In 2016, while serving as the president of the Home Builders Association, Brian Allen became involved with St. Jude Research Hospital, as their premier contractor working exclusively on The Dream Home Giveaway campaign in Louisiana.
Through volunteering his time and resources, Allen has personally raised over $3.7 million for the lifesaving research at St. Jude Research Hospital. By gathering subcontractors and vendors from around the area to donate their time and materials, Allen was able to build one of St. Jude’s dream houses at zero cost. This year marks the third year Allen’s company, BRACO Construction, built a dream home entirely through donations.
Building and giving back to his community comes naturally for Allen, who has been in the business for more than 35 years.
“I built from day one; my father was a builder,” says Allen. “I feel like I’m a third generation builder—when my older brother took over my father’s business, I worked for him for 18 years before getting out on my own.”
After working under his brother for nearly 20 years, Allen started BRACO (Brian Reese Allen Company Inc.). It’s a family business. Allen’s wife does the majority of the office work and his other two employees, Kirk Williams and Ray Smith, have been with BRACO since the very beginning.
When asked what advice he would give to young construction professionals who are thinking about starting their own construction firm, Allen said, “Honesty and integrity are key. I’ve had the same subs and employees for years; knowing that I can honestly trust them and rely on them has made all of the difference.”
This loyalty really came into play when Allen started getting involved with The St. Jude Monroe Dream House project. The first year Allen worked with St. Jude, he was able to build a dream home for a record low.
“We only spent about 40 percent of the home’s value,” says Allen. “After that, I set out a goal to one day to build a home for zero cost.”
Across the country, there are about 33 homes built a year for the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway. St. Jude might have had one or two dream homes that got built for zero cost if any. Now having completed his ninth home, Allen says that his long lasting connections with his vendors and subcontractors are what allowed for him to deliver a home to St. Jude at zero cost.
Allen’s advice to construction professionals doesn’t stop there, though. Allen believes that in order to be successful in the construction industry, “You have to be in it for the right reasons. The most successful people in the business are the people that have a true passion for the job.”
To Allen, the impact the dream houses have on the patients of St. Jude is why he continues to work with the charity. One of Allen’s favorite press events to raise awareness for the giveaway is the annual “floor signing.” After the home is completed, St. Jude and BRACO invites everyone who had a part in building the home to sign the floor of the garage—even the patients and their families.
“When the person who wins the dream home moves in, we always offer to come back and cover the floor up, but I’ve never had to do that. Each winner loves that a part of their own community has a place within their home.”
When asked what being nominated as a Hard Hat Hero meant to him, Allen points to everyone who helped him. He says that while it is an honor, he never would have been able to accomplish all that he has done without the help of the people around him.
“I’m flattered that I was submitted as a Hard Hat Hero, but it’s really my subs and vendors who have stuck with me all this time that should receive this recognition.”
Allen was recently recognized as St. Jude’s Builder of the Year. The shear drive he demonstrates make a true difference in his community.
"Brian continues to demonstrate a lion’s heart, he exemplifies the kind of drive and determination that we all strive to have."
"Brian continues to demonstrate a lion’s heart, he exemplifies the kind of drive and determination that we all strive to have,” says Russ Laney of St. Jude.
Some heroes sink a winning shot at the buzzer or throw the touchdown pass to win the game with time running out. Others put their lives on the line in battle, fight fires or enforce the law. Other types of heroes are less prominent, but just as important. Whoever your hero, and whatever "hero" means to you, we want to hear about it.
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