The longtime chief executive officer of Lawrence-based Ballard Community Services is resigning to focus more on her treatment to recover from breast cancer.
Dianne Ensminger, who has served as president and CEO of the social services agency for nearly the past 15 years, will leave the job on Nov. 1, she said Thursday.
"I just love this place," said Ensminger, who was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer in June. "It needs somebody who doesn't have to deal with doctor's visits, treatments and who can be here 100 percent of the time."
Brad Finkeldei, president of Ballard's board of directors, said a search for a new director will begin after the first of the year. In the interim, Ballard's existing staff will take on additional duties.
"Dianne has given so much of herself to the organization over the last 15 years," Finkeldei said. "As with any executive director of a nonprofit, it is not an 8-to-5 job. She poured her heart into evenings and weekends and worked tirelessly. We certainly appreciate she needs to take care of herself."
During Ensminger's tenure, Ballard became one of the broader social service agencies in the city. The agency provides early childhood education programs for low-income families and assistance with rent, utilities, prescriptions, food and clothing. Between 2003 to 2007, Ballard merged with three other not-for-profit agencies: the Emergency Services Council, Penn House and the Brookcreek Learning Center.
Ensminger said the organization's work with children had been some of the most rewarding of her career.
"When word of this started to get around, some of the first children I had in the Ballard program called me," Ensminger said. "They're seniors in high school now. They said how much they loved their time at Ballard, and that means a lot."
Ensminger said she's also proud that Ballard is a true grassroots organization that doesn't accept federal or state funding. But she said the organization has suffered a decline in financial resources in recent years.
"I'm excited that the next person coming in will have a new set of eyes and new vision," Ensminger said. "They'll be able to do some amazing things because the staff we have is incredible."
Ensminger also owns Allie's Village, a memory care facility in West Lawrence. She said she has a staff that runs day-to-day operations at that facility, and those operations would continue.
Ensminger, 53, said she's been overwhelmed with support from community members. She said she's receiving treatment at the KU Cancer Center, and has responded well to treatment thus far.
"My prognosis is absolutely wonderful," Ensminger said. "I'm just starting on a different part of the journey now."