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Logan County couple leave $1.5 million legacy to their community     Send a link to a friend

[MARCH 30, 2004]  Harold and Hilda Keest, a Logan County farm couple who are remembered for helping others help themselves, have left estate gifts totaling more than $1.5 million to four Lincoln-based charities.

On Monday, Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital, St. John United Church of Christ, Christian Homes and the Salvation Army in Logan County all received percentage shares of the remainder of the Keest estate.

"Their whole life was about helping people, just like it is now," says Jill Apel of Beason, whose husband, Garret, is a cousin to Hilda. "They weren't the kind of people who said they would just be philanthropists through their estate. They gave in so many ways while they were living."

"If one of their friends got to where they couldn't drive anymore, Harold and Hilda would go out of their way to transport them to church, doctor's appointments and other events," recalls the Rev. Richard Reinwald of St. John United Church of Christ

Harold was well-known around Logan County as a well witcher -- someone who used a special stick to find the perfect place to dig a well for an abundant supply of fresh water. Hilda was a great cook and always had supplies in her panty to make a dish for a dinner at church or for another family in need, recounts Apel.

Harold and Hilda Apel Keest were married on Feb. 14, 1946, at the St. John's parsonage in Lincoln. He was from Broadwell and she from Lawndale. They spent the majority of their married life working the Lawndale farm that had belonged to Hilda's family but took time out to go dancing and play pinochle with friends. They retired to the Christian Village in Lincoln, where Harold died Dec. 26, 2000, and Hilda on April 21, 2003.

The Keest estate gift will have a profound effect on services offered for people in Logan County.

The Salvation Army was able to break ground this winter on a $700,000 housing center, due in large part to the gift from the Keest estate. "We are very appreciative of this major gift because it, along with many other gifts, is enabling us to build at this time." said Capt. Bonnie Sanders. Sanders added that the board voted unanimously to name the center "The Salvation Army Keest Center." It should be finished by mid-September of this year.

Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital will use its share of the Keest estate to add to the sizable endowment fund established in 1960. "The investment earnings from this fund are directed toward local programs that improve the health of our community, and the principal is used only for major building or renovation projects at ALMH," said Marty Ahrends, executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Healthcare Foundation.

"Contributions from many generous community members throughout the years have helped us maintain nice facilities and keep current with medical technology," Ahrends said. "Mr. and Mrs. Keest will be remembered as ‘Humanitarians' on our donor wall for remembering ALMH in their estate plan."

 

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The Keests' gift for St. John United Church of Christ was restricted for investment in the church's endowment fund, with the principal invaded only for major capital building projects. "Twenty years ago our church leaders decided it would be wise to establish an endowment fund for those times when our expenses exceeded income," said the Rev. Reinwald. "We ask our members every year if they have included St. John in their will or estate plans, and we have been blessed with several members leaving estate gifts to the church."

Larry Simonson, director of development with Christian Homes, also had a chance to get to know the Keests while they lived at the Christian Village. "They were a wonderful, good, solid family in our community," said Simonson. "Because of their very generous gift we will soon be able to move forward with a plan to remodel several resident rooms at the Christian Village. We praise God for their generosity!"

The Keests were able to accomplish their philanthropic goals through an estate plan that first made provisions for several friends and family members. "The local charities most important to them received what was left over after assets were liquidated and the bills were paid," said John R. Gehlbach of the Gehlbach Law Offices in Lincoln.

"Our office has always encouraged our clients to keep their charitable bequests local in nature," Gehlbach added. "Language in the estate plan should specifically provide the legal name of the local charity and its address to ensure that the proceeds will not go to a national or regional organization that may not use the money as the donors had intended."

It does not take a large charitable gift from a wealthy estate like that of the Keests' to create a legacy. According to Larry Johnson, president of the Central Illinois Planned Giving Council, more than 70 percent of Americans give to charity annually, however less than 5 percent make charitable contributions through their will or trust.

"I have found that the simple act of taking the time to remember a charity in an estate plan can really enhance a donor's life," says Johnson, who is an active promoter of the national Leave A Legacy program.

  Planned gifts are easy to arrange. Wills and trusts can be crafted by attorneys to either include a defined gift to a charity or to allocate a specific percentage of the remainder of the estate as a charitable gift. Charities can also be named as beneficiaries on life insurance policies and retirement plans.

  "By taking the time to make this planned gift, the Keests will have a lasting impact on a lot of people in Logan County for many years to come," said Ahrends. "This simple act of giving will provide safe and attractive housing for those in need, a more secure future for the ministries of their church, and quality health care for all. Now that's a powerful gift."

[Abraham Lincoln Healthcare Foundation
news release]

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