Bainbridge Kiwanis names Len Beil Citizen of the Year
September 26, 2008 · Updated 12:38 PM
From feeding the needy to whacking weeds, Len Beil serves his community.
For Len Beil, service is defined as a commitment without the desire for reward or payment.
But good deeds can catch up to you, and now Beil’s commitment to the Bainbridge Island community is being honored. Next month he will officially become the 25th islander to be selected as Kiwanis’ Bainbridge Island Citizen of the Year.
“I looked at the line-up of people and was flattered to be joining their company,” Beil said regarding the 24 past honorees.
Beil, tall and soft-spoken, may not seem like the type with the endless energy required to serve his community. He has organized blood-drives, free meal services, served on the board and worked with Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers, and serves as the vice president of the Bainbridge Island-North Kitsap Interfaith Council. He has even taken up a machete in the war against invasive plants on the around the island as part of Weed Warriors.
His drive was fostered in him at an early age. Beil credits his parents, who instilled in him a sense of community, religion and work ethic without seeking reward since the age of four.
“I was always a hard worker,” Beil said. “When I would play baseball I’d line the fields before hand. I remember being at the American Legion hall and we’d be waxing the floor or cleaning up after dinners.”
After so much time volunteering, Beil made the transition to working for money by picking berries at 50 cents a flat and working on farms in the Sequim area. He later went on to work in the telecommunications field before retiring. In a way, he said, working with Weed Warriors is a bit of a throw-back to the hard days of working on farms and strawberry patches.
“I enjoyed weeding, so when I retired I started working for my neighbors Paul and Debbie Brainerd (founders of IslandWood) removing ivy,” Beil said. “We did that for a couple years. Then Paul acquired land that had a scotch broom farm. We went in there and cleared it all out.”
The rush from taking out a field of noxious weeds got Beil interested in a posting by Jeannette Franks, the instigator behind Weed Warriors, who was looking to form an island-wide alliance to fight invasive plants.
“I put out a notice asking for people who were interested in removing invasive plants and Len showed up at the first meeting,” Franks said. “He is one of the founding fathers.” “At our projects he is always one of the first people there and the last to leave.”
“He is multifaceted,” Franks said. “He is always articulate and enthusiastic.”
Beil’s multifaceted life is heavily influenced by his faith and involvement with St. Cecilia Catholic Church. He believes his commitment to service is “very much a product of my faith.”
“He’s a special person to us, him and his wife, Stella, both,” said Jean Stanton, pastoral assistant at St. Celilia. “If you need Len to help with something he serves in all our ministries. When the letter came in the mail from Kiwanis, Father Carroll and I immediately thought of Len.”
But it was not only Beil’s service to his congregation that led the Rev. Emmett Carroll and Stanton to write letters supporting him as Citizen of the Year.
“The biggest eye opener for me, I realized, he was really involved in our parish and then all the things he did in the community,” Stanton said.
As a member of the Catholic Church and volunteer for other secular service groups, Beil has found a synergy by balancing and overlapping his responsibilities.
When state regulations began to require food to be made and served from a commercial kitchen, Beil was instrumental in saving Helpline House’s Super Suppers program. The programs offers a free-meal service on the last weekdays of each month for needy families.
“Helpline went to the Interfaith Council to see if they could do it at a church. I said I would check into it,” Beil said. “What I should have known is if you check on something, who is going to run it? So, I run Super Suppers at St. Cecilia.”
St. Cecilia and volunteers from other island congregations now work to provide a meal on the last five working days of the month.
For Beil, it is those people behind the scenes and the ones who give their services without looking for reward that are most influential to him.
“I think the people I admire are the ones that don’t charge anything,” Beil said. “I like the people who are willing to come in and facilitate or help for free. I think that is what is what our community is based on.
“From my family, to my education, to my work, to my affiliations, (it’s about) giving to the community without expecting to get paid and trying to make the place you live a better place.”