Warren Allen's generosity helped shape community

By Lynn R. Parks

Arlene Littleton, director of Sussex County Senior Services (CHEER), doesn't mince words when she's asked what the CHEER center in Georgetown would look like if Seaford native sons Charles and Warren Allen hadn't donated $1 million toward its construction. "We wouldn't have a building," she said. "It's that simple."

The Allen donation allowed CHEER to meet the match required for a construction loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The 24,000-square-foot building was completed in 2000 and is named the Warren L. and Charles C. Jr. CHEER Community Center, in honor of the brothers' donation.

Charles Allen died in January 2003 at the age of 84. Warren, who survived his elder brother by nearly seven years, died Sunday, Nov. 14, at the age of 91.

"He was a very humble, very sweet man," said Christy Pennington, a consultant with Horizon Philanthropic in Lewes, who is leading the effort to raise money to renovate the former Seaford Golf and Country Club building into the Nanticoke Senior Center. "It was an honor to know him."

The senior center renovation effort is another one of the many causes in the area that have benefited from Allen's generosity. In December, he donated $30,000 to the center; that money largely paid for renovation of the former country club kitchen.

Pennington said that work on the kitchen is complete and she expects for the senior center to be able to start using it to prepare meals before the end of the year, as soon as required inspections are completed. Since leaving their home in the Western Sussex Boys and Girls Club in March, senior center staff have been fixing lunch in the kitchen at the Blades Fire Hall and transporting the food to the center's temporary quarters on U.S. 13 for packaging and distribution.

Pennington said that without Allen's gift, the kitchen may have had to wait until the rest of the building is renovated, something that she doesn't expect to be completed until July of next year. "With his gift, we were able to get it done six months earlier," something that means a lot to staff members struggling between two kitchens, she said.

Allen was born in 1919, one of three sons of Clarence and Nellie Allen, founders of what is now Allen's Hatchery, headquartered in Seaford. He graduated from Seaford High School in 1937  his record for earning the most athletic letters there stood for 50 years  and went to Princeton University, where he graduated in 1942 with a bachelor's degree in political science.

The day following graduation, he was married. And the day after that, he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army and sent off to train to be an Army Ranger.

He served during World War II in Europe, including at the Battle of the Bulge, and advanced to the rank of major before being discharged in 1945 and returning to his hometown.

In the late 1940s, Warren, Charles and their brother, John, took over the reins of the family business from their parents. Charles took over the farming side of things and Warren and John managed the hatchery. Warren was involved in the business, which is still family-owned, until the day he died.

Littleton with Sussex County Senior Services said that people like Warren Allen make a positive difference in their communities. "We wouldn't be able to do what we do without people who are willing to step up the way he did," she added. "Our funding comes from the state and federal governments and it doesn't go very far. Private donations are essential."

John Painter, director of the Seaford Library and Cultural Center, which also benefited from a donation from Allen, agrees. "If not for the type of contribution that Mr. Allen made, people in our community wouldn't have access to the kinds of things they have access to," he said.

"Soroptimist International of Seaford has indeed lost a good friend with the passing of Warren Allen," said Nancy Hickman, president of the service club. The club's Nellie G. Allen Curiosity Shop, the club's sole source of funds, is named for Allen's mother, a charter member of the club and a driving force behind the creation of the Curiosity Shop nearly 50 years ago. Both Charles and Warren Allen were large contributors to the 2002 renovation project that turned a former bar into the club's new thrift shop.

"Warren was very proud of the Curiosity Shop and never missed an opportunity to inquire about its progress," Hickman said. "As a partner with SI of Seaford, he supported the shop that enables us to make a difference in the community."

Pennington said that on Nov. 4, just 10 days before his death, Allen and his wife, Paula, toured the former country club building, now under renovation. He got to see the recently-completed kitchen that his donation paid for.

"We talked about our plans for the building and he was so excited," Pennington said. As a founding member of the Seaford Golf and Country Club, he could tell many stories about the club and the people who went there, she added.

"He was so energetic and so youthful," she said. "He had no problems going up and down the steps. And he seemed to really like our plans. I'm sure that he would have been there for our grand opening.

"He really has been amazing to us," she added. "He was a real advocate for the senior center. The day that we visited, the kitchen was just finished and it looked beautiful. I'm so glad that he was able to see it before he passed on."

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