LIVINGSTON, NJ — After 21 years as co-chair of the ever-growing Livingston Committee for Diversity and Inclusion (LCDI), Keith Hines, a beloved Livingston resident and longtime community volunteer, is officially retiring from his position to serve as a deacon at the First Baptist Church in Millburn.
Hines, who celebrated his 65th birthday over the weekend, has volunteered for a multitude of local organizations since joining the Livingston community in 1972. Recently, however, Hines’ friend, Mark Ferrante, invited Hines to the First Baptist Church to hear him preach, and Hines felt right at home.
“God told me that the church was the place for me; it was like a calling from the Bible,” said Hines, whose responsibilities as second in command at the church include reading the Bible at church services, collecting donations, preaching, visiting the sick and running Bible classes.
As he begins this new adventure, Hines said he is thrilled to serve as a deacon for a congregation he loves and a pastor he looks up to, whose name, coincidentally, is Reverend Richard Hines. And although he is leaving his former position in Livingston, those who know Hines know that he will still remain active in the community.
Mayor Al Anthony, who has known Hines for many years and “thinks the world of him," said he has always been impressed by Hines' leadership of the LCDI.
“He’s spearheaded our diversity committee from the beginning and made it what it is today,” said Anthony. “Our events now grab statewide attention due to Keith’s energy and hard work…All that he has touched on the committee has been a success in demonstrating out town’s welcoming message of inclusion, diversity and togetherness.”
Livingston Board of Education Vice President Ronnie Konner, who has worked with Hines on several LCDI events, added that Hines is “always smiling, positive, hard-working and dedicated to creating a climate of respect and cooperation among people of every background.”
Calling him one of Livingston’s “unsung heroes,” Konner said that Hines facilitates everyone “working together to foster a sense of service within our community.” She specifically cited Hines’ work on the LCDI’s signature Martin King, Jr. Day of Service and Reflection as one example of how he has impacted many Livingston children and families.
Other Livingston residents know Hines through his 40-year career at Carnevale’s Gulf gas station on South Livingston Avenue, where many found Hines to be a memorable employee. In fact, Hines' wife, Carol, noted that her husband has been known to pay for a customer's gasoline if he or she was unable to afford it.
“[Hines] is a tremendous and good-hearted person who is very honest, willing to help anybody at any time, always going out of his way to help people and a great employee,” said owner Glenn Carnevale, adding that Hines’ motto is, “Never turn your back on anyone who needs help.”
Even as a deacon at the church, Hines has proved that community service is still a priority.
Recalling a flood that occurred at the church soon after Hines joined the congregation, Pastor Richard Hines noted that Keith, his wife, Carol, and their friend, Laurie, “spent the month of January repairing and replacing the pipes.”
“This service was especially critical, as no plumbers were available because hundreds of people in our area were experiencing frozen pipes,” the pastor said. “The value of this service could not be overstated.”
He also remembered Keith helping an unemployed Iran war veteran whose car wasn’t working.
“Keith and his friends used our garage and completely repaired this young man's car,” he said. “Keith's expertise in electronics, mechanics, carpentering, masonry and computers has been a great asset to our church family. His services have been greatly appreciated.”
Ferrante, who grew up with Keith in Union and has known him for half a century, spoke of Keith’s “warm and approachable persona.” He marvels at Keith’s strong inspiration even when he isn’t feeling well.
“I admire and look up to him,” said Ferrante. “Keith is always helping people and willing to do whatever he can for anyone he encounters. Everyone who knows him is impressed with his generosity of his time and talents. He’s a beacon of kindness in Livingston.”
LCDI co-chair Billy Fine said he has known Keith since he was born because Keith was his family’s mechanic. When Fine was in sixth grade, Keith invited him to distribute water at an LCDI function and proclaimed him a member of LCDI shortly thereafter. Two years later, Keith appointed Fine as his co-chair.
Fine credits Keith for shaping his career by introducing him to and teaching him about working in the public-service sector. Stating that Keith has been one of his father figures for many years, Fine said Keith is more like a family member than a friend to him.
During Keith’s recent installation as deacon, Fine presented citations from the Office of New Jersey Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill and Congressman Tom Malinowski to thank Keith for his years of community service.
“Keith is a pillar of Livingston,” said Fine. “I would like to offer my congratulations on his upcoming retirement and thank him for his years of service. I especially wish to express my heartfelt gratitude for him both personally and professionally as one of the most impactful people in my life."
Upon his retirement from the LCDI, various community members had plenty to say about Keith and his service to the township.
Some of those comments can be seen below.
Deputy Mayor Rudy Fernandez:
“In a town with so many committed volunteers, Keith stands out as one of our best. He’s been an active member of the Livingston Committee for Diversity and Inclusion(LCDI) for many years, but his contributions to the town go beyond that. He is someone who has always gone out of his way to help others.”
Councilman Ed Meinhardt:
“As Liaison to the Diversity and Inclusion Committee for the past 4 years, I have had the honor and pleasure of working closely with Keith. His passion and dedication to this committee is admired and respected by all. His tireless work to make our town and state a better place is cherished by all. We are all better for the having the opportunity to know and work with Keith.”
Councilman Shawn Klein:
“I have known Keith for years, and he is a Livingston institution. He has helped my family with all of our cars since I was a teenager. I remember that he could diagnose almost any problem in 5 seconds.
“Since that time, he has had a foundational role on our Diversity Committee and helped Livingston to work hard on its inclusiveness and civility…The entire council is proud to have Keith as an active participant in our community, and we look forward to working with him for many years to come.”
Councilman Michael Vieira:
“I am honored to have met and become friends with Keith,” said Vieira. “Keith is a person who everyone seems to know in the community. He is also one of our town’s treasured volunteers.”
Livingston Philanthropies Inc. founder Jeff Friedman:
“I know because I've witnessed many of his kind acts during 45 years I've had the pleasure to call him friend. Whether it's rebuilding outdated computers for those who fall on the other side of the digital divide, serving food to profoundly poor, using his limited personal time to repair cars for those who can't afford the fixes, co-chairing Livingston's Committee for Diversity and so much more, Keith is always there for folks who need his help the most.
“That's why Livingston stepped right up for Keith during his recent, formidable challenges. Bravo, Keith, for being a vital part of the very fabric of our special community.”
Officer Kevin Mullaney of Livingston’s Community Policing Unit:
“The Hines Family is a staple in our community. Both Keith and Carol are involved in everything. As a member of the Diversity Committee, I have had the pleasure to work with Keith on various projects. Keith is both caring and altruistic. His hard work makes Livingston a better place to work and to raise a family.
“I also had the honor of serving as one of Keith's instructors here in the police department. Keith is a graduate of the Livingston Police Department's Inaugural Citizen's Police Academy.
“Keith's immersion into the Citizen's Police Academy speaks to his dedication to the community. He wants to learn as much as he can about Livingston and the many services that our community offers so that he can go back out into the town and dedicate himself holistically.
“Keith is a valued member of the Livingston Community. I am proud of his accomplishments and I wish him all the success in the world. I am looking forward to working with him further.
Livingston Township Clerk Glenn Turtletaub:
“What has always impressed me is that no matter any personal troubles, Keith is always upbeat and a pleasure to be around.”
Glenn Pappas, Keith’s friend from one of his favorite haunts—the East Hanover Diner—shared that he calls Keith “The Captain.”
After knowing each other for about 10 years, Pappas expressed that Keith is a “wonderful human being and a great guy.” Stating that Keith is “generous, friendly and honest,” Pappas added that Keith often takes him and his children to Mets games.
Keith’s wife revealed that he has been devoted to helping others for as long as she has known him.
“About 12 years ago, we were at a birthday party for Keith when our friend, Karen Booth-Benedict, told us she had been asked to set up a room at the Plainfield YMCA for her church to serve food to the homeless for Thanksgiving,” she said. “She was in a bind because all of the volunteers had backed out.”
Keith immediately offered to help, and everything fell into place, she said.
“A waitress overhead our conversation and volunteered to cook the turkey for us and the restaurant gave her permission to use their oven,” said Carol, adding that she and Keith have been serving meals there ever since.
She also shared that Keith works with someone to obtain and clean computers that are donated to various shelters or, in many cases, less-fortunate people who need a computer for school or to practice to get jobs.
More From Billy Fine:
“Ask anyone who knows Keith what he is like, and all will tell you how caring, compassionate, and good he is. He has led a lifetime of personal achievement overcoming any odds life threw his way, and he has shaped our town in ways that many people don’t even know of.
“Keith’s example has truly set the standard for leadership and inspiring that trait in others. I for one am a better person for knowing Keith. Thank you for being you, Keith! Onto your next journey, my friend!”