By Jamie Salen
The Pineapple Staff Writer
“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”
– Franklin D. Roosevelt
A 12 year-old child and his two siblings witness the tragic murder of their mother at their father’s hand. The 12-year-old was sent to live with his 82-year-old grandfather. Three generations apart—with no dialogue in the house, the boy’s vocabulary was punctuated with swear words, he had no respect for women and he hated life.
“Allen does it all without a salary, and for many of these kids, ‘Mr. C. Ron’ is the closest symbol of a dad they have.”
– Bobby Cannata
That was until his aunt introduced him to C. Ron Allen during a street parade, where KOP, now called the Knights of Pythagoras Mentoring Network (KOPMN), lead the procession. “I met with him, shook his hand, and said, ‘One day you are going to be leading this parade,’” Allen recalled. “He smiled, he liked that and he joined the group.” A few years later, the boy became the president of the mentoring program.
Over the past 25 years, C.Ron Allen has been the lifeline for more than 600 children in and around the Delray Beach community, many of who have witnessed life’s hardships and tragedies at too early an age. The organization has impacted several thousands more indirectly. Few in South Florida are unfamiliar with Allen and his Knights.
A proud product of the Boston Public School System, Allen earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Massachusetts and joined the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel news as a writer in 1987. It wasn’t long before Allen began giving back the South Florida community as a mentor and reading tutor for numerous populations in need.
Many think they know his story: a veteran journalist, who started the Knights of Pythagoras nearly 25 years ago to coax wayward youth off the streets and away from negative enticements in southern Palm Beach County. What they don’t know is how hard Allen truly works, how much of his programs’ funding comes straight from his pocket and how much of his time is dedicated to doing all he can to educate and enlighten our community.
For Allen, who is also editor of the Delray
Beach Tribune, it is a worthwhile struggle he will never regret. While he has accomplished a great deal in the past 25 years, he has also watched as the beachside community of Delray Beach blossomed around him to become a first rate tourist destination. Allen admits it is not always easy for him to watch a portion of the community thrive and prosper while an indigent minority population scratches to survive just blocks away.
He works with the poorest of the poor, the latchkey and the tossed aside, with many of his kids (7-17) coming from desperate Haitian immigrant homes or African–American single-parent households in Delray Beach and the surrounding cities.
Everything in his life revolves around the Knights and their desperate need for the funding to expand programs, operate transportation and purchase or rent a home office. Today, KOPMN operates from whatever makeshift headquarters Allen is able to arrange.
“Allen is able to run programs with a fraction of the funds most similar non-profits run on,” claimed Bobby Cannata, Chairman of the Board of Directors for KOP. “He does it all without a salary, and for many of these kids, ‘Mr. C. Ron’ is the closest symbol of a dad they have,” Cannata added.
A major part of what Allen does involves programming at local schools. His summer and after school programs address learning basics. He enlists speakers from local law enforcement and other agencies and runs presentations and workshops. The kids still talk about dissecting a cow’s eye or riding and grooming horses on a nearby ranch. “A huge part of it revolves around providing experiences for these kids outside of their normal realm. What most of us consider normal activities for families and kids, to this population of children, it simply isn’t,” explained Allen.
Allen has been recognized locally and nationally for his efforts and while he is appreciative of the recognition, for him he would rather see his organization earn a grant for funding. On any given day, he can be seen leaving judges’ chambers, after negotiating remediation programs and activities instead of lockup for a juvenile. Then, it’s to meetings with teachers and guidance counselors to make sure students are on track to graduate or to address disciplinary concerns. A call from a parent who needs help navigating the school system can keep him on the phone, while those who’ve moved on to college, tug on him for transportation, recommendations and mentorship. By 2pm everyday Allen can be seen shuttling the youngest members of his organization to the library for tutoring and homework assistance.
Allen is someone who truly believes in the charity work he does. He lives it and breathes it in a way that is very rare. To so many in our community, C. Ron Allen is a hero and every life he touches brings another bright light to our community that would not shine without him.
If you are interested in donating funds, food, services or time to the Knights of Pythagoras Mentoring Network, please visit www.kopmn.org