A New Kind of CEO

Mary M

Mary McKeown '82 has spent her career as a community advocate, builder and sustainer. Her passion for community radiates in everything she does, and has made her the perfect fit in her new role as CEO of Keystone Community Services, a non-profit organization in Saint Paul dedicated to providing human services to youth, seniors and those requiring basic needs services.

Mary came to Saint Ben's in 1978 with a passion for service and giving back, and found her niche in the social work major where she helped with the effort to accredit the CSB social work program. Upon graduation, Mary accepted a job at The West 7th Community Center. In this position, she gained experience working with seniors by running the Meals on Wheels program and coordinating senior activities at the center. Real "boots on the ground work" as Mary calls it.

"That's a core value to how I do my work and how I've built my career. It's important to support organizations that work in the community and with the community." Mary's commitment to building the community from a grassroots level has made her a contributing community member and leader.

As a resident of the Merriam Park neighborhood in Saint Paul, Mary has over 30 years of experience not only working in community services, but also as a community member benefiting from these services. Her knowledge of the needs and abilities of the community has made her an effective and innovative change maker. One example of this was how she used the beneficiaries of one program as the volunteers in another program to ensure the maximum return on all participants' involvement in Keystone.

"We started a program a few years ago that exemplifies what I think is important," describes Mary. "We have a Hmong youth program that has been operating in a public housing community for over 15 years. We couldn't get enough volunteers to tutor a group of 40 kindergarten through 5th graders, so we got creative. I asked, what if we took teen graduates from the Hmong Youth Program and paid them to tutor?" By using teens who are community assets, Keystone was able to help them complete the circle of giving back to the community. The graduates of the Hmong Youth Program have become essential role models for other Hmong youth who need their skills and time, and the community has gained a new cohort of committed workers and change makers. It is this type of leadership and innovation that have proved Mary to be the perfect fit as Keystone's CEO.

"I feel extremely honored to be named the sixth CEO of Keystone," says Mary. "I feel a great responsibility to carry on the work. It's very important to understand the history and use that as something that you are building on. Keystone is a very vibrant and strong organization, and I will use my community building skills to make sure Keystone is providing high quality services in the communities we serve. I am inheriting something that needs my energy, my connections and my focus and that's what I am going to bring."

Mary's advice to those who share her passion for service? "You have to find the thing that speaks to your heart. All Bennies have been rooted in giving back. I was very fortunate to find that very early in my career. I worked in the community center and it really stuck. Whether you do it as a career or volunteer, you need to find that thing. Whether it's tutoring, serving on a neighborhood board or planting a rain garden, find that one thing and stick with it."