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Tag Archive | "David Kieft"

Former nature center director sentenced


David Keift. Facebook photo.

By Judy Reed

David Kieft, the former director of Howard Christensen Nature Center, was sentenced this week in connection with embezzling money from the center.

Kieft was charged in February with one count of embezzlement over $1,000 but less thank $20,000 of a non-profit or charity. He later pled no contest to attempted embezzlement as part of a plea agreement.

He was sentenced on Tuesday, June 12, by Judge Paul Sullivan, in Kent County Circuit Court. According to the court, he received three years probation; 90 days in jail at the end of his probation; 200 hours of work crew in lieu of 100 days in jail (that is separate from the 90 days he will serve at the end of probation); and restitution. Restitution is currently set at $4,000 but a hearing date is not yet set to determine the full amount, which will likely be more. 

Kieft, of Kent City, was employed at the HCNC, located in Tyrone Township, for about four years. He resigned on August 28, 2017, reportedly because he had opened a new sandwich shop and wanted to spend more time there and with his family. Upon his resignation, one of the board members noticed that some of the bills had not been paid, and began digging into all the financial activities of Kieft. On September 3, the board member called the Kent County Sheriff Department to report he had embezzled funds.

Kieft reportedly wrote himself numerous checks, which he made out to unregistered businesses, and used the Nature Center Paypal account to purchase a multitude of items for himself and his businesses. The investigation found a minimum of $4,000 to $5,000 in misappropriated funds, mainly through the Paypal account.

There are IRS and Michigan State Treasury investigations separate from the Kent County Sheriff investigation, and more charges could eventually be leveled on Kieft.

Treasurer Kim Gillow read a victim impact statement to the court that listed a litany of offenses committed by Kieft that have put the nature center at risk of closing. Most of the offenses involving missing money (including several grants); lack of payment on necessary bills and taxes; late fees; and payments to himself. She noted that they have incurred expenses of over $5,000 to make up payments and late fees, change locks, etc. and that’s over and above the money that was missing. She also said he converted a handicap accessible bathroom to a personal shower without notifying KISD, who owns the Nature Center. She said it was not installed properly, and caused several plumbing issues. It is estimated it will cost about $6,000 to fix.

Gillow is happy that this part of the case is finally over. And she understands why the judge sentenced him to probation first. “The judge said if he was in jail it wasn’t going to help us get our money,” she explained.

The Nature Center is located at 16190 Red Pine Dr. Kent City, MI 49330. 

The Center is also looking for donors to help sustain the center. You can visit them online at www.howardchristensen.org to donate.

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Former nature center director charged with embezzlement


David Kieft. Facebook photo.

By Judy Reed

David Kieft, the former director of Howard Christensen Nature Center, was charged Wednesday with embezzling money from the center. The Michigan State Treasury and the IRS have also opened their own investigation into his financial activities while director there.

Kieft, of Kent City, was employed at the HCNC, located in Tyrone Township, for about four years. He resigned on August 28, 2017, reportedly because he had opened a new business (Ridgetown Grub, in Sparta) and wanted to spend more time there and with his family. Upon his resignation, one of the board members noticed that some of the bills had not been paid, and began digging into all the financial activities of Kieft. On September 3, the board member called the Kent County Sheriff Department to report he had embezzled funds.

Kieft reportedly wrote himself numerous checks, which he made out to unregistered businesses, and used the Nature Center Paypal account to purchase a multitude of items for himself and his businesses. The investigation found a minimum of $4,000 to $5,000 in misappropriated funds, mainly through the Paypal account.

The IRS and Michigan State Treasury investigations are separate from the Kent County Sheriff investigation, and more charges could eventually be leveled on Kieft.

He was arraigned on Wednesday, February 28, in 63rd District Court, on one charge of embezzlement of over $1,000, but under $20,000, of a non-profit or charity. Bond was set at $1,000 and he bonded out. His next appearance in court is a probable cause hearing scheduled for March 12, at 10 a.m.

Under the charge, which is a felony, he could face up to 10 years in prison, or a fine of not more than $15,000 or three times the value of the money or property embezzled, whichever is greater, or both imprisonment and a fine.

Bruce Mayeda, President of the Board of Directors at the Nature Center, gave us this statement on the arrest of Kieft: “On behalf of Howard Christensen Nature Center, we are cooperating fully with the Sheriffs department, but we cannot comment on an on going investigation of a former employee. We are open! We are under new management and we have some really fun events coming up. We would love to see you all come out and show your support. You can find our event schedule at our website, howardchristensen.org.”

The Nature Center is located at 16190 Red Pine Dr. Kent City, MI 49330. 

The Center is also looking for donors to help sustain the center. You can visit them online at www.howardchristensen.org to donate.

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What does the fox…eat?


OUT-Nature-center1

By David A Kieft, Howard Christensen Nature Center

I suppose the fox eats whatever he wants to eat, when it’s available. But that is indeed just the simple answer. As a child I was always outdoors, something I know my own daughter cannot say nearly enough. As I spent time outdoors, I learned things that aren’t often “well known” facts about our wildlife, habitats, plants and the multiple ecosystems we have in Michigan.

I grew up in Jenison with gravel pits (and an abundance of wild nature) right in my backyard. It was here, in my adolescent traipsing, that I learned such useless facts as: groundhogs can climb trees; Blandings turtles use their yellow necks to attract insects for lunch; goldfish can survive in Michigan’s waters; I can’t swim against the current of the Grand River; and the Eastern Hognose snake backs down when you call his bluff. At the family cottage near Baldwin, I continued learning about animals like Purple Martins, Red Head Woodpeckers and yep, more snakes. I would spend every waking minute outdoors (or reading about it when Mom wouldn’t let me out) and to this day my favorite thing to do when I’m not cooking or sitting at my HCNC desk is to get outside and continue learning (mostly about snakes because they are awesome).

But it also saddens me that in today’s day in age, less than 35 years from my good ol’ days, we have seen a shift in the characteristics of youth; liability seems to be a hot topic for businesses like gravel pits; and parents guard their children ever more. One can no longer roam the gravel mines; after hours problems have shut parks down earlier; funding has closed some of the greatest places we’ve known as kids ourselves; and parents feel safer with their kids at home more (even I can attest to that). But, that is where Howard Christensen Nature Center comes in.

OUT-Nature-center2Now, I may be biased, but hear me out. HCNC has been no exception to the current times, as a not for profit, we too struggle with funding and after hours problems. But our first priority is to get people outdoors more, to learn, to teach and enjoy. Did you know that our weekly Wild Wednesday programs offer-learning experiences that will enhance your child’s senses, interest and knowledge of the wild world around us? Were you aware that once a month we host family friendly programs that aren’t always “nature oriented” but are still designed to get you out? Have you heard that a walk in the woods can ease anxiety and stress? Did you know that even though I keep bees I am deathly afraid of insects in general? If you answered no to any of the above, the answers await you at HCNC. If you think you are too old for Wild Wednesdays, check out “Mom’s Night Out” where we make a few premade frozen meals to lighten your schedule at home or simply stop in and take a walk on some of our dozen miles of trails, visit me during the day and ask to see my bees! There are so many things to do at Howard Christensen that I cannot share them all here, but I urge you, beg you even, to come out and visit; buy a membership and visit often or bring your young ones to a day camp.

Here are some pictures from a couple of our recent day camps that show the joy on the faces of those who get out to learn and enjoy nature at HCNC. Ask them, I’ll bet they know what the fox eats!

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New director at Nature Center


David A Kieft and his daughter.

David A Kieft and his daughter.

Lily’s Frog Pad, Inc., the operating entity of Howard Christensen Nature Center located at 16190 Red Pine Drive, Kent City is proud to announce the election and appointment of David A Kieft as the new Executive Director.

Cindy Perski, former director and founder of Lily’s Frog Pad, resigned July 14 to enjoy retirement with her husband. “She has done many wonderful things and has made a tremendous impact at Howard Christensen Nature Center (HCNC),” said a spokesperson for Lily’s Frog Pad. “Although she will remain on staff teaching and volunteering, her retirement will leave her daily presence dearly missed.  She has left very big shoes to fill, thank you Cindy for all you have done, we cannot express our gratitude enough!”

Those big shoes will be filled by David A Kieft, “DK”, of Kent City. David is a father to an outgoing 8-year-old daughter Skylynne, and many pets. David’s educational background certificates and degrees include Culinary Arts, Accounting and Business finance and he will be transferring his graduate credits to a state university this fall. David is the general manager of Kieft Hospitality Company (a local caterer and concessionaire). He is an avid outdoorsman, and graduated from a Colorado Springs Community College affiliated naturalist guiding and survivalist program, before taking up work in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness as a guide and camp cook.

He also enjoys volunteer work, especially with children and youth, and is a long-standing board member and coach for Grant AYSO region 1472, assists Sparta United Methodist Church’s youth pastor with youth group, is vice-chairman of the Kent City Village Board of Zoning Appeals and served as a board advisor for HCNC until his appointment to executive director July 14.

In his spare time, David enjoys spending time at his weekend home on Ryerson Lake, working in his organic garden at home, hunting and fishing. As an experienced chef and caterer, cooking is also an enjoyable activity for David.  When asked what he enjoys doing most, David responded, “I just love working with kids, and really anything outdoorsy.”

We welcome DK, and wish him luck in his new position as executive director at HCNC.  Stop by and welcome him and see what HCNC has to offer as well. Dave will have a large pot of coffee on as long as he’s on the grounds!

 

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