Cara Dingus BrookPresident & CEO
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.
Cara’s work as a community builder was recently featured by journalist David Brooks in his 2019 book The Second Mountain. 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.
Kelly AyersSenior Director of Finance
Kelly oversees the Finance Department and helps support FAO’s mission and values through collaboration, planning, development, and maintenance of FAO’s financial activities. Kelly received her bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Franklin University, Master’s Degree in Accounting from Keller Graduate School of Management at DeVry University and has her CPA certification. She has more than 16 years of experience in non-profit accounting. Kelly has previously work in audit and assurance services for Rea & Associates, Inc., McClain, Hill, Rugg & Associates, Inc., and as a Fiscal Officer for the Muskingum County Public Library.
Kelly is a lifelong resident of Appalachia Ohio, having lived in both Perry and Muskingum Counties. She currently resides in Zanesville, Ohio with her son Dylan. In her free time, she enjoys crafting, reading, and exploring the outdoors.
Drew BrownDirector of Finance
Drew joined the Foundation in 2020. He is a graduate of Ohio University. Prior to joining FAO, he worked as a credit analyst for Peoples National Bank and as a financial analyst for the Superior Group. Drew lives in Perry County.
Megan CremeansDirector of Public-Private Partnerships
Megan joined the Foundation in 2023 and is a Perry County native with a profound passion for the Appalachian region. Holding a B.S. and B.A. from Miami University, as well as a J.D. and an M.A. from The Ohio State University, her educational journey has provided her with a diverse set of knowledge and skills. Inspired by her roots, Megan is dedicated to uplifting the communities within Appalachian Ohio.
Sonya FerrierOutreach Associate
Sonya joined the Foundation in November 2022. She received a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Geography from Ohio University in 2020. Following graduation, she served as an AmeriCorps member through the COMCorps program for two years, gaining non-profit experience at Community Food Initiatives and Live Healthy Appalachia.
A lifelong resident of Athens County, Sonya is excited to continue working to support Appalachian Ohio.
Delphine GaminVisual Communications Manager
Delphine joined the Foundation in March 2022 and works as FAO’s visual communicator in graphic design for print, web and more.
Delphine received her Bachelor of Science in Visual Communications from Ohio University in 2017. During college, she managed social media, design and marketing for Bagel Street Deli in Athens, Ohio.
After graduating, she briefly worked as a paginator for the Athens Messenger, Jackson Times Journal, and Waverly News Watchmen. From there, Delphine went on to work for Minuteman Press in Athens, Ohio – Where she learned to design and assist hundreds of clients at a time while maintaining print operations and bringing people’s visions and inspirations to life.
She is delighted to be working in a field that she loves where she can use all the skills built up through her previous work and education.
Courtney GiffinStaff Accountant
Courtney previously worked at the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio from 2012 until 2020 before leaving to obtain her degree at the University of Cincinnati in Applied Business in Accounting Technology. While focusing on obtaining her degree she continued to do consulting work for FAO.
In November 2022, Courtney rejoined FAO as a full-time employee to continue making a difference in Appalachian, Ohio. The region means a lot to her, since she was born and raised in Athens County, and she has seen the struggles that most people face in the area. Her position allows her to play a role in helping make a difference.
Elizabeth GroundsAssistant Director of Events
Elizabeth has deep roots in Appalachian Ohio and is honored to serve the rolling region that sprouted her family tree. Since beginning her tenure in 2023, she uses her extensive event experience to further the foundation’s mission, for the benefit of the current and future people of this wonderful area.
Elizabeth studied at Marietta College where she completed degrees in Organizational Communications and Leadership. While employed at Ohio University as an Event Specialist, she continued her post-graduate studies at the Scripps College of Communications. Her event planning and management career has taken her to all coasts and corners of the US, though she is happiest when returning home to the hills and her family.
Rochelle HawkPrograms Administrator
Rochelle joined the Foundation in 2021 and works in Communications and Programs.
Originally from Grove City, a suburb of Columbus, Rochelle is the child of parents raised in Appalachia, making the work of FAO personally meaningful to her.
With an English degree from Ohio Dominican University, Rochelle came to Appalachia Ohio in 1998 when she accepted a job with The Logan Daily News. After serving as a reporter, she later was promoted to become the youngest editor and first female editor of the publication.
Just prior to joining the FAO staff, Rochelle served at the Southeast Ohio Foodbank where her work focused on food insecurity in 10 counties of Appalachia Ohio. She was drawn to her role at the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio because it allows her to utilize her communications, marketing, and grants background to benefit Appalachian Ohio in a broader way, both geographically and philanthropically.
Residing in Logan in Hocking County with her husband, Rochelle currently serves on the Board of Trustees for The Bowen House, the city’s cultural arts center. In her free time, Rochelle enjoys international travel, kayaking, aviation, and learning about other cultures.
Linda KnoppDirector of Communications & Marketing
Linda joined FAO in May 2022 as director of communications and marketing, where she’s responsible for strategically telling the Foundation’s story. She brings 30 years of experience in public relations, integrated marketing communications, publications, branding, and public affairs to her role.
Prior to joining FAO, Linda was director of communications at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, where she oversaw daily operations of the communications office at a three-campus medical school. Prior to joining the Heritage College, she served as chief communications strategist at the National Business Incubation, an international membership organization. She has also worked at the American Council on Education in Washington, D.C., and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Linda has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/publication relations from Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va., and has completed graduate work in public policy studies at Duke University in Durham, N.C.
A West Virginia native, she is a true Child of Appalachia. In fact, after school and work took her away from the region for several years, she returned to Parkersburg, W.Va., where she raised her daughter in the same neighborhood where she herself grew up. In her free time, Linda enjoys traveling, cooking, walking, exploring new neighborhoods, and Duke basketball.
Tracy MannSenior Director of Outreach
Tracy Mann, a FAO staff member from 2009 to 2016, rejoined the Foundation in April 2018. In addition to her experiences with FAO donors, programs and projects, she brings knowledge from her positions held in the nonprofit, grant writing and education fields.
Tracy is from Lawrence County, Ohio where she gained her Bachelor’s Degree at Ohio University. Southern and has lived in Logan since 2001. She is very passionate about making a difference for current and future citizens of the region.
Lesa McDanielGift Planning Associate
Lesa joined the FAO staff as a Gift Planning Associate in March 2016. After a career in career-technical education, she was looking for a way to give back to the region while still making a difference in people’s lives. Her philosophy as a teacher was, “If I make a difference in just one student’s life, I have accomplished my goal as an educator.”
In her role as Gift Planning Associate, Lesa supports the Gift Planning team in their efforts to help citizens throughout the region give to what’s closest to their hearts.
Lesa and her husband are deeply rooted in Athens County. They are the parents of three children and a daughter-in-law, all children of Appalachia. Lesa earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Ohio University, a tradition that continues with her youngest son who will be the sixth Bobcat in the family to complete a degree at Ohio University. All are big Bobcat sports fans, and as often as they can, enjoy simply spending time together. Lesa loves reading, working in the yard, all things sports related, chocolate, and her involvement with her church and church family.
Phyllis joined the Foundation because of our mission and the opportunity to play a small part in making a difference in people’s lives. Since joining the FAO in 2009, her passion for the region continues to grow.
As the Foundation’s Controller, Phyllis manages FAO’s finances, which means she cares for the resources our donors, nonprofits, and communities entrust to the Foundation for the future. With more than 20 years of experience in managing administrative and financial services, Phyllis has CPS and CAP certifications and is past President of the Athens Chapter of the International Association of Administrative Professionals.
Phyllis lives with her husband in Athens. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren and being creative in many ways, especially crafty ones.
Kelly MormanDirector of Programs
Kelly joined the Foundation in June 2015 and currently leads FAO’s grantmaking and strategic programmatic initiatives.
From her childhood in the farmland of north central Ohio and her undergraduate years on the campus of Ohio Northern University, to her time as a high school Spanish teacher in the Arkansas Delta, Kelly has always been passionate about the experiences and needs of rural citizens. Her passion for rural problem solving led her to pursue a Master of Public Affairs from Indiana University. Prior to coming to the Foundation, Kelly supported resource development efforts for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bloomington, Indiana.
A proud Ohio native, Kelly is excited to return home to tell the diverse stories of Appalachian Ohioans. Now residing in Nelsonville, she spends her free time experiencing the beauty of Appalachian Ohio through the lens of her camera, a perch on a kayak, and strolling through distinctive downtowns to find the region’s best hidden gems.
Maureen SharkeyChief of Staff & Associate Secretary of the Board
Not long after retiring from The Ohio State University and moving to Athens, Maureen was introduced to the Foundation through a friend and donor. She was interested in devoting her time to a new and meaningful challenge and found FAO to be a great opportunity to learn more about the region and to be able to give back in a small way.
Maureen received her bachelor’s degree in English from The Ohio State University and spent her career at her alma mater. She initially worked in human resources and then served the university’s Board of Trustees for twenty-five years as the Associate Secretary of the Board.
Maureen joined FAO in 2010 and supports the Foundation’s president & CEO, serves as the liaison to the board of trustees and manages human resources. As she hoped, working with the Foundation has surpassed her expectations and she is encouraged by its progress and potential.
Holly SheltonVice President & Chief Operating Officer
Holly leads the Foundation’s work to support the region’s communities and citizens in meeting their charitable dreams. And this is at the heart of why she joined the Foundation in the first place. An Ohio University bobcat, Holly came on board in December 2007 to support the region in creating permanent resources that would make a lasting difference.
Prior to joining the Foundation, Holly worked for United States Senator George V. Voinovich in his southeast Ohio office and gained a deep knowledge of the communities in our region. This has been a great asset to the Foundation as Holly supports local communities in growing permanent resources, and works with individuals and nonprofits to establish new funds or grow existing funds. Holly especially enjoys when she can work with individuals looking to establish a named fund in honor of a loved one or a nonprofit considering an endowment fund to provide a new source of flexible funding.
Sherri SimonsDirector of Outreach
Sherri joined the Foundation in October 2018 to support FAO’s outreach and fundraising efforts in Perry, Morgan, and Guernsey counties. Sherri is excited to work with and develop existing donors as well as cultivate new relationships.
Raised in Hemlock, a small town in Perry County, Sherri is a lifelong Child of Appalachia and is passionate about the region in which she grew up.
Sherri is married, has four daughters, and resides in Logan. She graduated from Rio Grande College with a Bachelor’s degree in Communications, with emphasis in Public Relations. She has over 10 years of experience in sales and marketing as well as over 20 years teaching experience.
Sherri loves all things outdoors, sports of any kind, and spending time with her family.
Alex SpragensScholarship Coordinator
Alex joined the Foundation in November 2022 as the Scholarship Coordinator. Alex was born and raised in Appalachia. Since graduating from Centre College in 2020, Alex has worked as a Teaching Artist in the Philadelphia Public School System, taught children’s art classes at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and worked as an Administrator and Project Manager with the US State Department’s Afghan refugee repatriation mission Operation Allies Welcome.
Emily VigueDirector of Outreach
Emily Vigue joined the Foundation in July 2019 after graduating from Marietta College with degrees in political science and international leadership studies. While at Marietta, Emily enjoyed connecting with residents of Appalachia through her work as student body president and her position on a local nonprofit board. Emily became interested in the unique history of Appalachia after serving as an Americorps Intern in Pocahontas County, West Virginia. While there she participated in emergency FEMA disaster relief during the 2016 floods that affected the region.
Raised in Junction City in Perry County, Emily now resides in Lancaster and spends her free time reading, gardening, and visiting friends. She is excited to be with the Foundation to give back to the region that has given her so much.
Angela WoodwardAssistant Director of Communications & Marketing
Angela joined FAO in November 2022.
She grew up in rural Northwest Ohio outside Toledo, where her skill and passion for writing was nurtured by a loving family and dedicated educators. She came to Southeast Ohio to pursue a bachelor’s degree in journalism at Ohio University – and immediately found what would become her forever home.
Upon graduating in 1998, Angela embarked on a career in community journalism, starting in Sylvania, Ohio, and Monroe, Michigan, before her heart called her back to Athens. In 2003, she joined the staff at The Athens Messenger, working her way up from reporter to managing editor.
Those formative years of her career paved the way in 2013 for a rewarding transition to the field of strategic communications and marketing and brought her back to her alma mater. She served in Ohio University’s central and then alumni relations and fundraising communications and marketing offices before accepting a position as publications editor and overseeing production of the university’s alumni magazine.
Joining FAO is a full-circle moment for her, bringing together the aspects and experiences in community journalism, strategic communications and marketing, and philanthropy she loves most – and in service to a region that long ago captured her heart.
Maribeth WrightDirector of Outreach
Maribeth joined the Foundation in March 2021 to further its mission. Maribeth’s service to FAO runs deep, serving as a former board member and currently as the President of the Guernsey County Foundation. She has been a life-long resident of Cambridge, Ohio.
Prior to her work with the Foundation, Maribeth was a successful CPA for 40 years and was also an Equity Principal with Rea Associates Inc. While working for Rea’s Not for Profit segment, Maribeth provided tax compliance to various organizations throughout the state of Ohio. In keeping with her work to support Not for Profits, Maribeth began speaking to these organizations on the topics of business and individual tax.
In Guernsey County, Maribeth serves as a Trustee of Southeastern Ohio Regional Medical Center, the Agnew Foundation, and the Cambridge Alumni and Friends Education Fund. Maribeth is a graduate of Cambridge High School and received a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Mount Union University.
Maribeth was recognized by the Chamber of Commerce with the Distinguished Public Service Award in 2008 and the John Sidlo Award for Vision, Leadership, and Legacy, in 2012. She was also recognized in 2018 as the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio Inaugural Philanthropist of the Year. In 2020, Maribeth received the 2020 Rea and Associates Marcia Stutzman Award for Community Service. When she isn’t working for the Foundation, Maribeth enjoys traveling, reading, gardening, and spending time with family and friends.