Portrait of UMFA Donors Gertie and Dick Butler painted by Betty Dortch Russell.
The story of the United Methodist Foundation began with
a group of far-sighted Methodists, more than 50 years ago. Since 1963, generations of men and women like
the late Gertie and Dick Butler have made second-mile contributions to the
Foundation to create endowment funds that strengthen and expand ministries in
Butler spent many years helping the fledgling United Methodist Foundation of
Arkansas become the strong ministry partner it is today. One of the original
incorporators in 1963, he had a hands-on, day-to-day role in managing the
investments of the Foundation from the start until his death in 1999.
Butler legacy at the UMFA is a series of endowment funds that have allowed the
Foundation to grow to its current status as one of the largest grant-making
United Methodist foundations in the country. Today’s ability to make
transformational grants to United Methodist ministries throughout Arkansas rests
in large part on the generosity, foresight and investment savvy of Dick Butler.
Kenneth Hicks has a substantial – and concrete – role in the history of the
United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas. In 1981 when UMFA President Jim Argue
Jr. joined the Foundation, there were very limited operating funds and office
space. Soon Bishop Hicks had a door cut from his office to a small conference
room to provide additional space for the Foundation. He also allowed his
assistant, Janice Goldman, to provide administrative support.
Hicks marvels at the faith of the donors who put their confidence in the
Foundation in its early years and those who continue to keep it strong. He states that the Foundation holds high the
banner for stewardship in our Conference. It is the caretaker of hundreds of
legacies left by faithful and generous United Methodists across Arkansas.
The late Winfred Polk of Corning believed in the United Methodist Foundation in its infancy. He made significant gifts of resources, time and talent with a steadfast commitment to a Foundation that could eventually expand United Methodist ministries throughout the state. His wife Peggy Polk, now of Paragould, took up that commitment, and she continued as a board member from 1989-2015.
The Polks helped enhance the vision of the Foundation and have been great advocates. Their ideas, their board service and their creation of endowment funds at the Foundation all contribute to a continuing legacy for the Arkansas Conference.
Jim Argue, Jr.
When Jim Argue, Jr., joined the Foundation in 1981, he
was the only staff member. Assets were less than $100,000. Simple things, like
buying a typewriter, were daunting budget hurdles.
Today, our total assets exceed $135 million. We are among
the largest United Methodist Foundations in the country. We manage 750 accounts,
and we have a highly motivated and talented staff of six. We benefit from a
network of consultants and advisers who assist us in the areas of audit,
communications, investments, legal affairs, and technology.
We are envied by our Foundation peers for our grant-making
capability. Our seminary scholarship program has graduated 22 new pastors for Arkansas
and more are on campus training to come back to local churches in the Arkansas
We provided the funding for the conference’s Imagine
Ministry planning effort. We made a $333,000 challenge commitment to the
Imagine No Malaria campaign. Each year UMFA grants are working to achieve the
Foundation’s mission of strengthening United Methodist ministry in Arkansas.
As we thank God for our blessings, let us never forget
the faithful church members who left their charitable legacy to the Foundation.
We have a sacred responsibility to be good stewards of the resources they
entrusted to us. They expressed their love for their church by creating a
permanent fund at UMFA to support future ministry. These are the gifts that
make our grant-making possible.