Archive for Monday, January 10, 2011


Slice of Life: Ballard leader began career in politics

January 10, 2011


Dianne Ensminger, CEO of Ballard Community Center Inc. since 1999, was appointed to political office at 21, re-elected after a successful campaign, but knew politics wasn’t for her.

Born in Fairfax, Mo., Ensminger worked at Nodaway County Appraiser’s Office while earning a finance degree at Northwestern Missouri State University.

“When the county appraiser left the position early, Governor Ashcroft appointed me,” she says.

“I ran my own re-election campaign and served the county for seven years but knew my heart wasn’t really in appraising or in holding political office. I felt more drawn to the nonprofit world.”

Ensminger became executive director of Community Services Inc. in Maryville, Mo., then served as West Central Missouri Youth Services director for seven years.

“I found exactly what I was looking for,” she says. “My passion is for nonprofits, especially those involving children and youth.”

Ensminger drove to Lawrence in 1999 to be interviewed by the Ballard board.

“They wanted someone with a heavy background in early education and administration,” she says. “I’d spent 10 years of my career doing just that, serving agencies that covered multiple counties, but I left the interview telling myself having a single Lawrence site without federal funding sources wasn’t my cup of tea.”

Despite the drawbacks, Ensminger found herself working out strategies on how to help Ballard on the six-hour drive back to Hannibal, Mo.

“When the board offered me the job, I turned it down three times before I realized that for some reason I was really drawn and destined to come here,” she says. “I feel it’s my destiny to help carry out Ballard’s mission to provide high-quality, affordable early education programs and essential basic life needs and assistance for needy families and individuals.”

Under Ensminger’s 12-year watch, Lawrence Emergency Services Council, Penn House and Brookcreek Learning Center have been incorporated into the Ballard Center Inc., and plans are under way to build and open the Petey Cerf Early Education Center for Children and Families.

Despite the high-energy involved in doing her job, running with her dog and supporting her elderly mother, Ensminger found time to complete the studies interrupted by her early political appointment. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nonprofit leadership and administration and an MBA from Rockhurst University, Kansas City, Mo., in 2006.

“It’s important for me to understand the business and financial world, in order to make the best use of all our resources to meet the needs,” she says.

“There’s nothing worse than telling someone we can’t help them. We try everything we can to ensure we find ways to help and support families in need.”

— Eileen Roddy can be reached at


rubberband 7 years, 2 months ago

I would find this feel-good article much more believable if I had ever seen some equity among the Ballard child care facilities. The neglect of the (now closed) Lawrence High School site was inexcusable. A good portion of the equipment/toys at the facility were purchased and donated by their own low-income employees who apparently care far more about their kids than Ms. Ensminger does. If she is so passionate about providing high quality programs, perhaps she should consider visiting the facilities she runs every now and again and see what she is really providing.

BallardCommunityServices 7 years, 2 months ago

As an organization, we are very privileged to have Dianne as our CEO these past 12 years. She has accomplished great things within our organization and has not only given back to the community, but helped others to give back as well. We appreciate her efforts and look to continue moving forward under her leadership.

Gene Ramp 7 years, 2 months ago

Not sure what that's all about, but as a long time professional in this field I can say unequivocally that the Ballard Centers in general and Ms. Ensminger in particular are extremely well respected nationally.

carteresque 7 years, 2 months ago

Sounds like a disgruntled, perhaps former employee who really doesn't have any idea of the facts. For instance, Ballard did not own the facility, the School District owns it and the equipment and supplies were all furnished through grant monies that Ballard procurred through multiple grants. It would be helpful if you would check out your facts prior to making inaccurate comments. Oh and by the way, have you donated to Ballard lately? Since it is a donor driven organization providing multiple services to the families enrolled it might be more helpful to assist instead of criticizing.

rubberband 7 years, 2 months ago

Please provide a source to your facts. And please tell me if you have ever observed any or all of the day care facilities. I am not a disgruntled former employee, and a percentage of my paycheck goes to the United Way, of which Ballard is a recipient. Making direct donations to the day care facilities is not as simple as you might think. It is not ridiculous to expect equipment and supplies from grant monies to be distributed equitably among the facilities. And regardless of who owned the building, the day care provider is responsible for making sure the facility is maintained and meets health department codes. There is apparently plenty you do not know as well, so please don't make assumptions about my lack of charity or knowledge.

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