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Brawner out, Tillack in as Barnabas CEO

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Less than six months into working at Barnabas Foundation Inc., John Tillack was appointed interim CEO, and now he’s been named to the permanent lead post for the Springfield-based nonprofit.

Tillack succeeds Jason Brawner, the six-year CEO who resigned July 31 for personal reasons. Brawner hired Tillack in March to direct the residential programs for adults with disabilities run by the organization known for its Christian-based youth camps.

Barnabas Foundation board Chairman David Ross said the CEO position was advertised for two weeks. Tillack moved into his new role Aug. 22.

The nonprofit’s flagship program, Camp Barnabas, each year hosts 2,000 campers with special needs and chronic illnesses at two campgrounds, one in Purdy and another in Shell Knob on Table Rock Lake. The organization has served 75,000 campers in its 24-year history, and its annual operating budget now exceeds $4 million.

Brawner started working at Barnabas Foundation as director of operations in late 2009 and was named CEO in 2012. He said he gave notice July 11 of his intent to leave, citing a desire to spend more time with his family after regularly clocking 60-80 hours a week the last three years. Brawner said he struggled with the decision right up until the day of his announcement.

“Camp is very consuming,” he said. “You’re spending 16-20 hours a day doing camp stuff, making sure everyone, campers and missionaries, are having the greatest experience.”

Brawner said he realized his life was getting consumed by work and keeping him away from his wife Alison and three children, all under the age of 15.

“My family time has been suffering,” he said. “It was a really, really tough decision. It’s like I preach to the people at Barnabas: Family wins out every time.

“We all have our expiration date at Barnabas.”

Brawner was among the 20 honorees for this year’s Men of the Year awards by Springfield Business Journal. During his time as CEO, Barnabas Foundation’s annual operating revenue grew to $4.3 million from $1.8 million. With an office at 2060 E. Sunshine St., the nonprofit works with 33 full-time employees and 3,000 volunteers.

Brawner said Tillack came on with the goal of succeeding him, although Brawner noted it wasn’t in his plan at that time to step down.

“In my mind, there is no reason he’s not the guy,” Brawner said of Tillack. “He’s the whole package.”

Ross declined to disclose the number of applicants and the advertised salary range. The CEO position paid $50,430 in 2015, according to Barnabas Foundation’s most recent Form 990 on file with the IRS. The tax form also reported over $32,000 in additional compensation for Brawner that year.

Prior to starting at Barnabas, Tillack served for 15 years as chief development officer and vice president of advancement for Kids Across America, a Branson-based Christian sports camp for urban youth. According to a news release, he also has past experience as vice president of communications for Promise Keepers and regional marketing manager for MCI. He holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Oral Roberts University and a master’s degree in divinity and counseling from Denver Seminary. He resides in Branson with wife Kamela, and they have four grown children, a granddaughter and one on the way, according to a news release.

“I’ve closely followed the growth and expansion of this powerful ministry for years and have really enjoyed my time with Barnabas Prep and Barnabas Life,” Tillack said in the release. “I am excited to lead a vibrant and passionate team who has consistently shown their love and heart for the last 24 years. There is a great need for the services the Barnabas family of ministries provides. I look forward to helping the organization grow and continue to excel in disability ministry.”

Brawner said he’ll take a couple of months before deciding on his next career move. Currently, he said he’s “diving head deep” into his family life, including taking his children to school and getting involved in their sports and activities. He also plans to get back involved with Barnabas as a volunteer in the future.

“I’ve made some good decisions so that I can take some time off,” he said. “Right now, and through September, I’m focusing on my family.”

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