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GOD & TEXAS: Mom and Pop store

“Go away! I don’t buy from peddlers.” This unwelcome greeting was becoming all too frequent as Florence went door to door selling A&P grocery items. To provide the basic necessities for her sick husband and five boys, Florence did what she could to survive.

Born in Mississippi in 1864, Florence grew up in a conservative Christian home. Her older brothers were local pastors and she assisted them in conducting revival services. Her parents assisted Florence in attending Clinton College, where she graduated with honors.

In 1889, Florence married pharmacist Charles C. Butt. They had three sons, Charles, Eugene, and Howard, and two step-sons, Kearney and Stanley. Within a short time, the elder Charles developed tuberculosis, as did two of their sons.

Hoping that a dryer climate might improve their health, the family moved to Kerrville, Texas, in 1905. With Charles unable to work, and the boys too young for jobs, Florence attempted several endeavors to provide income. When other options faltered, Florence rented a run-down two-story building for $9 per month.

While the family lived upstairs, Florence spent her savings of $60 on groceries to sell downstairs. Being a devout Christian, Florence was often seen kneeling in prayer on the floor of her business, asking God for guidance and favor. Slowly, the business began to grow as the community trusted her products and services.

Florence enlisted her boys to transport goods to buyers using their baby buggies and toy wagons. She trusted her customers to pay as they could, and took food to the homeless who lived under the Guadalupe River bridge.

Florence ran the grocery store until Howard returned from the Navy in 1919. He took over as manager and Florence was able to give more time to church and civic work. Her kindness and benevolence were known throughout the community.

Florence died on March 4, 1954, and is buried in Glen Rest Cemetery, Kerrville. The little business she started in 1905, is now H-E-B Grocery Company, LP, with over 340 stores stateside, and 52 in Mexico. H-E-B also operates Central Market and is the 12th largest private company in the USA.

Florence determined to please God, and to provide food, clothing, and housing for her family. That noble purpose thrust her toward success. Florence rose above petty insults to provide awesome service to her customers, and acts of benevolence to the poor of her community. Her deep commitment to God framed her daily actions.

What is your purpose in life? John Maxwell said, “If you don't understand your purpose, you cannot be successful, because success begins with purpose. I believe that God created every person for a purpose. I also have come to know that it is our responsibility—and our greatest joy—to identify it. Work to discover your purpose.”

Florence found the premise of her purpose in Ephesians 1:11 (The Message), “It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for.”

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