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2011 Men of the Year Honoree: Bart Brown

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When Bart Brown joined Ozarks Food Harvest in 1998, the organization had fewer than 200 active donors and was in serious decline. Brown and his team got busy changing the organization’s direction.

Armed with his vision that the nonprofit should become the best possible resource for hunger relief in southwest Missouri, Brown has given his team the power and the tools to quadruple food distribution to the more than 300 charities it serves in communities throughout the region.

Those growth plans centered on acquiring a warehouse facility, which meant Ozarks Food Harvest needed to raise $5 million from donations in the community – a daunting task for a board of directors that had little fundraising experience and was unsure that the funds could be raised.

“Our vision enabled us to see this as an opportunity instead of a roadblock,” Brown says. “Somehow though, I knew in my gut that this would be a reality. It took us five years to raise the funds, but we ended up raising $2 million over and above what our consultants said we could raise.”

Brown counts the 2009 dedication of the O’Reilly Center for Hunger Relief, a state-of-the-art operations headquarters, as one of his proudest days.

To fight hunger in the Ozarks, Brown manages a 2011 budget of $14.2 million for hunger relief programs, up from $600,000 in 2001. Among them, Ozarks Food Harvest’s Weekend Backpack Program provides food to more than 1,000 children each week.

This year, Ozarks Food Harvest was the first nonprofit organization to be recognized with Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce’s W. Curtis Strube Small Business of the Year Award.

Brown says he was proud of the recognition on behalf of the entire nonprofit community, because the award recognized how nonprofits must operate as businesses to inspire trust and confidence from supporters.

Having received guidance and advice from numerous mentors on his professional journey, Brown makes a point to share his own knowledge with people and organizations facing similar circumstances.

He says being a good leader requires providing team members with the tools and power they need to accomplish a shared vision.

“That means taking risks and having faith in the people you lead,” says Brown, who led a disaster response team that delivered 48 truckloads of food and supplies worth nearly $1 million to the Joplin area in the weeks following the May 22 tornado.

In the community, Brown is committee chairman of the chamber’s Nonprofit Roundtable, president-elect of Missouri Food Bank Association and serves on the advisory boards of Springfield Public Schools Foundation and Clear Channel Communications, as well as on the board of directors of Rotary Club of Springfield-North.

From 2011 Men of the Year
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