PADUCAH — A gambling problem: That’s what police documents list as the reason Danny Fugate may have stolen money from a local scholarship fund. Fugate entered a not guilty plea in McCracken County court Thursday on a charge of unlawful theft of more than $10,000.

Fugate was the treasurer for two local nonprofits: the McCracken County Community Career Endowment and the local NAACP chapter. He’s accused of stealing $89,000 from the MCCCE, which is a scholarship fund for minority students.

“We have a stack of them,” MCCCE Executive Director Don Mitchell said as he sorted through this year’s scholarship applications. They are more than just a stack of papers.

These are letters from students who want to get a college degree, but they can’t afford it on their own. Most applicants are low-income, African-American students.

Mitchell shared parts of one of the applicants essays. “Up until I graduated, (my brother) and I were shoveled home to home, from parent to parent and even grandparents,” Mitchell read. “To us, living in one house for more than two years seemed like an oddity. It was my unrelenting love of school that let me persevere through my torment in childhood.”

That’s just one story. Mitchell said MCCCE helps about 20 students a year.

“We get our money from the Community Foundation of West Kentucky where Mr. Paxton and Peggy Paxton put their money — a million-dollar donation — in 2005,” Mitchell said. “We get our dividend from that every year, and that’s about $46,000.” They also raise money every year, but that $89,000 was actually their savings.

“A thousand dollars doesn’t sound like a lot to a lot of people, but it’s a lot to someone who doesn’t have a lot,” Mitchell said. Those are some of the students they’ve helped in the community.

Mitchell said they are going to give the same amount of scholarships this year, maybe even more.

Fugate was also the treasurer of the local NAACP chapter, but in the arrest warrants, it is unclear how much, if any, money was taken from them. Local NAACP Director J.W. Cleary did not want to speak about Fugate at this time.

Fugate will be in court again April 12 for a preliminary hearing. He is not being held in jail.

Fugate was the Section 8 Housing Coordinator for the city of Paducah when he was charged, but has since retired with full benefits. The city conducted an internal investigation and did not find any wrongdoing as the Section 8 coordinator.

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