Coverage Areas:  National |  South Carolina |  Aiken |  Beaufort |  Charleston |  Columbia |  Greenville |  Myrtle Beach |  Rock Hill
Menu

Robert Keeder receives Boys Town honor

COLUMBIA—Robert Keeder was a teenager in 1960 when a nun took him and his younger brother, David, to a train station for a journey that would change his life.

Their mother had died and their father was unable to care for them, and the boys had aged out of a Catholic orphanage in Michigan. They were on their way to Boys Town, the famous orphanage in Nebraska started by Father Edward J. Flanagan.

After graduating from Boys Town in 1963, his journey of faith led him to South Carolina. He settled in Columbia and has become a fixture in the community, known especially for the huge meals he organizes for the homeless and needy during the holidays and more than 30 years of work with the St. Vincent de Paul Society at St. Peter Church.

In July, Keeder returned to Boys Town to be inducted into its Hall of History, an honor that surprised him. Family and friends were there with him, including his brother.

Keeder still has no idea who nominated him for the award.

“I was not expecting it at all,” he said. “The work I do with St. Vincent de Paul is a quiet ministry and I do what I do because I’ve been called to it. When I heard God’s call to work with the poor and homeless, I knew it was something I was going to be committed to for the rest of my life.”

Keeder first thought he might have a vocation to the priesthood. He spent three years studying at the Oratory in Rock Hill, playing the organ for the church and helping people in the community. Keeder and his spiritual adviser eventually decided he could serve God better in the secular world, so he moved to Columbia and took a job with a graphic arts company, where he worked for 32 years.

Keeder joined St. Peter and prayed that God would help him find a way to dedicate his life to others. One Christmas, on the way to Mass, he noticed men and women wandering aimlessly on the downtown streets.

“They looked like their destination was nowhere,” Keeder said. “I asked God to show me what I needed to do to help these people and He directed me. I know what it is like to be without family and I wanted to help others in that situation.”

Keeder’s promise to God that morning has since helped thousands. He works with the First Baptist Church of Columbia and local businesses to hold the annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Dinner, which feeds more than 2,000. Keeder and other volunteers from St. Peter have also held a large Christmas Day meal at the church for 31 years, and fed 900 people in 2016.

He organizes monthly meals for the homeless, calls bingo for senior citizens at area nursing homes three days a week, and volunteers at Clean of Heart, providing laundry services for the homeless.

He has also never forgotten the Nebraska orphanage that helped start him on his path of service, and has served on the Boys Town board of directors, including two terms as president.

“I enjoy doing what I do because it helps to show others the love of God,” Keeder said.

Provided: Robert Keeder (center) stands with friends at Boys Town in Nebraska in this 1963 photo. The well-known Columbia volunteer was inducted into the Boys Town Hall of History in July.




  • Diocesan Events Calendar
    View All Events
    Dec 1610:00 am Adult Faith Formation
    From the Calendar of Office of Catechesis Webinars
    4:30 pm Bishop to say Mass - Sacred Heart - Charleston
    From the Calendar of Bishop's Office
    Dec 174:00 pm Volunteer Christmas Party - Diocesan Center - Charleston
    From the Calendar of Bishop's Office
    Dec 18 Exams for periods 3 and 4
    From the Calendar of Bishop England Charleston
    Christmas Sock Day
    From the Calendar of St. John School North Charleston
    Christmas Holidays - School Closed
    From the Calendar of St. Joseph School Anderson
    No school - holiday
    From the Calendar of St. Mary Help of Christians Aiken
    11 am Dismissal
    From the Calendar of St. Anne and St. Jude Catholic School
    Simbang Gabi for Filipino Catholics at St. Ann Church
    From the Calendar of Filipino Ministry
    12:00 pm Bishop to say Mass at the Cathedral - Charleston
    From the Calendar of Bishop's Office
    2:00 pm Gr. K3-3rd Christmas Program
    From the Calendar of St. Mary School Greenville
    Dec 19 Exam for period 5
    From the Calendar of Bishop England Charleston
    Christmas Breaks BeginsNoon Dismissal
    From the Calendar of St. Peter School Beaufort
    Crazy Christmas Sweater Day
    From the Calendar of St. John School North Charleston
    End of 2nd Quarter
    From the Calendar of St. Francis Catholic School
    End of 2nd Quarter
    From the Calendar of St. Anne and St. Jude Catholic School
    Christmas Break
    From the Calendar of St. Anthony School Florence
    Christmas Program
    From the Calendar of St. Andrew School Myrtle Beach
    10:00 am day-Christmas party
    From the Calendar of Holy Trinity North Myrtle Beach
    11:30 am Early Dismissal
    From the Calendar of St. Michael School Murrells Inlet