Bright Light Keith Beebe
Keith Beebe is a quiet, unassuming man with a heart of gold. He was born in Wyandotte, and lived in River Rouge, Lincoln Park and Trenton during his childhood. After graduating from Trenton High School in 1960, he immediately entered the U.S. Army, where he became a radio relay operator.
As he was finishing his three years of duty, just six months from his release date, he was sent to Germany. Then, when those six months were over, he was ready to board a ship and head home. But as it came into port, the vessel started taking on water. He had to wait another 45 days in Germany for the next ship.
“That was so crazy,” Beebe said; “just when you think you get to go home.”
He eventually made it back to Michigan and went into the graphics business, where he designed and digitized logos. Beebe loved his job, but his heart was not in graphic design. He didn't know it yet, but he loved to volunteer. He began volunteer work on the east side of the state. He dedicated several years to a women's abuse shelter in Detroit, taking phone calls and connecting those in abusive situations to the people and resources they needed. He also was part of a program that educated the court-appointed batterers in abusive situations.
“This experience got me interested in volunteering,” Beebe said. “And then it never stopped.”
Throughout his adult life and in his spare time, he has donated hundreds of hours for others in many different capacities.
Beebe moved to Barry County in 2002 and began to volunteer at the Red Cross after he saw an advertisement in the Reminder in 2005. He was part of the disaster team and went to house fires to assist in whatever way he could. He can tell of many disaster stories, including the 2014 flood in Detroit and how wonderful the people and police force of Inkster were in cooperating to get things done. He also helped with flooding in Ionia, serving meals and distributing clean-up kits.
He found that he especially enjoyed the Red Cross’ transportation service. He worked with others from to procure Red Cross vehicles and “set up shop” in the Gun Lake area. The volunteer forces grew and a need was met in Barry County for many years.
When the Red Cross stopped offering transportation services, Beebe knew they had to find another option. Too many people were not going to be able to get to doctor appointments, cancer treatments, dialysis and other vital medical appointments. Barry County Transit was a wonderful benefit, but it only operated inside the county, and many of the appointments of the clients were outside those boundaries.
The small, giving group of transporters found Hope Network, a Grand Rapids-based nonprofit organization. Hope Network offered transportation services, and Beebe was a vital part of bringing them to Barry County.
“I counted up the hours, and Keith has affected 110 volunteers’ lives in his 13 years here,” office manager, Judy Loofboro said. “He has changed their lives with his giving.”
Beebe worked with MichiganWorks and other job-training programs during the recession of 2008 to get people back into the work force as they volunteered for Hope Network during that time, Loofboro said.
He and his wife Sharon have been married for nearly 31 years, and he has three grown children from his first marriage.
Beebe has received several awards for his volunteer efforts, including the 2008 Transportation Volunteer of the Year through the Red Cross, the 2012 Volunteer of the Year award through the United Way, and the 2016 Senior Citizen of the Year Award through the Commission on Aging.
In his 70s now, Beebe spends many hours at the office overseeing all of the volunteers and making sure the office and drivers communicate well. He sets up the drives for the upcoming week and emails details to drivers.
“If I can't do something for someone else, it's not worth doing,” Beebe said.
Because of his heart for people and his compassionate ways, Keith Beebe is this week's Bright Light.
Favorite movie: “Windtalkers.” It's real history of an untold story.
Best advice you ever received: “Go in the service.” It made me grow up.
First job: I delivered newspapers when I was young and pumped gas at a gas station. Then I worked for Revere Copper and Gas in River Rouge. Then I moved up to making $1.25 an hour at Holt Graphics, where I was a keyline artist and made business forms.
Person I'd most like to meet: Jesus, just to know for sure He is real.
Something about me most people don't know: Most people know all about me. I don't hide anything.
What I'd tell a high school graduate: Be yourself. Don't try to be someone you are not. It doesn't matter what other people think about you.
Favorite dinner: Rack of ribs and my wife's potato salad.
My biggest challenge: To find someone to do my job so I can retire someday.
The greatest president: J.F. Kennedy, but he never got a chance to show what he could do.
What I'd do if I won the lottery: Pay bills, fix up and pay off my house, give 10 percent to my church, give to my family, and go around town buying meals and paying for gas for people anonymously. I'd like to be able to pay for everyone in the restaurant when I leave a place.
Hobbies: Gardening and fishing, but I don't have much time to do either.
Greatest thing about Barry County: That you can go five miles in any direction and you are on a lake.
Each week, the Banner profiles a person who makes the community shine. Do you know someone who should be featured because of volunteer work, fun-loving personality, for the stories he or she has to tell or any other reason? Send information to Newsroom, Hastings Banner, 1351 N. M-43 Highway, Hastings, MI 49058; or email email@example.com.