By Kim Meyer-Webb | Photography by Sara Reeves | Hair by Jessica Johnson with Face Your Day Salon | Makeup by CoCo Newton with Face Your Day Salon | Shot on location at Wildwood Park for the Arts
Betsy Singleton Snyder is recognized throughout the Capital City as a United Methodist pastor and devoted momma to four young sons: Penn and his triplet brothers Wyatt, Sullivan and Aubrey. With a spirit for adventure, she embraces her busy lifestyle and encourages other women – “sisters in the journey” – to savor family, community and advocacy. As a beacon for social justice and equality, she will be celebrated as Woman of the Year by Women & Children First.
While her affinity for Women & Children First seems natural, Betsy’s personal experiences with domestic violence are compelling. The youngest of five children, her parents divorced when she was six years old. “Mom had raised my four brothers with my father. His alcoholism and bipolar disorder became so destructive, even physically abusive, that she finally left – not easy in 1967.” She notes the financial responsibilities of the family were difficult for her mother, who didn’t complete college, to manage independently. “My mother believed a college degree would make me less dependent on a marriage that had been as difficult as hers. There was no question for her that I would go to college.” Betsy attended Hendrix College and graduated magna cum laude from Southern Methodist University School of Theology.
She’s been an ordained United Methodist clergyperson for nearly three decades – with service in rural, urban and midtown ministries in Texas, East Arkansas and South Arkansas. Betsy believes as the “person under the robe” she can truly connect with others and that the church’s role in every community transcends the walls of the sanctuary. She notes, “Pastors need to be aware of all the local agencies that can help the church help people in crisis.” Her work throughout Central Arkansas is the epitome of this philosophy. Women & Children First Board of Directors Chairman Cathy Browne explains, “Betsy exemplifies our mission at Women & Children First, truly empowering people with the endless possibilities of new beginnings. Her life, her perspective and her optimism shine brightly for not only those in her congregation but the less fortunate. She’s the perfect combination of remarkable and relatable. For her, changing the lives of others is real.”
As Pastor of Preaching & Missions at Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church, Betsy coordinates outreach programs and works as a liaison for people in crisis. “We try to build a bridge to an improved situation and better life. The needs are too great for our church to meet alone, but with community partners and agencies we can do so much more – especially with an organization that serves women and children in crisis,” Betsy explains. “It’s critical for us to get women to tell us and not to hide, which is part of the systemic problem with domestic violence. Trust is key.”
Women & Children First breaks the cycle of domestic violence – providing crisis intervention, safe shelter, social and legal advocacy and related services that are critical resources for families. Each year, the state’s largest domestic violence shelter garners support for these vital services through the annual Woman of the Year Gala. Proceeds from the gala contribute to nearly 30 percent of the organization’s annual budget – generating not only necessary revenue but also community awareness. Event Chairmen Tiffany & Daniel Robinson and Natalie & Win Rockefeller recognize the transformative power of the strength and hope that WCF offers to victims. Daniel, who served as chairman of the board of directors for three years, explains, “Women & Children First is a shelter, but the services are so much more than that. Our court advocate at the Pulaski County Courthouse helps with the necessary paperwork and filing orders of protection. Last year, the 24-hour statewide crisis hotline answered more than 8,000 calls. Domestic violence is everywhere; we are there when they need us – with a complete portfolio of support.”
The evening’s festivities are guaranteed to be extraordinary, filled with intimate details that reflect Betsy’s style and panache. “She’s involved with so many different things and people, the atmosphere will be very cozy – just like Betsy’s personality,” Tiffany shares. “As always, we want the event to be about the honoree and the mission of Women & Children First.”
To meet Betsy is to know her; her authenticity is undeniable. In her recent book Stepping on Cheerios: Finding God in the Chaos and Clutter of Life, she recounts keeping her personal perspective as life presents challenges. It’s as accessible as reaching for the phone to call a friend, and Betsy is that friend you feel you’ve known forever. After spending the afternoon with Betsy and an array of costumes – from a gala dress, hairspray and cowboy boots to waders, an alb and lots of lipstick – she laughs when I ask her if this is at all what she expected. “God often surprises our staid, settled lives.” As I marvel at her light-hearted disposition, she reminds me quite simply, “It’s important to take time for family and community; prioritize and share the good things – love, laughter and lots of spunk.”
The United Methodist Church opens hearts, minds and doors throughout the world – putting faith and love into action. This kind of compassion is a powerful resource – it’s not bound by cultural, social or economic status. Betsy adds, “Leaders need to cast a vision of what can be. I’ve devoted my life to a spiritual tradition that believes change is absolutely possible and love should be visible.”