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Texans Helping Texans

HEB strengthens UT Southwestern's impact in Dallas-Fort Worth

Portrait of Florence Thornton Butt
Florence Thornton Butt

Even in the hardest of times, Florence Thornton Butt was driven by a love of family and community.

It was November 1905, and her husband, Charles C. Butt, was coping with tuberculosis and unable to work. Seeking a more favorable climate, the family moved to Kerrville, Texas. Faced with a need to provide for her family and a desire to help build the community, Mrs. Butt rented a two-story frame building on Main Street and moved the family into the second floor. Downstairs, she opened a grocery store.

She named the business the C.C. Butt Grocery Store, after her husband. When her son Howard E. Butt returned from military service in World War I, he eventually took over the family store. Decades later, the supermarket is still around. Proudly Texas-based, it has stayed true to Mrs. Butt’s commitment to family and community. While it still carries the family name, today it’s known by Howard’s initials: H-E-B.

Recognized as one of the largest grocery chains in the nation, H-E-B operates more than 420 stores across Texas and northeast Mexico. As President of the company’s Central Market division, Stephen Butt – Florence’s great-grandson – ensured H-E-B’s philanthropy continued in North Texas. His involvement with UT Southwestern began when he joined Southwestern Medical Foundation as a Trustee and experienced the Medical Center’s impact in the community.

Portrait of Stephen Butt
Stephen Butt

“We believe supporting the medical community is essential to the health and well-being of the people in the communities we serve,” Mr. Stephen Butt said. “This was especially critical in the early days of COVID-19 when medical first responders were truly at the front lines, dealing with all the unknown elements of the virus, dramatic numbers of sick patients, and overcrowding in the hospitals. UT Southwestern is clearly a beacon in the medical community here in North Texas and operates at a very high level of excellence that we respect and admire.”

A history of giving back

Central Market has a deep tradition of supporting UT Southwestern. Its generosity has included gifts to the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute, William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital, and the Center for Human Nutrition. During the early days of the pandemic, Central Market supported UTSW’s COVID-19 Prevalence Study, which helped scientists gain a deeper understanding of the disease’s impact across North Texas and develop better prevention and treatment strategies.

“We believe supporting the medical community is essential to the health and well-being of the people in the communities we serve.”

The company also helped provide groceries for UTSW front-line workers during the pandemic, including pantry staples such as bread, eggs, and milk, as well as pre-made frozen meals. The groceries helped those who were working long shifts caring for COVID-19 patients and were unable to make time for grocery shopping.

Mr. Stephen Butt and his wife, Susan, have embraced North Texas and admire the compassion and dedication of neighbors helping neighbors to build a greater community.

“The opportunity to expand our presence in Dallas-Fort Worth is a great responsibility and very exciting for all partners at H-E-B,” Mr. Stephen Butt said. “We see the level of support by individuals and businesses to care for their communities, and they set a great example for the rest of us to follow.”

Partners in care

Headquartered in Dallas, the majority of Central Market’s team members live across North Texas. Ranked the region’s top hospital by U.S. News & World Report, UT Southwestern has been privileged to care for many of the organization’s families, demonstrating the commitment to caring for the community that is at the heart of both companies’ missions.

Koen Vermeylen
Koen Vermeylen

In 2020, Koen Vermeylen moved his family to Texas and took a job as a Business Development Manager at Central Market-Dallas. He never imagined that a year later he would be diagnosed with a life-threatening case of COVID-19. As his condition worsened, his wife rushed him to the emergency room of a small community hospital near their home.

“I talked to my supervisor to let him know what was happening, and 30 minutes later Stephen Butt called me and told me that I needed to get to UT Southwestern Medical Center as quickly as possible,” Mr. Vermeylen said.

He and his wife immediately headed to the Medical Center, where he fought for his life for two grueling months at Clements University Hospital.

“The medical attention I received was incredible,” he said. “It was an experience that I’ll hopefully never have to go through again, but if I do, I wouldn’t go anywhere but UT Southwestern.”

Faced with her own health challenge, Donna Harty, an Advertising Account Supervisor with Central Market-Dallas, was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer after a routine colonoscopy.

Donna Harty posing in front of mountain stream with her dog
Donna Harty

“I met with Stephen Butt and my immediate supervisor to let them know what I’d be going through in the coming months,” Mrs. Harty said. “They quickly connected me with an amazing oncology team at UT Southwestern. I’ll never forget how caring and kind everyone at UT Southwestern was to me and my family, and I received the best of care. The valet knew me by my first name and would ask how I was on every visit. The staff who checked me in for each treatment were exceptional.”

“I’ll never forget how caring and kind everyone at UT Southwestern was to me and my family, and I received the best of care.”

Now retired, Mrs. Harty recently celebrated four years of cancer survivorship. She’s grateful for the long-standing ties between H-E-B and UT Southwestern that made a difference in her recovery. It’s a partnership she credits with giving her a second chapter and time to enjoy days filled with camping, fishing, hiking, and horseback riding with her husband, surrounded by the beauty of Wyoming.

“I am so proud that I was part of the culture and family that is H-E-B,” she said.

“We worked hard and always made sure the community was taken care of – a devotion to the neighborly care and service that is so clearly shared by UT Southwestern.”