Portrait of UMFA Donors Gertie and Dick Butler painted by Betty Dortch Russell.
The story of The Methodist Foundation for Arkansas (formerly The United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas) 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 Arkansas.
Dick Butler spent many years helping the fledgling Foundation 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.
The Butler legacy at the MFA 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.
The late Bishop Kenneth Hicks had a substantial – and concrete – role in the history of the Methodist Foundation for Arkansas. In 1981 when the Foundation President Jim Argue Jr. joined the organization 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. He also allowed his assistant, Janice Goldman, to provide administrative support.
Bishop Hicks marveled 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 stated 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 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 the late 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 Conference.
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.