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Building a Better Appalachia: How One Man's Compassion is Moving Mountains

Submitted by clester2014 on Thu, 02/05/2015 - 20:39

By Susie Hillard Bullock Bob Hutchison’s parents taught him the importance of hard work and sharing—lessons that guide the eastern Kentucky entrepreneur and Christian Appalachian Project board member to this day. “It was the culture that my parents created for my four brothers and me,” said Bob, who lived in Akron, Ohio, until the age of six when the family moved to Green, Ohio. “Anything I do that’s good, I attribute to the life lessons my parents taught me.” Bob’s mother Mary Jane often told her sons stories about growing up during the Great Depression. “Neighbors worked together to make sure everyone had what they needed,” he said. “Everybody in the neighborhood had something to offer that others didn’t,” Bob recalled. “My mom and grandmother were the only ones who could sew.” Family was everything to Mary Jane, a caterer, and Bill, director of operations for several McDonalds restaurants; the couple never hesitated to take in relatives and friends who needed a home and food. At one time, the family of seven shared the one-bathroom home with a grandmother, another elderly woman, and a cousin. Bob entered the work force at age nine, delivering the Akron Beacon Journal. Five years later, following in his father’s footsteps, he began working at McDonald’s. In 1978, McDonald’s offered Bill franchise rights for Paintsville, Kentucky, a small town in Johnson County in Eastern Kentucky. Bill, Mary Jane, Bob, and brother Tom made three trips to Paintsville before making a decision. “It was raining on the first visit,” said Bob, who was 24 at the time and in his last year at Kent State University, “and it was raining cats and dogs on the second visit.” Although the gloomy weather cast a pall on the family’s excitement, they decided to make a third and final trip. Admiring the natural beauty of mountains and valleys that had been shrouded in rain and fog on previous visits, Bob, an avid outdoorsman, grabbed a map and circled all of the state parks in and near Paintsville. “I think I’ll like this place,” he said. A Heart for Appalachia The prediction made 36 years ago turned out to be an understatement. Bob loves Eastern Kentucky and its people and proves it every day through his service and support. “If I have a mission, it’s to share what I have with young people and help them be productive individuals,” said Bob, whose long list of volunteer activities includes serving as a trustee at Midway College and the University of Pikeville in Kentucky, board member for the Bluegrass Council for Boy Scouts of America, and chairman of the Johnson County Board of Education. Bob also owns two car dealerships, Hutch Chevrolet Buick GMC and Hutch Chrysler Dodge Jeep and Ram in Paintsville, and Columbus Gasket and Supply in Columbus, Ohio. “I don’t know how he has the energy to do all he does,” said fellow board member Nancy Horn Baker of Winchester, Ky. “ He takes an active role in every community where he has stores.” l-r: Guy Adams, President & CEO CAP, Bob Hutchinson, Kay Yates, President AFP Bluegrass Chapter When Bob met Christian Appalachian Project founder, the Rev. Ralph Beiting, in the late 80s, he knew he had found a way to help children as well as families, the elderly, and the disabled, but on a much larger scale. “I got to know Father Beiting and started learning about Christian Appalachian Project when he asked me to help with a construction project,” Bob said. “Then he asked me to help organize a car show to raise money for CAP. We really bonded on that one.” Bob needed little convincing when Rev. Beiting asked him to serve on CAP’s board of directors. “I was captivated by his ambition and his vision for Christian Appalachian Project,” Bob said. “He knew how to get things done. He didn’t have time or patience for bureaucracy.” Since jumping in with both feet 20 yeas ago, Bob has lent “business acumen, informed by wisdom and sound judgment” to board decisions, according to CAP President and CEO Guy Adams. Also, you can count on him to be among the first in line when the organization faces a sudden and urgent need for boots-on-the-ground volunteers. “Bob has a big heart,” Adams said. “He was right in the middle of the action, helping unload tractor trailers carrying water and supplies for hurricane victims in Mississippi and tornado victims in Eastern Kentucky two years ago.” CAP’s longest serving board member also uses his influence to bring in new blood. Bob gets credit for recruiting at least a dozen former and current board members— including Nancy Horn Barker of Winchester and board chairman Denny Dorton, Trigg Dorton’s son. A Helping Hand If Bob needs a reminder of why he continues to serve through CAP, all he has to do is look around. New shopping centers and subdivisions and highly-ranked schools point to the progress that’s been made; however, dilapidated houses, under-nourished children, families torn apart by alcohol and drug abuse, and the elderly and disabled living in neglect leave no doubt about the challenging work that remains to be done. “We have programs to help people who want to help themselves and programs for people who can’t, such as children, shut-ins, and the elderly,“ he said. “If people knew everything CAP does to help people, they’d be surprised.” He remembers one woman, in particular, who was ecstatic about Christian Appalachian Project putting in a water line and installing a new roof on her house. “She was tickled to death. You would have thought she had been given a mansion with the finest of everything,” Bob said. He also knows young people who have benefited from CAP’s professional counseling services and others with chronically ill relatives who received respite care. “I see the impact Christian Appalachian Project has on the lives of the local people,” Bob said. “Faith and the teachings of the Bible are what you see consistently with Christian Appalachian Project. Helping widows, children, the elderly . . . that’s how we were raised, and it’s what Christian Appalachian Project is all about. Knowing CAP is solid, that it’s doing the right things for the right reasons makes it easy for me to do what I can to help.” “Bob has always supported the mission of CAP and puts his energy and resources where his mouth is,” said board chairman and Paintsville native Denny Dorton. “He has certainly made a difference in the life of Christian Appalachian Project. “ A Circle of Giving In most parts of Kentucky, when you introduce yourself, folks ask about your kin. Lifelong residents of Ohio, the Hutchisons had no family or business connections in Paintsville. They were starting from scratch when they walked into bank president Trigg Dorton’s office to discuss a loan to open a McDonald’s restaurant. “He asked us to tell him about our lives, beginning with our earliest memory,” Bob said, describing the unconventional application process. Mr. Dorton listened and made a few notes as Bob described his first job—a paper route—when he was nine, working at McDonalds since age 14, and working four jobs while attending college: McDonald’s store manager, mowing yards, striping parking lots, and working for the sheriff’s department. The Hutchisons were speechless when Dorton called the next morning and told them their loan had been approved, and the proceeds were ready and waiting. “I had never seen that much money,” Bob recalled. “Initially, we didn’t sign any papers. Mr. Dorton called it a ‘character loan.’” The Hutchisons opened the Paintsville McDonald’s October 5, 1979. The business has grown to include an additional 13 restaurants in Eastern Kentucky. Several years ago, Trigg and Denny Dorton invited Bob to join the bank’s board of directors. “I try to stay as involved as I can in carrying on Mr. Dorton’s legacy,” Bob said. “If it wasn’t for him, we wouldn’t be where we are today. He made it possible for my dad to realize the dream of owning his own business.”

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