Dorothy Kellington has helped the library grow from a small part of Town Hall into ‘the crown jewel of Highland Beach.’ She has volunteered since 1998 and for the past six years has been co-president of the Friends group. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
Libraries and books have always been a part of Dorothy Kellington’s life.
So it’s not surprising that soon after she and her husband, Doug, arrived in Highland Beach in 1998 from Long Island, she began searching out the town’s library.
“The first question I asked after we got here was, ‘Where’s the library?’” she said.
The answer to that question led Kellington to what was then a small make-shift library in Town Hall.
It also led her to a two-decades-long commitment to the library as a weekly volunteer. And for the past six years she has served as co-president of the Friends of the Highland Beach Town Library, a nonprofit organization that helps fund cultural programming and items not requested in the town budget.
Over the years, she has watched the library blossom into a stand-alone 11,000-square-foot building, which today is a community focal point offering a variety of programs, classes and other learning opportunities.
Growing up in New York, Kellington spent a lot of time at the public library and developed a deep appreciation of books.
“People of our generation grew up with a library,” she said. “The library was very important to me.”
Kellington, 68, says she would frequently walk to the library in Queens, about a mile from her home.
“I love books,” she says. “There’s always books around. If I’m without a book, I’m in trouble.”
That love of reading played an important role in her decision to become an educator.
Prior to coming to South Florida, Kellington spent 29 years working in the New York City school district. She spent 14 years in the classroom teaching elementary-school children in Queens before running a gifted program. She later became a trainer working with new or struggling educators, to help them improve their teaching skills.
While she was working in the school system she met her husband, who was a facilities manager within the district.
The two enjoyed a love of horse racing, frequently visiting tracks, and eventually they joined a group that owned thoroughbred race horses. One of their most successful Florida horses, King Cugat, ran in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. He started out as the favorite in that race, but was kicked and finished out of the money. He had previously won several races, including his first races as a 2-year-old in Saratoga.
Although they’re still horse racing fans, the Kellingtons no longer own horses.
Dorothy spends much of her time helping out at the library, which is in walking distance from their home in the Highland Beach Club, and volunteering for the Palm Beach County chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
She began volunteering in that organization’s office and helping with fundraising efforts in 2002 after learning that one of her grandchildren was diagnosed with the disease.
About the same time, she was asked to join the board of the Friends of the Highland Beach Town Library.
Then six years ago, she was asked to serve as co-president of the organization, a job she now shares with another longtime Friends member, Karen Brown.
The group underwrites the cost of one monthly cultural program — a concert or a presentation — during the summer and as many as five or six monthly programs during the season. The group, which has about 300 members, also pays for receptions at art openings in town.
The Friends also hope to launch a monthly health and wellness seminar at the library this season, Kellington said.
For Kellington, who can still be seen checking in books or returning them to the shelves on her volunteer days, the library has become almost like a second home where she can interact with people and get to know them. It also provides an opportunity for her to share all the library has to offer with residents.
“This library is the crown jewel of Highland Beach,” she said.
— Rich Pollack
Q. Where did you grow up and go to school? How do you think that has influenced you?
A. Queens, N.Y. I went to New York City public schools, Queens College of the City University of New York. It made me appreciate the public school system.
Q. What professions have you worked in? What professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
A. Teaching, etc., while working for the New York City School Board. Hopefully, I made some beginner teachers better able to do a good job.
Q. What advice do you have for a young person selecting a career today?
A. Do something you love and believe in, not just to make a big salary.
Q. How did you choose to make your home in Highland Beach?
A. We wanted to be near the water.
Q. What is your favorite part about living in Highland Beach?
A. It’s coastal but quiet.
Q. What book are you reading now?
A. House of Spies, by Daniel Silva.
Q. What music do you listen to when you need inspiration? When you want to relax?
A. Broadway show music, Chicago, The Beach Boys.
Q. Do you have a favorite quote that inspires your decisions?
A. The Golden Rule, which can morph into “don’t get mad, get even” for me.
Q. Have you had mentors in your life? Individuals who have inspired your life decisions?
A. My third-grade teacher Mrs. La Marca, who gave me my love of reading and made me want to share it.
Q. If your life story were made into a movie, who would you want to play you?
A. Julia Louis-Dreyfus.