Greeneville Couple's Trust Fund Will Benefit Ministries for the Young

By Annette Bender

MILDRED Irene Hawk Brooks died on June 21, 2002. She was a long-time member of Trinity United Methodist Church in Greeneville and attended worship regularly until her health began to fail about two years ago.

She was 79, preceded in death by her husband, Buel, in 1996. She had no children. Two sisters were present the day Trinity's brand-new pastor, the Rev. Mark Clark, made his first and last visit to her hospital bedside. Mildred died later that evening of heart complications.

Trinity UMC and the people of Greene Country will miss Mildred Brooks, remembering her as a kindhearted elderly lady who gave generously to church causes. But many more will soon realize that Mildred and Buel Brooks' generosity went far beyond the youth retreats and pensions campaigns they gave to in life.

In death, the Brooks left behind a Holston Conference Foundation trust valued at $2 to $3 million that will pay out sums to Greene County organizations for years to come. Among the beneficiaries are Holston Home for Children, receiving $2,000 annually, and Trinity UMC, eventually acquiring twelve $3,000 scholarships and as much as $50,000 or more for youth ministry each year. Other beneficiaries include a Freewill Baptist children's home and local food bank.

The good the monies will do – after real estate is liquidated and other arrangements are made in the next 18 to 24 months, officials say – leaves church leaders in awe.

"Imagine what this is going to mean to the people of Greene County," said Roger Redding, Holston Conference Foundation executive director. "I mean, if you were a youth in Greeneville, wouldn't you go to a church that had a great youth program and gave out 12 scholarships every year?"

"There's probably going to be dancing in the streets," said Clark, who was appointed to Trinity in June. He officiated at Mildred Brook's funeral three days after he moved into the parsonage. "There is a great legacy of youth ministry at Trinity. It's a given that when this money becomes available, it could definitely make the program stronger."

At Holston Home for Children, Vice President for Development Charles Hutchins called the benefactors "a fine Christian man and woman" who "wanted to make sure their gifts benefited children in perpetuity. "This kind of gift can only come from a friend of children, and from people of God, and for that we give God all the thanks," Hutchins said.

Planting the seed

The seed was planted 18 years ago to make the Brooks trust a reality today, Redding says.

"The Brooks did not have to make this gift," he said. "But they loved their church and community, especially young people, and followed through a plan that reflects their life values."

On March 18, 1984, Trinity's then-pastor, the Rev. Tom Lynch, invited the Foundation's then-director, the Rev. Ben St. Clair, to preach.

"Ben and I knew each other from working together at Holston Home for Children," says Lynch, a retired pastor who still lives in Greeneville. St. Clair is deceased, but Lynch remembers the story he told at Trinity during Sunday worship: It was about a Presbyterian group that had been sending checks to a scholarship fund for 100 years as the result of one person's long-ago bequest.

The story apparently struck a chord with real-estate appraiser Buel Brooks, who later asked his pastor to meet him over Wendy's hamburgers. Lynch would end up calling St. Clair back to Greeneville to consult with Brooks and his wife Mildred.

The couple wanted to leave something behind for others. So St. Clair helped them prepare a will that not only provided for United Methodist ministries for young people, but also Trula Cronk Home for Children, Opportunity House homeless shelter, and Greeneville- Greene County Community Ministries food bank.

Over the years, the Brooks' assets grew "tremendously," says Redding. ("Buel knew how to make a dollar," adds Lynch, calling his former parishioner a "venture capitalist.") But the beneficiaries of the Brooks trust never changed – nor did they wait to die before doling out gifts. When Lynch approached them to make up the difference on a youth retreat or to help needy college students, the couple responded.

"I visited Buel when he was so sick," before he died of cancer, Lynch says. "The thing he said to me was, 'Tom, you need to read the will to make sure it's alright.'

"I assured him that he had done the right thing, that as long as the church stands and God doesn't close the books on history, their plans would be carried out."

Big Dreams

Holston Conference manages more than 60 trusts and endowments funded through individual gifts and bequests. The Buel D. and Mildred Brooks Trust will "certainly be one of the largest funds managed by the foundation and could prove to be the largest," Redding says, "when all is said and done."

The group most likely to end up with the biggest piece of the pie is Trinity UMC. After the other bequests have been fulfilled, Trinity will receive the trust balance to "fund a youth program for the youth of Greeneville and Greene County," according to the will.

The prospect of this funding seems to leave newcomer pastor Clark exhilarated for his congregation while cautious about predictions. Funding amounts ultimately depend on the stock market and the foundation's investment activity, he points out.

Currently, the Morristown District church averages about 260 in worship attendance. The youth ministry has about 30 regular participants and relies on unpaid volunteers. The trust designates that Trinity's youth program be administered by a committee appointed by Trinity's administrative board, chaired by the pastor.

Clark said a committee will also award the 12 college scholarships when they become available.

Until then, stewardship advocates in Holston are singing praises of the forward-thinking couple and others like them who could positively affect ministries for generations to come.

Buel and Mildred Brooks have taken the giant step that could inspire others, Redding says. He notes that the
relatively unrestricted gifts provided by the Brooks trust gives ministry leaders room to take risks and dream big dreams.

"Their gift not only set a marvelous example of Christian stewardship," he said, "but they have made an investment in tomorrow by providing an ever replenishing source of funds to try new things."

For more information about Holston Conference Foundation, visit the Foundation's website or call (865) 690-4080.


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The Brooks Trust will provide the following:

  • $20,000 annually to Holston Home for Children
  • $20,000 annually to Trula Cronk Home for Children
  • $3,000 annually to Greeneville Community Ministries food bank
  • $3,000 annually to Opportunity House homeless shelter
  • Twelve $3,000 annual college scholarships for Trinity UMC
  • Balance to fund Trinity UMC's youth program

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