Dorothy and Jack Byrne
Wise thinker and caring philanthropist, Dorothy Byrne, is committed to the well-being of the Upper Valley community. But she doesn’t seek publicity or attention. She leads The Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation, a charitable organization she founded with her late husband, from her home. Though the foundation has donated tens of millions of dollars to area organizations, it’s been done quietly. Many organizations she has supported in the Upper Valley nonprofit community, some for years, have never met her. Former Haven executive director Sara Kobylenski once commented that Dorothy believes “community is at the heart of the well-being of people” and the foundation puts that thought into action.
The Haven, which is blessed to have been a beneficiary of the Byrnes’ generosity since 1993, is fortunate to have gotten to know Dorothy and Jack. In a 2014 interview for a Haven publication, Dorothy explained the genesis of the relationship to Sara Kobylenski, saying longtime family shelter host couple “Mary and Paul Feeney were the first people we met at the Haven. Paul would keep us up to date by phone calls, and Mary would write letters.” Annual gifts continued.
Mary’s May 2000 letter had a special appeal. “You are already helping us to such a great extent!” Mary wrote. “But you did seem interested in this particular aspect of our expansion, so I will ask….”
“It never even occurred to me to say ‘no’ to Mary,” Dorothy noted, “so we bought the Judy Frost House [now called Bev’s House] … for the Haven. We knew the Feeneys and the Haven board and volunteers were doing such important work.” Dorothy revealed that she in fact had observed that first-hand on multiple occasions. “I used to visit the Haven unannounced,” she explained. “I liked to poke around and check on things.”
In recognition of their extraordinary support, the Upper Valley Haven named its new family shelter and program space Byrne House in 2004. “Jack and I toured the new…shelter when it opened. I remember Jack asking, ‘What are you going to use all of these offices for?’ Now the Haven barely has enough space with three buildings! I can’t think of our community without the Haven.”
And we can’t think of the Upper Valley without Dorothy and Jack Byrne.