When it comes to philanthropy, George and Nancy Hensley give joyfully, but they also plan strategically.
“We want our gifts to go to organizations that have a heart for caring,” George Hensley said. “We are drawn to ministries and causes that are meeting the needs of the community and beyond. We intentionally seek ways to use our money to make a difference in the world.”
For the couple, the church has always been one of those organizations.
“We know that God has blessed us beyond anything we could have imagined for ourselves, so we do not necessarily limit ourselves to the standard of giving a 10% tithe,” Hensley said. “In certain cases, we are willing to go beyond.”
One such case occurred in December 2007 when the Hensleys established a charitable remainder unitrust with the Florida United Methodist Foundation to benefit their church, First United Methodist Church in Sebring.
“We established the trust because we wanted to extend our giving beyond our lifetimes,” Hensley said. “We know that our stewardship gifts are important to the church, and we do not want them to stop abruptly when we pass away. Through our unitrust, we can extend our giving into the future.”
The Hensleys used some of their stock holdings to fund the trust. Since they were making a charitable donation to a not-for-profit organization, they received an immediate tax benefit. They also receive a quarterly income disbursement from the trust.
The foundation oversees the investment of the couple’s funds and pays out the quarterly income based on a calculation of 6% of the fair market value of the trust as of Dec. 31 of the previous year. When they die, the remainder of the trust will be transferred to the church.
“If your gift grows, it will help keep the ministries going,” Hensley said. “We were attracted to this type of ‘planned gift’ because it allows us to use our financial resources for as long as we live and afterwards — make a legacy gift to an institution we love.”
And the Hensleys love their church.
“My wife grew up in First Church, Sebring,” Hensley said. “We were married there, and we raised our children there.”
Both have also been active members throughout their married lives.
“If your gift grows, it will help keep the ministries going. We were attracted to this type of ‘planned gift’ because it allows us to use our financial resources for as long as we live and afterwards — make a legacy gift to an institution we love.” George Hensley
“We have been youth directors and choir members,” Hensley said. “We have taught adult and youth Sunday School classes. We helped raise funds for the construction of the Family Life Center. We have served on just about every leadership committee of the church.
“In return, the church and our faith have been a foundation for our lives. It has impacted virtually every aspect of our lives: our family life, our social life, our business and spiritual lives.
Both he and Nancy have overcome serious illnesses, Hensley said, and their faith helped guide them through it.
Lifetime of service
The Hensleys grew up in different states and met through a happy coincidence.
“My family owned a country inn in the mountains of North Carolina, and Nancy’s family came for vacation visits,” Hensley said. “We met when we both were in high school.”
Hensley grew up in Ashville, North Carolina, and went to school at Duke University in Durham. Nancy grew up in Sebring, Florida, and went to Florida State University in Tallahassee.
“But we managed to get together from time to time,” Hensley said.
After college, the couple married and settled in Sebring, where Nancy’s family owned an insurance agency. Her father invited George to join the family business which, according to Hensley, has served the community for more than 100 years. The company has been sold, Hensley said, but still maintains offices in Sebring and Lakeland.
In addition to his church and professional activities, Hensley served on the Sebring City Council for 16 years and as mayor of Sebring for 15 years.
While George pursued civic and professional activities, Nancy was a devoted mother to their three daughters and a community volunteer, most notably with Sebring’s Champion for Children Foundation. The organization offers autism awareness, domestic abuse prevention, water safety, vision and hearing testing, music and art education, and a wide range of services to families and children in crisis throughout Highlands County.
Its offices are housed free of charge on First Sebring’s campus. And after having served as chairperson of the nonprofit’s board, Nancy continues as a board member and ardent supporter of its work.
Earning and giving
The trust the Hensleys established isn’t the only point of contact with the foundation. The couple has also had a Development Fund account for many years.
The money they deposit is pooled with the investments of other account holders, enabling the fund to provide mortgage and construction loans to churches across the conference. At the same time, the fund pays investors an interest rate that is typically higher than those provided by banks and other commercial financial institutions. The foundation’s board sets the rates for deposits and loans at its quarterly meetings.
The Hensleys consider it an excellent way to put their money to work for The United Methodist Church and, at the same time, earn a reasonable rate of return.