The "Laity" vision began through one family who made a move to Texas at the turn of the 20th century. Florence Butt moved her ill husband, Charles, and three small sons (Charles Jr., Eugene, and Howard) from Memphis, Tennessee, to Kerrville, Texas, in 1905.
In those early years, the family struggled in poverty. Yet, because of a close-knit community and the amazing geography of the Hill Country, the children thrived in their developing years. Howard, the youngest son, loved the outdoors. Some of his favorite memories included experiences at a friend’s ranch. And it was those times in the rugged, vast beauty of the outdoors that he felt closest to his Creator. Those fortuitous early years sparked what would later be transferred to hundreds of thousands of young people, families, couples, and individuals.
Howard pursued a natural bent for the grocery business. After serving in the U.S. Navy during World War I, he established the H. E. Butt Grocery Company. In 1924, Howard married the gifted Mary Elizabeth Holdsworth who possessed a selfless regard for the well‐being of others. They were blessed with three children: Howard, Jr., Eleanor, and Charles. The family prospered as the children were reared within a heritage of Christian values implemented in the grocery business.
Together, in 1933, Howard and Mary established one of Texas’ earliest foundations for their charitable, educational, and philanthropic purposes. Then, in 1954, Howard’s boyhood dream came to life when they purchased a 1900‐acre ranch near Leakey, Texas, and immediately contributed the land to their Foundation. Mrs. Butt’s diary records their hope to provide a free camping experience for “maybe 100 boys and girls at one time.” Never could they have imagined how their dream would multiply from that day to the present. Today, more than 20,000—mostly boys and girls—use the five Foundation Camps free of charge each year.
Howard’s son, Howard, Jr., dedicated his life to both the grocery company and a ministry for Christian lay renewal. In 1961, Laity Lodge Retreat Center was built on the property as a tool for ministry, and it now welcomes 2,500 guests per year. Across denominational lines, churches, families, and individuals by the thousands have been inspired, transformed, and rejuvenated in their faith walk.
In 1966, Howard, Jr. began Laity Lodge Youth Camp to serve as a coed, interdenominational Christian summer youth camp which focuses on spontaneity, fun, and relationships to show young people the “best two weeks of their lives,” while sharing with them the Gospel message and love of Jesus Christ. This program has grown to serve nearly 1,500 campers each summer, of which approximately 8% attend through scholarship assistance.
In 2007, Laity Lodge Family Camp was established in existing facilities in the Canyon as an interdenominational ministry designed to strengthen relationships within the family system by providing a relaxed, fun‐filled opportunity for families to be together in an atmosphere dedicated to Christ.
Laity Renewal Foundation, founded in 1995 as a 501(c)3 organization, supports the programs of the Foundations for Laity Renewal through the provision of financial resources for the four riverfront programs located in the Frio Canyon as well as the national outreach which includes an interactive website, the convening of executive leaders, The High Calling of Daily Work® one‐minute radio messages from Howard E. Butt, Jr., aired on numerous secular and Christian radio stations throughout the country, and the newly formed Laity Leadership Institute.
Our mission is the renewal of society through the renewal of the Church; Church renewal through the renewal of the family; family renewal through renewed individuals.
The core purpose of each program is to create opportunities for people to encounter God for the transformation of daily life, work, and our world.