Keith wins national award

Don Keith, general manager of Sodexo Campus Services at Northwestern College, has been named a Sodexo Hero of Everyday Life for 2008. Keith and seven other national winners—honored for investing their time, talent and spirit in the ongoing fight against hunger—will be recognized at the Sodexo Foundation’s annual dinner in Washington, D.C., on June 11.

Each Hero of Everyday Life award winner will receive a $5,000 Sodexo Foundation grant to give to a hunger-related charity of their choice. Keith plans to donate his grant to Northwestern’s Called2Go hunger/homeless ministry. Some of the funds will be used for a campus event in which Kids Against Hunger food packages will be prepared to feed children in developing countries. The Northwestern ministry also plans to award two mini-grants to students who submit proposals for ways to engage issues of hunger in the local area.

Keith, who has been in his role at Northwestern since 1991, has taken a week’s vacation to participate in the college’s Spring Service Projects for 14 consecutive years. In all but one of those years, he has traveled with a group of Northwestern students to New Orleans, where they minister to the homeless, work with youth, rebuild homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina, and do street evangelism. In 2000, he was part of a Northwestern group that served in Honduras.

“Missions work really is Don’s true calling,” says Cindy Hickman, the front-of-the-house manager for Sodexo at Northwestern, who coordinated Keith’s nomination for the national award. “He’s always willing to volunteer. He has a soft heart and is very compassionate. When he retires, he wants to open a soup kitchen.”

Keith says his work in New Orleans has been a joy. “I fell in love with the people of New Orleans’ central city,” he says. “Some of the children I used to see are now on staff with the ministry. It’s a joy to see churches come together to serve, being the hands and feet of Christ. A lot of people have found the Lord after Katrina.”

Keith says he also enjoys the interaction with Northwestern students that the service projects afford. “I get a great joy out of building relationships with the students and trying to provide a trip that will benefit them.”

Hickman says Keith illustrates his servant’s heart in a number of other ways through his position at Sodexo. He donates a full meal for 50 people at the St. Francis House, a ministry to the homeless in Sioux Falls, once a month and also provides surplus food to the Sioux City Gospel Mission.

In addition, Keith coordinates campus canned food drives to assist the local food pantry and donates food for several fund-raising events to aid families that have been in crisis.

One recipient of Keith’s benevolence was John Greller, Northwestern’s vice president for advancement, for whom a fund-raising dinner was held when Greller was fighting to survive end-stage renal disease and a kidney transplant. Greller describes Keith as “a giving, caring servant who can’t help himself when he sees a need. You can’t put a premium on that kind of a heart, that kind of a friend, that kind of an employee,” says Greller.

A 1979 graduate of Jacksonville State University in Alabama, Keith began working with Sodexo as a student there in 1975 and has spent his entire career with the company. He came to Northwestern after serving at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, N.M. He oversees a staff that includes 40 full-time employees and 75 student workers.

The Sodexo Foundation is an independent charity that supports a variety of initiatives focused on eliminating the root causes of hunger in the United States. Established in 1999, the foundation has contributed more than $9 million to hunger-related organizations nationwide.

Sodexo Inc. is the leading provider of integrated food and facilities management services in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. With more than 125,000 employees, Sodexo serves 10 million customers daily in corporations, health care, long-term care and retirement centers, schools, government and remote sites.

Article in The Earth Times 6-12-08