say your life is price one thing, you are price one thing. Let’s discuss this. Let’s reel this again in. That’s so necessary to me, and I suppose that’s the one factor that I’m most obsessed with is saving that life that’s on the sting that wants that further TLC only for that couple of minutes.”