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Dylan’s Drivers first executive director is a familiar, caring face.
Paul Allen, the recently retired principal of North Lamar High School, was hired from a pool of 20 applicants to head the non-profit.
“Ever since I retired, I always hoped that whatever I ended up doing, it would be in a situation where I was helping kids and helping people,” Allen said. “This opportunity came up. I’m very excited about it.”
Allen will be in charge of day to day operations, as well as helping to plan, promote, and further what Dylan’s Drivers mission in the community. The executive director will also provide a public face for Dylan’s Drivers, someone people can ask questions of or make suggestions to, founder Vicki Ballard said.
“We’re thankful. We think it’s a good fit for both parties,” she said. “He has a connection with kids and young people, and he’s still young enough to have energy and ideas. He’s a perfect fit.”
Vicki and her husband Ronnie Ballard started Dylan’s Drivers after losing their son, Dylan Ballard, in an alcohol-related accident in July of 2011. The program offers free, non-judgmental and confidential rides home for anyone who is unable to drive because they have been drinking and lack access to a sober driver. If you need them, call 903-905-4959.
About 1,400 people have made that call since its inception last year. The program’s growth has meant more of a demand on the Ballards, who also operate Ballard Insurance. It became apparent they needed someone to help with the nonprofit.
“We have clients that trust us. We work very hard to make sure our clients’ needs are met,” Vicki Ballard said. “Dylan’s Drivers is so important for us, we try to make sure the volunteers have everything they need. We try to make sure the patrons’ needs are being met.”
They’ve also found a need for some personal distance from the program.
“I hope it continues to grow,” Vicki Ballard said. “And to be honest, as wonderful as that program is, I think it has delayed some of mine and Ronnie’s grief.”
Board member Mary Clark, who served as chair for the personnel committee, said Allen was the right person to help convince teenagers and young adults to use Dylan’s Drivers.
“He has excelled in every position he has held, bringing energy and new ideas to each,” she said. “His particular love is with young adults and he gained the confidence of many at North Lamar.”
Allen retired in December after 30 years in education. His retirement obviously did not last long.
“It’s an opportunity I felt was right for me and supported by my family,” he said. “I will still be able to do a lot of the things I’m wanting to do. This job is flexible enough that I’m still going to get to be involved in Zone 32.”
Zone 32 is one of those “new ideas” he brought to North Lamar High School. He launched the program at a Drug Free Week assembly in late October 2011 during a frank address to the school and community about problems the high school faces with drugs and other issues. The idea for Zone 32 cemented after Allen read Beyond Belief by Josh Hamilton, No. 32 for the Texas Rangers.
“This is definitely another way to help our kids and be involved in helping our community,” he said. “I look to be starting very quickly.”