The H. E. Butt Foundation was established in 1934 by Howard Butt and Mary Elizabeth Holdsworth.
At its inception, the Foundation focused on literacy through public school programs and libraries. They also funded recreational and child care facilities and a program to diagnose and treat tuberculosis. Mary was also a tireless advocate for the mentally ill. In the mid-1950s, she was appointed the first woman to the governing board of the Texas State Hospitals and Special Schools.
If you’re from Texas, you may have known us as “H‑E‑B Camps.” That’s a misnomer. While the Butts launched and have given generously to the H. E. Butt Foundation, H-E-B and the Foundation are separate organizations with distinct missions. (H-E-B runs its own community initiatives.) Most people refer to us by the name of the program they use the most.
In 1954, the family purchased the 1900-acre ranch near Leakey, Texas, and immediately contributed the land to their Foundation for the purpose of offering outdoor educational opportunities to students throughout Texas and making first-rate retreat facilities available to groups who would not otherwise be able to afford them. These efforts continue to this day with the H. E. Butt Foundation Outdoor School and H. E. Butt Foundation Camp programs.
In 1961, Howard and Mary’s son, Howard, Jr., founded Laity Lodge, an ecumenical Christian retreat center designed as a place of rest, reflection, and relationship-building for the “laity”--ordinary Christians. The Lodge immediately became, and has remained, a leading spiritual retreat center for people from all walks of life. Laity Lodge offers weekend and occasional weeklong retreats throughout the year.
In 1966, Laity Lodge Youth Camp was established as a coed, interdenominational youth camp. LLYC has since become one of the country’s premier Christian youth camp programs, including a competitive internship program that draws college students from all over the country.
The Foundation offered family retreat experiences for several years, and in 2013, it established a new resort-quality facility—the Laity Lodge Family Camp—near the headwaters of the Frio River. LLFC offers weekend and weeklong Christian retreat experiences to families throughout the year.
Today, the Foundation is led by David and Deborah Rogers, the son-in-law and daughter of Howard Butt, Jr. The Rogers are building upon the Butt family’s tradition of philanthropy. New programs continue to emerge, including an expanded outdoor education initiative and partnerships with organizations serving vulnerable communities in San Antonio and the Texas Hill Country.