Investors Assist Forest Hills UMC in Retiring Debt

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Rev. David Tart, former associate minister of Park Avenue UMC in Valdosta, and Prospect UMC members in Athens are assisting Forest Hills UMC in Macon to retire its debt through their investment in the Georgia United Methodist Foundation's Certificate Program.

“I needed a place to make a low-risk investment. My Certificate Program investment is growing, and I have been very pleased with the results,” David said. “I know that my investment is being used to make low-interest loans to United Methodist Churches so they can refinance their debt, expand or renovate their facilities.”

Prospect UMC trustee Hazel Landers learned about the Certificate Program from Athens Elberton district superintendent Rev. Dr. Gary Whetstone. “We were looking for a safe investment that offered above-market returns,” she said. “We were happy to support other churches and believe it’s our responsibility as Methodists to look at this as an option.”

In the early 2000s, Forest Hills UMC borrowed funds to expand its facilities. When it was time to refinance its debt a second time, this 1,200 member church turned to the Foundation.

“We needed to find the best interest rate, the lowest closing costs and the best terms so that we could meet our “5 Years Forward” campaign goal of becoming debt-free,” said Annette Barnette, Forest Hills UMC business administrator. “The loan opportunity that Frank Craft (Foundation director of lending services) brought us was far and away the best possible transaction to enter into. It was also the easiest commercial loan refinance that I’ve ever been a part of, and I was in commercial banking for 16 years prior to working at the church.”

Forest Hills UMC will save nearly $30,000 per year. “Once we retire this debt, then those funds can go directly into ministries that are focused on helping the community,” Annette said. “For example, our Backpack Ministry delivers food to local schools so that 390 needy children will have something nutritious to eat every weekend.”

This article was originally published in the Fall 2012 edition of Faith & Money.