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Foundation for Appalachian Ohio names new president and CEO

Cara Dingus BrookThe Foundation for Appalachian Ohio (FAO) has named Cara Dingus Brook as the new president and CEO of the Nelsonville-based community foundation. In October, Brook will succeed current President and CEO Leslie Lilly, who has held the position since the Foundation’s inception in 1999. Lilly will assume the role of Vice President for Programs at the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties in West Palm Beach, Fla.

“FAO is fortunate to recruit Cara as our CEO to replace Leslie Lilly as she leaves the area to pursue a new challenge with a major community foundation in her home state of Florida,” said Ron Strickmaker, FAO board chair. “Cara’s past experience and working knowledge as a former employee of the Foundation will ensure a seamless transition as FAO continues its mission in the region to provide access to opportunity.”

Brook will be the CEO/president-elect starting in early September, allowing her tenure to begin and overlap with Lilly’s continued service as the CEO/president until she formally resigns September 30. Currently, Brook serves as a district representative for United States Senator George V. Voinovich. As Senator Voinovich’s representative in Southeast Ohio, Brook works closely with elected officials, community leaders and Senator Voinovich’s Washington team to enhance quality of life in a 17-county area of Appalachian Ohio.

Prior to joining Senator Voinovich’s team, Brook led Appalachian Ohio Giving, a multi-state consortium of private, corporate and community foundations and Ohio State University Extension, serving Appalachian Ohio to promote philanthropy as a community and economic development tool. Brook also worked previously with FAO throughout the 29 counties of the region.

A graduate of Ohio University’s Honors Tutorial College, she received a bachelor’s degree in English. Brook also holds a master’s degree in public administration from Ohio University and is a graduate of the Jo Ann Davidson Leadership Institute. In 2003, Brook was appointed by Governor Bob Taft to serve as a commissioner to the Ohio Community Service Council. A native of Lawrence County, she resides in Logan, Ohio.

During Lilly’s tenure, FAO awarded more than $1.3 million in grants to non-profits and schools in Appalachian Ohio and has accumulated more than $4 million in assets under management.

In 2005, under her leadership, the Foundation launched the nationally recognized I’m a Child of Appalachia™ campaign to support increased access to educational opportunity in the region. FAO’s mission is to foster access to opportunity for residents in the 29 counties of Appalachian Ohio through the power of charitable giving.

Before coming to FAO, Lilly served as the executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Foundation for the Mid South, a highly successful three-state community foundation serving Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. In her new position, Lilly will oversee more than $5 million in annual grantmaking at the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties.

“A founding president is expected to move on one day, and transition is a normal event in the life of any organization,” Lilly said. “How deeply grateful I am for the opportunity I had to lead and develop the Foundation these past years. There is no higher satisfaction than the assurance of the leadership and continued growth of the Foundation through the choice of Cara as the new CEO, the tremendous strength of FAO’s board of trustees and staff, and the support of our donors and grantees. While I will suffer the sadness of leaving such a special place and community of friends, I do so knowing the Foundation’s success truly belongs to Appalachian Ohio.”

Read Leslie’s farewell letter to the region.