A retired interior decorator, Donald Fulshaw, 89, is a volunteer receptionist four days per week at the Salvation Army.
“Also I just have to say, I’m very, very fortunate to be here in this position to volunteer,” Fulshaw said. “I mean, they say retired people volunteer — well, it’s not that easy — I just fell into it because it makes me feel worthwhile at my age helping. I really enjoy it. …”
During Christmas seven or eight years ago, Amanda “Mandie” Perez, Fulshaw’s oldest daughter and her husband Ramon “Beau” were officers for Roswell’s Salvation Army at the time, when they asked him to answer phones and he has been volunteering since.
“All I knew about Salvation Army — before I got so involved with Mandie and Beau — was Christmastime people ringing the bells,” Fulshaw said. “Didn’t know anything more than that.”
Before being assigned to Roswell, he was living with Amanda and her husband, Ramon Perez in California.
“I said, ‘I am not moving to Roswell,’” Fulshaw said. “I just figured it was aliens, and a stoplight, and a Starbucks, so I had to go look and I was pleasantly surprised and I’ve been here ever since.”
At the Red Kettle Dinner on Nov. 22, Fulshaw was recognized for his service with an “Essential Piece” award, which recognized over 10,000 hours of volunteer time.
The award reads: “Isn’t it a wonderful thing that we’re all different? Each of us has strengths and skills to share and when we link our individual strengths together, we’re invincible. Can’t imagine us without you.”
Capt. Niki Woollin, current Salvation Army captain, said this was the only award given that night and the first of its kind. And though he’s a volunteer, Woollin said Fulshaw is a “key member” of the Salvation Army staff.
“It wasn’t even a question of who would receive this award the first time and that he just is an essential piece,” Woollin said. “We couldn’t do what we do without him and he goes on vacation occasionally … but when he’s gone, it’s felt. …
“I never want him to feel that he’s not valued. And so, the idea behind it was to help him know how valued he is, and then, also just to recognize him. Because that dinner was a lot for our donors who donate financially, but we wanted to honor him for donating his time, which is so precious.”
Woollin said volunteer hours are just as important as the essential monetary donations to the Salvation Army.
Originally, Fulshaw is from Roselle, New Jersey, and said he was a social and “arty” kid, while his older brother was a “jock.”
After high school, he met his future wife while attending an art school for industrial design, which changed to interior decorating. They shared 50 years together and had three children. Fulshaw and his ex-wife have now been separated for 15 years and they have around seven grandkids and one great-grandson.
To avoid being drafted in the 50s, Fulshaw joined the Air Force, did his basic training in San Antonio and was a drill instructor. While living in California, he said basic training stopped and he worked for about a year as a receptionist for the officer’s club at Parks Air Force Base.
Returning to the east coast, he took some other jobs like truck driving and also worked for RCA (Radio Corporation of America) Records in NYC when Elvis “Presley and Chet Atkins” were recording. Eventually, he worked as a decorator for New York University, where he retired.
Twinkly lights, poinsettias and other wintery decorations were placed inside and outside of Fulshaw’s office where the interview with the Daily Record took place. He explained he has full reign to decorate for the holidays and also arranges flowers for the chapel’s altar on Sundays, which he said is thanks to permission from Woollin.
On a Senior Circle trip a few years back, Fulshaw visited New York City again and also went on another trip to see the replica of Noah’s Ark in Indiana. He also said he went on the “Honor Flight,” where former servicemen are honored, and he traveled to Washington D.C. and saw all the memorials.
Woollin described Fulshaw as dynamic, hardworking, generous and an “incredible” man with an equally incredible story.
“He’s faithful, he’s dedicated and he’s a hoot,” Woollin laughed.
Special projects reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at email@example.com.