Agency Profile: Missouri Agent Volunteers to Bring out the Best in People

This article originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of The Agent’s Advocate, a publication of The Doctors Company and is reprinted with permission of The Doctors Company.

When speaking with John Keane, president of The Keane Insurance Group, you quickly learn that his business values mirror his life values. Some of the first words you see on his company website are protect, inspire, and solve. He embodies these ideals, and they all shine through his overarching belief in serving others.

Explaining his approach to business, John said, “If you boil down what we do as a business, it’s providing a service. We sell insurance and with that comes the idea of servicing our clients.”

And when you hear his story of the past seven years and his work that extends beyond his agency, it’s clear his business philosophy is reciprocal to his personal life.

Catastrophe Strikes

Back in January of 2010, after a catastrophic earthquake struck Haiti, John realized he was in a unique position to help serve others.

“After the earthquake occurred, of course it was in the news and there were a lot of humanitarian efforts being made,” recalled John. “Much of that was in the form of doctors going over to Haiti to provide emergency medical care for the Haitians that were injured. And being in the medical malpractice business, with a lot of physicians, clients, contacts, and relationships, we got involved in fundraising to help send some doctors over to respond to emergency medical needs.”

His service efforts built from there.

In April of that year, John flew out to Haiti with his wife, his oldest son, and two of his employees. They traveled the country to experience Haiti and the culture, and witness the devastation that resulted from the earthquake. The group particularly noticed the effect the destruction had on young children, with the creation of large numbers of new orphans.

“It was a life-changing experience—you will never think the same way again,” remembered John. “We decided after that trip that this was something we wanted to get involved in and focus our resources on. So we took our charitable group, The Keane Charitable Group, rebranded it as the Haiti Orphan Project, and partnered with another organization to build an orphanage.”

In addition to the orphanage, over the next couple years, John and his volunteer groups also built a school, and developed and implemented a clean water system in the community where the orphanage and school were located.

“At that point, we thought about what the next thing could be to continue to help and support the folks in this community, and decided medical care was the biggest need,” John explained. “We started taking doctors over to Haiti on a regular basis. Every two to three months we would take trips with doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers, and set up mobile medical clinics with a tent and see as many patients as we could.”

John Keane (second from the left) leads a service trip to Haiti with more than 25 volunteers.

From Survival to Stability

As John made plans to build a more permanent medical clinic, his efforts took a turn when he discovered orphan care in Haiti wasn’t quite what he thought it was. He found out that 80 percent of the children in orphanages were what they called “economic orphans.” These were children who had a living parent or relative who could physically take care of them, but financially were too poor to do so. Because of that, the families gave up the children for adoption.

“That troubled us,” John said. “We were discouraged by the idea that families would be giving their children up for economic reasons and sending them to orphanages when they weren’t technically orphans. We determined we wanted to focus on the root of the problem—economic issues—and began working towards orphan prevention.”

They identified a three-prong process to stabilize family units, so families could afford to keep children in their homes and not be tempted to give them over to orphan care. The first prong was job creation, to help lift them out of poverty. The second was education, something only available to children in orphanages or to families who paid for a private education; Haiti has no public education. The third prong was to continue to pursue the healthcare part of their project. Once they expanded the strategy, they renamed the initiative to the Hope Community Project.

“And that’s pretty much where we are today. Just recently, we secured a piece of land where we will be building our permanent medical clinic and housing our job creation program,” explained John. “Up until now, we’ve been renting and leasing properties. We’re going to aggregate everything on that piece of land in the community we’re working in and grow our programs there.”

Creating a Service Culture

John’s work in Haiti has inspired many others to volunteer their services. He says his eight children nearly fight over who gets to help next.

Several of his business partners have been motivated to go to Haiti. One of these was Bill Fleming, chief operating officer of The Doctors Company. Bill coordinated a father-son trip with his own son, and John and his son of the same age.

John Keane (second from the left), accompanied by his son, Benjamin (left), Bill Fleming (second to the right), and Bill’s son, Jonathan (right). The four of them provided services to patients visiting this Hope Community Project clinic.

And more than 20 of John’s employees have made a trip out there. One way he encourages this is by offering each employee a paid service week, and he also gives six scholarships a year to cover travel costs.

“We try to make it as feasible and as easy for them as possible,” John said. “That’s really encouraged our employees over the years.”

In addition to his service in Haiti, John also gets his agency involved in fundraising activities throughout the year.

“We sponsor a golf tournament, a 5K race, wine tasting, and a concert in our community here. We do all kinds of fundraising events that are all put on and run by an amazing group of employees who freely volunteer their time,” he said.

In explaining the culture he is developing, John elaborated, “To the extent that you can create a culture of service, externally, in doing projects and serving the community and the world at large, you’re encouraging that mentality in people.”

“I think it flows through the way they do their job and the way they serve our clients—and serve one another .”

©2017 The Doctors Company