We Hear You

Are your phone and email inbox blowing up as much as mine? Everyone is asking for input—every coffee shop, retailer, airline, movie theater, online merchant, and so on. Even nonprofits and churches have embraced the act. “Tell us how we did!” “Would you recommend this service?” “Do you have time for a 1-minute survey?”

When I answer these, I tend to do it as quickly as possible. It’s very rare for me to take the time to sit down, gather my thoughts, and let an organization know what I really think.

Which is why it’s been so surprising, and so heartening, to absorb the results of the 2023 H. E. Butt Foundation community survey.

We sent it last fall to around 30,000 Echoes subscribers, most of whom live in Texas. But unlike the common quick surveys, we sent a big one: over 20 questions focused on challenges our communities are facing—and asking people to really think before answering.

Not only did many people respond, but they really responded—not just checking boxes, but also sharing comments, some at great length. On my desk sits a three-ring binder holding hundreds of pages filled with those voices—which are your voices.

In this issue of Echoes, we’re sharing what your voices are saying. There is a lot to absorb, but I’ll go ahead and name three key takeaways:

1 These respondents—people like you who have engaged with camps, retreats, and/or our community engagement work in recent years, even if just by reading about it in Echoes—care deeply about the struggles communities are facing. They’re tuned in, not checked out.

2 They care especially about mental health challenges and gaps in economic opportunity across our region.

3 They want to see their faith communities get more involved.

Why did we seek input on these kinds of issues?
Because the work of the H. E. Butt Foundation touches on all of it.

That might seem surprising. What many people know about our work tends to depend on the one or two programs they experience.

For thousands of people, we’re the place that makes space available at H. E. Butt Foundation Camp. For others, we are the Laity Lodge retreat center. For youth and families, we are LLYC or Laity Lodge Family Camp. For students and teachers, we’re the place that makes Outdoor School retreats possible.

For nonprofit leaders in San Antonio, we’re the organization that partners with them to build capacity in support of their work. For other San Antonians, we’re the place that runs Know Your Neighbor, telling stories to build bridges across our differences. Or we’re the foundation investing in mental health work, especially by working with local faith communities through The Congregational Collective.

Most people interact with just one or maybe two of those programs. But through them, we reach a lot of people each year, and they come from different walks of life and hold very different perspectives.

Our mission is cultivating wholeness in people and institutions for the transformation of communities. That mission takes shape in several different ways across the programs we operate. But no matter how we’re expressing the mission, cultivating wholeness requires attending to what is not whole—paying attention to what is broken.

This survey is one way for us to pay attention. As you read the stories here, look over the data, and absorb the quotes from the survey sprinkled throughout, we invite you to pay attention, too.


If you and the groups you support had unlimited resources to improve your community, which of these issues would be your top priorities?

Which of these initiatives are top priorities for your faith community?

Do you agree or disagree with the following statements? My faith community does enough to help local families in need.

Are you involved with other projects that serve your local community?

What words do you live by? Any particular scripture? Literature? What resonates with you when you need inspiration or strength?

Which of these groups have the biggest impact on your community? Why is that?


Neighbors on the Margins

68% of survey respondents said supporting people living on the margins was a top priority for their faith communities.

Welcome to the Neighborhood

Participants in our 2023 community survey from Austin gathered to discuss the pressing needs in their community.

Your Number One Concern: Mental Wellness

44% of survey respondents said mental health services need the most attention in their community.

Communities Need Help. Can Churches Be The Bridge?

Only 44% of survey respondents said they feel their faith communities are doing enough to help locals in need, compared to 80% in 2019.