Drew Fulfer

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Drew Fulfer frustrated his dad.

A hard-working machinist, his father couldn’t convince his son to join him in his shop. The boy was too obsessed with sports to learn to work with his hands.

Fulfer, 30, laughs about it now. His work managing Shannon Medical Center’s Orthotics Department, which builds custom braces that support deficient extremities, has landed him on this year’s 20 Under 40 list.

“He’s pushed me by teaching, ‘If you can do it this way, it looks good … but it can be better,’” Fulfer said. “I thank him for that. Even though I wasn’t physically working with him, I did watch him. And it inspired me to do everything as good as I can.”

Fulfer has grown a reputation at Shannon for performance that is neither half-hearted nor deliberate in its pace.

He joined the Orthotics Department as a technician in 2011 “by accident.” Having just graduated from Angelo State University, he was seeking a higher-paying job. At the time, he was working at a windows company, which gave him his first opportunity to work with his hands. A fellow congregant encouraged him to apply for the tech position.

Fulfer did on a whim … and proved so adept at building braces that he was soon seeing patients with the then-manager.

He was promoted to manager two years ago after earning a master’s degree in orthotics. He is fascinated with the tools used to create orthotics and the problem-solving needed to build a brace that exactly serves a patient’s need.

“I like to learn a lot of different things,” Fulfer said “If I don’t know something, I’ll research and learn it to be able to do the job.”

Working for the windows company showed him he was good with his hands … and that he enjoyed it. He often stayed after work until midnight toiling on personal projects. A talented woodworker, he volunteered with Helping Hands, a charity that performs home repairs for the disadvantaged, before launching his own nonprofit, FREEDOM HOMES, which does similar work.

 “Our main goal is to help those who are most needy,” Fulfer said. “But we try not to have much of a budget. It’s a donation-based organization, so we do what we can with what we have.”

Fulfer said such efforts are fueled by his faith, which led him and his wife to become foster parents. True to form, they completed their training in less than half the normal time, receiving their first foster child the day they were certified. 

“We just want to help,” he said. “We live it every day. There are times when things will get you down. That’s why we look to God for answers.”

Fulfer is not yet satisfied with every aspect of his life, which would likely make his precision-driven father proud.

“I don’t have everything in my life like it should be, but who does?” he said. “Every day new circumstances come up that help guide you into correct decisions for the future.”