“A land developer creates something from damn near nothing,” says Joe Kelley, business leader and longtime supporter of the Vincentians. “You look at a cornfield and say, ‘I can build a neighborhood here’ – it takes a unique kind of vision and leadership.”
For many years, Joe has used his vision and leadership to advance Vincentian projects to serve the poor and address homelessness in St. Louis. Joe worked with Fr. Ed Murphy, C.M., to expand programs at the Guardian Angel Settlement, a social service organization serving more than 2,000 low-income children and families. He also is an active supporter and volunteer at St. Vincent Parish in South St. Louis.
From his years in a Vincentian parish as a child in Arizona to his time discerning a priestly vocation in Perryville, to his life-long friendships with priests and brothers, Joe always has considered himself a Vincentian.
“I can’t get St. Vincent out of my bones,” he says. “Like Vincent, I’m committed to serving the homeless, the starving and the very poor. It makes you feel good to do what you can for people in need.”
For more than 53 years, Joe has used his vision and leadership to develop places for people to live and work, and he built a legacy of service and generosity along the way. Joe credits his deep faith in Jesus and his Vincentian spirit for much of his success in life.
“St. Vincent taught us how to care for the poor,” Joe says. “He was so focused on serving the poor – God’s people. The best way we can serve Christ is to serve the least among us. It is good for the soul.”
Joe has a passion for sharing the Vincentian mission and encouraging others to step up. He has developed a unique and persuasive way of garnering the support of his friends and colleagues.
“On occasion, I’ve called my subcontractors and said, ‘Do you want to get to heaven? Okay, one way you can do that is through works of mercy, so I’m going to put you down for donating the roof,’” he explains with a laugh.
In addition to his leadership support of the recent Walking with the Poor campaign and his ongoing generosity to our mission in Kenya, Joe has established a legacy gift that will help enliven the Vincentian mission to share the Gospel with the poor beyond his lifetime.
At 77, Joe runs a thriving business, cares for his wife of 50 years and actively supports many other charitable causes. And he is not planning to slow down anytime soon.
“I want to spend the rest of my life working with the Vincentians and other partners to end homelessness in St. Louis. I approach this challenge with an entrepreneurial spirit. All of life is about problem-solving, and St. Vincent was one of the best in the business.”