Methodist giving benefits children, churches and charities

Among the most tangible results of Methodist Christian generosity is the work of The Florida United Methodist Foundation, which helps fund churches, The United Methodist Children’s Home and other charities, and the Bishop’s Capital Campaign, also known as Together! For Kids and Camps.

Delegates and visitors at the 2012 Annual Conference in Lakeland learned that about $10 million was raised over a five-year period as part of the Together! campaign.  Rev. Bill Barnes, lead pastor at St. Luke’s UMC in Orlando, presented the campaign report. He noted that Methodists continued giving, despite the economic recession that set in shortly after the campaign began.

The fund-raising included $700,000 from the estate of the late Alice W. Lockmiller, which funded a new program and worship center at Riverside Retreat in Southwest Florida.

It also included a $2 million gift from Trish and Dan Bell of First UMC in Coral Gables that built a new residence for boys at the Children’s Home and helped fund renovations and expansion of Barnett Lodge at Warren W. Willis Camp in Fruitland Park.

The campaign funded a second boys’ residence at the Children’s Home, named for Sarah Hunt, a woman who built a home in Daytona Beach for orphans and indigent elderly in the mid-1920s.

Although the campaign will not be brought again to Annual Conference, the Foundation is still collecting money to cover an outstanding balance of $400,000 for the Barnett Lodge renovations. About 70 churches have donated funds to the campaign, but Tom Wilkinson, a Foundation vice president, said after the Conference that he hopes more will be moved to help after excited children return from summer camp at the facility this year.

Potential donors may contact Ginny Wood at the Foundation at (863) 904-2970 or (866) 363-9673, ext. 7101, or visit Pledge cards and DVD information is available for church leaders who wish to highlight the project for their congregations, Wilkinson said.

The Foundation also held its annual meeting at the Conference, with Mark Becker, pastor of Orange Park UMC and chair of the Foundation’s Board of Directors, presiding.

Becker told the crowd that the Foundation plans a major push this year to encourage all churches in the Conference to partner with the Foundation to take advantage of its programs. Currently, about 63 percent of churches have a relationship with the Foundation, he said.

He reported that, despite the sputtering economy, the foundation had nearly $254 million in assets at the end of 2011. Churches in relationship with the foundation last year received a cumulative return of $4.29 million.

Investments in the Development Fund by individuals and churches grew by $8.4 million in 2011, and the Foundation’s loan portfolio reached a major milestone of more than $100 million in loans to churches, including $18.7 million in new loans last year.

In March, the board reduced the loan rate to churches to 4 percent, the lowest in the Foundation’s history.

“If you are looking to refinance a current mortgage or begin a construction project, now is a great time to talk to the Foundation about a loan,” Becker said.

He also reported that about $227,000 went to churches and United Methodist charities from the Foundation’s charitable gift annuities last year, and $820,000 from charitable trusts was given to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), Africa University, Care America, Florida Southern College and Bethune-Cookman University.

Also at Annual Conference, three new Foundation board members were approved: P.J. Gardner of Hyde Park UMC, Tampa; Beverly Judge of Coronado Community UMC, New Smyrna Beach; and Thom Shafer, associate vice president at Florida Southern College and former senior pastor of First UMC, Coral Gables.

They replace outgoing board members Beth Knowles of First UMC, St. Petersburg; Vernon Swartsel of First UMC, Orlando; and David Lyons of Beymer Memorial UMC, Winter Haven.


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