Eager to Serve

From a sweet and busy home in the
center of Burleson shines a soft ray of
hope for families whose lives are hurt by
cancer. Her name is Donyelle’ Allen, and
this year she heads up Burleson’s Relay
For Life team effort. Prepared in advance
for such a time as this, Donyelle’ said, “Yes!” to the American Cancer Society
(ACS) Burleson Relay For Life 2010 Chairmanship
during prayer time at Covenant Church, where she and
her husband, Joe, have worshiped since 2006.
“I was at church on my knees praying. We had kept hearing,
‘Pray for this person who has cancer’; and, ‘Pray for this person
who has cancer — it’s terminal.’” That day, Donyelle’ felt like it
was definitely time to do something. “So I did,” she said.
Since the age of 17, when Donyelle’ started saving to buy
her own car through work as a hostess at an Azle restaurant,
and later as a clerk at a dry cleaners, she has known there is
something she can do to change her circumstances — and
those of others. “I’ve always been a little independent,” she
said, “and really eager to serve. I have a knack for helping
people and being social. I don’t know if that’s a knack or just
something the Lord put on my heart,” Donyelle’ said.
“I remember being that way as a child. My parents divorced
when I was 7,” Donyelle’ recalled. “At that time, my mother had
to go to work, and she was a waitress. We lived in an apartment
complex in Azle; there was a section of that complex where a
lot of older people lived. Even when I was in fourth or fifth
grade, I would go help these people, make their beds or do their
laundry, and they would give me a quarter for my help. I made a
lot of great friendships through that. Now that I think about it,
I realize I’ve always just wanted to do whatever I can to
help anybody.”
Leadership is all about serving, and Donyelle’ practiced her
natural instinct during high school in Azle, when she actively
participated in Future Homemakers of America and Future
Farmers of America. She won a scholarship from The State
Fair of Texas in Dallas, and went to Tarleton State University
for two years before changing to Weatherford College. “I
focused on agriculture and had to take remedial math. That’s
pretty ironic,” grinned Donyelle’, who now heads the Cash
Management department at Omni American Bank in Fort Worth.
“The truth is, you just need a ten-key to figure your numbers.
“My focus in life is a balance between my church family,
Christ, my family, my husband, my career and my social
activities,” said Donyelle’, who coordinates Women of Grace
Ministries at Covenant Church, and serves as treasurer of
Hughes Middle School PTO. “I have seven years total with
the PTO, which has made me a lot of great friends,” she said.
“Starting in PTO at Mound Elementary School is how I got
started in Relay For Life. I agreed to
train with another woman. She ended up
stepping down for personal reasons, and
I took on that logistics role full force. I
really had a burden for Relay For Life,
because it’s such a wonderful event that
gives people such hope.”
Relay For Life raises money for
cancer research, education, advocacy
and patient services. “There are several
programs where the Johnson County
money goes back into Johnson County.
For instance, Look Good … Feel Better
gives patients who so choose $300 worth
of makeup, plus wigs, and provides a
licensed cosmetologist to teach them
how to apply their makeup and reapply
their eyebrows. The purpose is to help
their self-esteem,” Donyelle’ said.
“The program Road to Recovery is for
cancer patients who cannot get to their
cancer treatments. ACS helps round
up volunteers to take them to their
treatment and sit with them while they
get their treatment.
“ACS also offers Camp for Kids,
a summer camp providing a whole
week-long vacation that kids with
cancer might not be able to go to
normally, and ACS makes sure there is
someone there to be with them while
they have treatments,” said Donyelle’,
who works with her co-chairwoman,
Dianne Arcement, and an entire team of
volunteers who support the fundraising
efforts for ACS. Donyelle’ also has her
own team, Building Bridges, which she
started with co-partner Audra Hodgkins
in memory of her uncle, Farley Bridges,
who died at 48 of melanoma. Donyelle’s
13-year-old daughter, Trystan, and Bailey
Hodgkins are two of the many Burleson
children who have formed their own
teams to help ACS’ cause. Trystan’s
team, Kids For a Cure, raised around
$1,000 for the event last year.
Donyelle’ counts a lot on her family.
Her in-laws, Anne and Bruce Kirby, help
Donyelle’ with Trystan and her brother,
6-year-old Dayton. Most especially,
Donyelle’ leans on her husband, Joe,
who is a journeyman lineman and
general foreman for the light rail being
built in Dallas. “Joe has been helpful in
getting the local Union IBEW 220 to
give a sizeable donation. He told their
executive board how we got involved,”
Donyelle’ said. “It’s sad, because it was
my uncle, Farley. One of the men on the
board with Joe knew my uncle, from
his days in transportation at Lockheed
Martin. The connection helped Joe
get the donation. He has asked other
companies for donations. He tries not to
complain when I have multiple meetings
per month. The best thing he could do is
be supportive.”
Perhaps Joe’s willingness stems from
watching his wife handle her own cancer
scare at the age of 24. “It was cervical,”
Donyelle’ said, “and we had to have a
biopsy. The results were negative. We
had to have a minor procedure, and I
was fine after that.” The story is a little
more complicated than that, but the
underlying message Donyelle’ and her
family received from their experience
is that preventative care is a blessing.
Hence, her passion to support the ACS’
healthy lifestyle campaign: Stay Well.
Get Well. Find Cures. Fight Back.
Donyelle’ and the Burleson Relay For
Life team have set a goal of raising at
least $240,000 as they fight against the
onslaught of cancer on society.
Burleson’s 80 Relay For Life teams
host bake sales and garage sales and
many other creative forms of fundraising
prior to the big overnight walk. “We get
tremendous support from Burleson
Independent School District, especially
the maintenance department and Eddie
Rich,” Donyelle’ said. “My job would
be a lot harder without Eddie. He’s also
a cancer survivor, and I know that he’s
on our side, so that makes my job much
easier.” All the teams Donyelle’ leads
will meet after the April 16 walk, at the
luminaria service to honor those they
have lost to cancer and the survivors —
to remember the purpose of what they
are all doing through Relay For Life:
helping others.

Written by Melissa Rawlins