By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
FRANKLIN — In 2018 the Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported that the average tenure of an American worker was 4.2 years. If those numbers hold true today, then Teresa Garrett is almost 10 times better than average.
Garrett retired June 30 after 40 years of ministry with the Tennessee Baptist Foundation.
“We live in a day where working at one organization for 40 years may never happen in the life of the current generation,” observed Bill Gruenewald, president-treasurer of the Tennessee Baptist Foundation.
“Teresa Garrett has a love for the Lord, her job and the people she served. She is a wonderful example to this current generation,” Gruenewald added.
Garrett was working at Radnor Baptist Church in Nashville where she attended when her pastor informed her of an opening at the TBF for an assistant to the accountant. Garrett interviewed for the position and was employed by then TBF president-treasurer Jonas Stewart.
When she joined the staff, Garrett’s primary role was to help the Foundation move to a computer-based accounting system. Until then, all the accounting work was done by several employees. The Foundation actually purchased the computer in 1978 but it sat idle for two years until Garrett joined the scene.
Garrett began to take classes to learn the computer and the accounting software and became instrumental in moving the TBF into the computer age, Gruenewald recalled.
When Garrett joined the Foundation staff, assets under management in 1980 were $8.5 million. Today, the TBF manages more than $150 million in assets. “That shows the tremendous growth in the work of the Foundation during her tenure,” Gruenewald said.
In addition to Stewart, her first employer, and Gruenewald, her final supervisor, Garrett also served under three other president-treasurers — Earl Wilson, Bo Childs and Gary Coltharp.
Gruenewald is grateful for the help Garrett provided him when he became the president-treasurer in 2014, especially in the area of trust accounting. “She was always willing to help and was a model employee,” he said.
“She was and is dedicated to her work and always saw it as a calling as she ministered to all our Tennessee Baptist churches,” he added. “She is more than a co-worker. She is a friend and will be greatly missed by all of us.”
Co-worker Bonnie Sneed, administrative assistant at the Foundation, has worked with Garrett for nearly 32 years. “She is not only a co-worker but she is a mentor, friend and surrogate Mom,” Sneed said. “She will be missed terribly at the office, but I am fortunate that we will still see each other at church (Judson Baptist in Nashville),” she added.
Garrett acknowledged that she took pride in the work she did for Tennessee Baptists. “The Foundation provided services and resources for churches of all sizes,” she noted. “The same care was provided to a church whether it had a fund of $1,000 or a fund of $100,000.”
“If I could leave the TBF with one thought as I retire, it would be to keep the central goal of the work of the Foundation as a ministry for all Tennessee Baptists,” Garrett said.
Gruenewald summed up Garrett’s ministry and legacy with the Foundation with a well known passage from the Bible, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).