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Meet UMES' year-round Santa

  • Donald Ballard & his brothers are 2019 Jefferson Award nominees

    Tuesday, February 12, 2019
    Donald R. Ballard

    UMES master electrician Donald Ballard and his brothers Bobby and Timmy are hard-working, unassuming siblings who in their respective day jobs keep the Lower Shore's lights on and roads safe. 

    In their spare time, the “Ballard Boyz,” as they're known in Somerset County, are altruistic superheroes raising money - and spirits - for a broad spectrum of grassroots causes. 

    Their unselfishness runs from hosting holiday meals for the local homeless shelter and giving kids school supplies to supporting organizations that rely on donations. Those activities recently garnered them recognition as winners of a Jefferson Award, a program that draws public attention to good deeds and community service performed by everyday people. 

    In January, the Ballards gathered one afternoon at the hardware store on Princess Anne's Somerset Avenue, where ostensibly they were going to present a check to proprietor Sharon Harris, a cancer survivor and fund-raising advocate for the American Cancer Society. 

    A WBOC TV crew was lying in wait to record the surprise announcement that the brothers were 2019 Jefferson Award honorees. 

     “There isn't a group that deserves it more,” Harris told WBOC, which sponsors the local Jefferson awards. “They give and give and give.” 

    Donald and his brothers grew up in a close-knit family that emphasized the value of helping others less fortunate, and doing the right thing. 

    As teens, the brothers' collective interest in automobiles took root, inspired by a mechanic father who “loved cars.”

    Donald Ballard plays Santa's elf at a 2018 community holiday party

    They eventually became adept at building high-performance engines and drag racing, a mutual interest that today manifests itself in the Ballard Boyz, a group of 22 cousins, extended family members and friends who collectively parlay an interest in the car culture into philanthropic projects. 

    As Donald Ballard explained to WBOC; “We are not just a group of guys that race. We like to give back to the community.” 

    The brothers might be best known as the muscle behind a popular car show at Washington High School they started in 2012. The 2018 edition attracted 110 cars and “has taken on a life of its own.” 

    The key to making it a fund-raising success, Donald Ballard said, is having a wide selection of refreshments. 

    Which explains another one of their talents; staging an annual fish fry (using a closely held family recipe) and featuring fresh greens, potato salad and baked beans. It, too, has become a popular social and fund-raising event the brothers use to support their favorite causes. 

    This past December, the Ballards sponsored a dinner for the second year in a row at the Garland Hayward Youth Center that drew a capacity crowd. Now, they're giving serious thought to finding a bigger venue. 

    Donald Ballard said the brothers have nurtured a network of local businesses that support their endeavors and “nobody left the (Hayward Center) without something” for the holiday. 

    A signature Ballard brothers' move is giving away bicycles. They give away 10 at their summer car show and this past Christmas, another 15-to-20 were handed out. 

    “We appreciated (the Jefferson Award),” Donald said. “We weren't doing it for the spotlight.”