Regi Armstrong says faith is central in his life and business

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FLORENCE, S.C. – When Regi Armstrong first realized he’d been selected to receive a 2017 Marion Medallion, he was stunned.

He knew something was up when he saw representatives from Francis Marion University and the Morning News walk into his office.

“But zero clue what direction it was going to take,” he said. “So I was like, OK, what is going on?” He was familiar with the honor and past recipients.

“Never in 100 years would I have imagined that it would come this way,” he said about a week after learning that he would be an honoree. “Now that I’ve thought about it, I still think I’m unworthy – there’s tons of other people who are far more worthy than I am. Maybe they don’t have as high a profile because they’re not running a business or not in Rotary or whatever.”

He’s quick to list people very active in the community and the many organizations that exist to help folks in need, such as Lighthouse Ministries, All 4 Autism, HopeHealth and the Parking Lot Mission. “But, glory to God – that’s the way I look at it,” he said.

Faith is central

Armstrong, 51, founded Armstrong Wealth Management in 2002. A central facet of his business – and his life – is his faith. Growing up Catholic, he was an altar boy, but as his father was in the military, they moved around a lot and he “kind of fell off the churchgoing path,” he said. God was in a “convenient corner” in his life, not interfering with what he did as he grew up. He followed his father’s military footsteps, and when it was time for him to deploy overseas for the Gulf War in 1990, he and his wife, Hsin Yi, had to take stock of their life.

“I had a private come-to-Jesus moment, and we needed to reconnect with our faith,” he said, and when he returned from the war, his church attendance became regular. “My faith has become a central driver – by the grace of God I’m able to do what I’m able to do.”

He undertook the five-year program to become a deacon at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, which he called “very intense.”

Being a deacon means he visits folks in nursing homes and hospitals, but his involvement in his church goes far beyond that, said Dixie Coats, the business administrator at the church. Armstrong, she said, heads up the RCIA, or Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, which is the process by which people learn about Catholicism and become converts. It lasts from September to Easter and culminates in a “wonderful ceremony,” she said.

“The RCIA program is really a big deal,” she said. “He’s been very involved in the adult side of religious education.”

As a deacon, he can perform baptisms, weddings and funerals. Coats said that for many years, Armstrong was the only deacon at the church, a job for which he receives no pay.

“He’s very involved in his faith – (that) kind of says it all,” she said.

Armstrong calls it simply “a ministry of service.”

“I’m not a pastor, but I’m there to help,” he said.

George Jebaily, a Florence city councilman and local attorney, said he’s seen firsthand how Armstrong’s actions have benefited the Florence community. Jebaily met Armstrong approximately 18 years ago when their children started going to school together.

“If you look at what it means to be a leader, a true leader is someone who has dedicated themselves in service to others,” Jebaily said.

Their lives, both personal and professional, have crossed paths many times. Jebaily said Armstrong has worked to help individuals in ways that are both seen and unseen.

“He gives back to the community in those many different ways, some of which we see, but a lot of which we don’t,” Jebaily said. “I’m aware of his assistance that he gives on an individual basis through quiet ways that don’t get recognition and don’t get a lot of press. That’s not what he’s been about. He hasn’t been about self-glorification, and he has been about quietly wanting to do the right things to help his community.” Jebaily said Armstrong has inspired him to be a better leader.

“He is a real example for all of us on selfless giving to others, and I have tremendous respect for his integrity, for his passion, for his love of God, family and community,” Jebaily said. “He’s someone who we as a community owe a great debt of gratitude to.”

Concentrated philanthropy

Armstrong Wealth Management operates on Christian principles, but Armstrong is quick to note he’s happy to work with folks of all faiths.

“It’s broadly Christian,” he said, referring to the company’s philosophy, “meaning, we’ll look out for our fellow human being while trying to serve our clients, and part of that has been in philanthropic things.” How that has manifested is simple enough. Instead of looking at profits and then donating to charity, Armstrong Wealth Management donates 2 percent of annual revenues.

“Instead of scattering resources, we decided to concentrate at least a good portion of our philanthropy to one major cause, so that way we could have an impact,” he said. “And we wanted it to be more local than anything else.”

Lighthouse Ministries gets half of that donation, or about 1 percent of total revenues for the year. “They don’t just give food and clothing. They also do a lot of education and helping these people get going in a good direction,” he said.

He grew up with the view that you’ve got to help people help themselves, using the old adage of teaching people to fish so they can feed themselves. But he remembers his late mentor, Jack O’Donald, who would remind him that until they learn how to fish, they’ll starve if you don’t give them a fish. “And I think Lighthouse Ministries kind of embodies that,” he said.

Armstrong and Lee Carter, a partner at Armstrong Wealth Management, both have sons who are autistic, and they decided the firm would be the title sponsor of the All 4 Autism race held each year.

“That’s our second major cause, if you will,” Armstrong said. “It’s all about – if you’ve been blessed, you give back.”

He’s not afraid to laud his wife’s charity work, which reaches many people in various ways.

“My wife does more behind the scenes than most people realize,” he said. “She has ideas all the time. I just have to run and catch up with her.”

He thinks we’re all put on this earth for a reason, whether we know it or not.

“The main reason we were put here on this earth," he said, "is to love God and to serve others so that we can be with him in the next world."

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