The South Cumberland Community Fund, which works to improve the quality of life on the Plateau, has named Laura L. Willis as its first executive director, effective Nov. 1. Willis brings 30 years of experience in nonprofits and community organizing to the position.
“We are delighted that the Fund has matured to the point where we need and want professional leadership,” said Margaret C. Woods, board chair of the Fund. “Laura shares our dedication to supporting and encouraging the many wonderful things happening on our Mountain.” Willis begins work on a half-time basis next month.
The South Cumberland Community Fund works to improve the quality of life across the Plateau by increasing philanthropy and supporting leadership of the area’s communities, schools, and nonprofit organizations. Established in 2012, SCCF has reinvested $500,000 in projects that benefit the tri-county area; it will make another round of grants in 2016.
Willis’s hiring comes as the Fund builds on its successes and moves forward to implement the board’s plan of strategic growth in community development support, fundraising and endowment expansion, and capacity-building for area organizations.
“Philanthropy is about caring for others, and Laura knows how to do that,” said Howell Adams, chairman emeritus of the SCCF board. “Madeline and I are very optimistic about the future of the Community Fund and know that it is in good hands.”
Willis has lived on the Plateau for more than 24 years serving the community in a variety of roles. She has been the editor and co-publisher of the Sewanee Mountain Messenger since 2010. For 10 years, she was the director of the Community Action Committee, the outreach program in Sewanee. Before moving to Sewanee in 1991, she was the grants manager of a private foundation and helped found an environmental group in Washington, D.C. She will continue to edit the Messenger until she transitions to full-time at SCCF in June.
“I am very excited to be joining the Community Fund at this vital point in its development,” said Willis. “My life’s passion and focus has been on creating positive change and developing new programs. SCCF is already an invaluable part of our community and I look forward to the Fund’s next undertakings.”
SCCF will open an office at 322 West Main St., Monteagle, in early November. “We appreciate Morton Memorial Methodist Church’s generous sharing of their space with us,” Woods said.
“I saw Chattanooga turn around completely in the last 30 years,” said Jack Murrah, of Monteagle. “Community funds and foundations played a big role in that process. I believe we can do the same thing here on the Plateau,” said Murrah, who serves as an advisor to the South Cumberland Community Fund.
Scott Parrish, former chair of the SCCF board, said, “The Community Fund has a vision for the Plateau as a place of hope and prosperity for all residents and communities. We can feel that sense of hope and relative prosperity growing around the Plateau, from Beersheba to Sewanee and Pelham to Palmer. Hiring an executive director is the next step in the Fund’s evolution.”
SCCF’s Make A Difference project invited area schoolchildren to present their ideas about how to improve their community; voting for the finalists is going on now at <southcumberlandcommunityfund.org/difference>.
For more information about SCCF, go to <southcumberlandcommunityfund.org> or email <firstname.lastname@example.org>.