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Cara Dingus Brook is Chief Executive Officer and President at The Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, a regional foundation with a mission to create opportunities in Appalachian Ohio by supporting and inspiring philanthropy.
With Cara’s leadership, the Foundation has grown its reach, impact and assets significantly, developed the nation’s first nonprofit “IPO” and facilitated numerous public-private partnerships creating opportunities in the areas of education, economic development, environmental stewardship and health care.
During Cara’s tenure, the Foundation incubated ten local community foundations, the African American Community Foundation and the Appalachian Partnership, Inc., a private sector economic development organization and Community Development Finance Institution that excels at attracting new levels of investment into the region.
Cara has a strong desire to push the boundaries of philanthropy to be more transformative, inclusive, entrepreneurial and effective. She loves speaking and writing about philanthropy, Appalachia and her vision and ideas for closing gaps in rural philanthropy.
Cara received a BA in English degree from Ohio University’s Honors Tutorial College, a MPA degree from the Ohio University’s Voinovich School for Leadership and Public Service, a certificate in Creative Writing and studied at the Center for Creative Leadership. She is a graduate of the Jo Ann Davidson Leadership Institute and The Ohio State University’s Community Scientist Academy.
In 2018, Cara became a presidential appointee to the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Community Development Advisory Board, a citizen leadership group to the Treasury’s Community Development Finance Institution (CDFI) programs. In 2020, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine appointed Cara to serve as a commissioner for the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority (OAQDA), which serves to provide for the conservation of air as a natural resource by financing air quality facilities for small and large businesses, utilities, government, and universities.
Cara also serves on Ohio University’s Public Affairs Committee and the advisory boards of The Voinovich School for Leadership and Public Service, the newly formed Appalachian Children’s Coalition and the Patient Advisory Committee of the Stefanie Spielman Comprehensive Breast Center at The Ohio State University’s James Cancer Center. She is a past board member of Philanthropy Ohio.
She has received numerous awards including the 2019 Visionary Leadership Award from the Appalachian Partnership, Inc. (API), for her instrumental role in helping to found API. A two-time cancer survivor, Cara served as the 2018 Honorary Co-Chair of The Komen Foundation’s Southeast Ohio Race for the Cure. She is the recipient of the “Emerging Philanthropist of the Year” award from Philanthropy Ohio, the “Spirit Award” from Ohio University’s College of Arts and Sciences and the “Appalachian New Economy Partnership Award” from The Voinovich School for Leadership and Public Affairs.
Prior to joining the Foundation as CEO fifteen years ago, Cara served as a District Representative for U.S. Senator George V. Voinovich in southeast Ohio, where she was especially focused on issues impacting Appalachia. Prior to this appointment, Cara was an intern and program assistant with the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio during the Foundation’s formative years.
Cara grew up in southern Ohio and now resides in the Hocking Hills. She and her husband, Dominick H. F. Brook, are the proud parents of Hugh Oliver and Lucia “Lucie” Ann.