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McKeowns Humbled by Hometown Hero Honors

The couple's commitment, service and caring for the community was the reason they were chosen to receive the award and they showed it again as they made yet another commitment to the community Thursday night.

Kyle McKeown announced for his parents that they were going to match any donations made to the TAEF as board discretionary funds through the end of the year, up to $5,000 in total contributions. If $5,000 is raised and added to the McKeown match, the TAEF Board would have $10,000 available to quickly respond to community and educational needs. He said he hopes it's an incentive for some who have already been donors to give again and for new donors to be inspired to give.

"We're reaching our goals," said Kyle who will end his term as a TEAF board member this year.

 "We want to be able to reach individuals who aren't otherwise being helped."

Scott talked about the important role of the TAEF in the community. To date, the foundation has more than 50 different funds and more than $2 million in assets. Every year thousands of dollars are put back into the community through grants and scholarship programs.

Scott said he's been honored to be part of the community. "It's great to have an organization like TAEF that supports the community."

Scott and Debby started their successful accounting business, McKeown Kraai Professional CPAs in Middleville in 1985. Jeff Kraii became a partner in 1995 and said it was the best move he ever made.

"I didn't even know where Middleville was," Kraai admitted. "But it only took one meeting with Scott and I could just tell how committed he was to his clients, his community and to his business."

The firm has provided training and opportunities for many young accountants. Kraii said he was the company's fifth employee and today they have 18, including two of Scott and Debby's sons, Kyle and Michael.

"I've seen what you two do for this community and this honor is well deserved," said Kraii.

Scott acknowledged he and his wife have surrounded themselves with good people. He thanked some of his own mentors including Jim Weatherhead, Dave Dykstra, Rex Schaad and many others.

"We are honored to receive this award, but community service is a joint effort. There are many others who deserve this award," he said.

Bonnie Gettys, President of the Barry Community Foundation,  said she has worked with the McKeowns for years and said they are always willing to help.

 "When asked for help, they never say 'no,' they just ask 'how,'" she said.

"Foundations don't just happen, they are built. I'm talking about the foundations you two (Scott an Debby) built with your children and now their children," said Gettys.

All four of the McKeown sons have returned to Middleville now to raise their own families. Each of the sons spoke about their parents and the important lessons they learned about giving back to the community.

Patrick, now an emergency room physician at Spectrum Pennock Hospital, said he remembers tagging along with his mother to different meetings and organizations where she volunteered. He said both his parents surrounded themselves with good people and good role models.

"I learned that it's when you are giving that you actually receive the most," said Patrick thanking both his parents.

Brian, the oldest of the McKeown sons and now a dentist in the community, said that lesson of giving back and being community oriented was also something he learned early. He thanked them for his great start in life.

"Just like farming and growing a crop, you gotta start right if you want to end right," he said.

Mike, one of the sons now working in the CPA firm, also thanked his parents for showing him what it means to give back to others.

"A community like this is all about the great people and the connections, relationships and compassion for each other," said Mike.

While he acknowledged his parents and the TAEF have done a lot for the community, he reminded guests there was much yet to be done.

"There are still too many with too few options in this community. It's a challenge to all of us," he said.

Scott and Debby's list of community involvement is long and impressive. Debby was on the of the first TAEF board members and stayed active for several years. She also joined the marketing committee for the Barry Community Foundation. She joined BCF as the financial director.

Deb was also a founding member of the Women’s Giving Circle. She’s served as the finance director at the Middleville United Methodist Church, has been a volunteer at TK Schools for many years, coached Odyssey of the Mind teams for at least 10 years and has served as an OM judge.

Scott serves on the Spectrum Health Pennock Foundation Board, Barry Community Foundation Board and the Hastings City Bank Board. He’s also been a member of the investment committee for Barry Community Foundation for many years, offering his insights and expertise to help the foundation maintain financial security and stability.

He is currently participating in a national committee called “REDPIN” (Rural Economic Development & Philanthropy Innovative Network) along with several other community members to create a community-wide focus on workforce and talent development.

Debby said the all their work is just their way of giving back to the community that has given them so much.

"This is my home, my safe place. This is where I raised my family and where they are raising their families," she said. "You people are the village it takes to raise a family. Thank you for being my village."
For more information about the Thornapple Area Enrichment Foundation visit  Facebook (Thornapple Area Enrichment Foundation) or the website www.thornapplefoundation.org.