Board Undertakes Intentional Succession Planning and Appoints Kristin Walker Collins as the Next CEO

HAZARD, KY – (December 27, 2023) – Gerry Roll, the founding CEO of the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky, announces her retirement. Starting with an initial investment of just $5,000 and the support of key community stakeholders, Roll has been instrumental in delivering more than $30 million of investment back into the heart of Eastern Kentucky.

A significant aspect of the Foundation’s journey under Roll’s leadership has been its immediate response to natural and community disasters—from destructive tornadoes in 2009 through COVID-19 and catastrophic floods in 2021 and 2022. Over the years, the Foundation has fostered a network of 11 community affiliate foundations and garnered support from more than 10,000 people and organizations who have donated to support Eastern Kentucky.

Over the past several years, with the support of Rural Support Partners—a leading rural nonprofit consultant—the Foundation’s Board of Directors developed an intentional and thoughtful succession plan to transition to new leadership. To that end, Roll will step down as CEO effective January 1, 2024 and serve in a Founder-in-Residence role at the Foundation until her official retirement on March 31, 2025. The Board has appointed Kristin Walker Collins, the Foundation’s Chief Operating Officer, as the next CEO. Collins joined the Foundation 9 years ago and helped grow an organization that now manages more than $30 million in assets and employs 13 people across the region.

Roll is excited about the future leadership at the Foundation, “I am fully confident in Kristin’s capacity, skills, and expertise as she takes on this new role.  Her history in multiple leadership roles at the Foundation along with her commitment to the community and our region brings the perfect skill set needed to lead us into the next generation.” Collins emphasized, “I am deeply honored to assume the role of CEO at the Foundation. This transition is a testament to the strategic vision and intentional succession planning fostered by our dedicated Board of Directors. As we embark on this new chapter, I am committed to upholding our mission, building on the legacy we have cultivated together, and continuing to make a meaningful impact on our region. Together, we will navigate the path ahead with resilience, innovation, and a steadfast dedication to positive change.”

Before starting her career in philanthropy, Collins worked as an attorney specializing in Family Law and Municipal Law with the law firm of Hollon & Collins. Collins is active in many community activities, serving as Vice-President of the Hazard-Perry County Chamber of Commerce and as Trustee of Philanthropy Southeast. She is the Founding Board Chair of Redbud Financial Alternatives, Inc, the Appalachian Early Childhood Network, and the Hazard Rotary Club Foundation, Inc., which operates the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in Perry County, KY. She is also Past-President of the Hazard Rotary Club, and former President-Trustee of the Perry County Public Library. She is a Philanthropy Southeast Hull Fellow Class of 2020 and is a current Teach for America Central Appalachian Leadership Lab Fellow. Collins earned her B.A. from the University of Kentucky, and J.D. at Northern Kentucky University, Salmon P. Chase College of Law. She resides in Hazard, KY with her husband, Jonathan, a local attorney, and their daughters, Palmer and Piper.

As a part of the transition, the Foundation will be launching a campaign to celebrate its 15th Year Anniversary, Roll’s legacy as the Founding CEO, and generate awareness about the Foundation and Affiliate’s work. The Celebrating Our Roots campaign will include community events throughout 2024 and 2025 that honor the dedication of Affiliate Foundation board members and the outstanding work of community nonprofits.

About the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky:

The Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky brings together people, ideas, and resources to build communities and encourage philanthropy. Acting as a hub to catalyze economic development, it forges ties with foundations outside the region and acts as a conduit to help move donations and grant funding into southeastern Kentucky. Locally, it works closely with donors and partner organizations to promote affordable housing, nurture entrepreneurs, and revitalize downtown corridors. A Nationally Accredited Community Foundation, the Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky can be contacted at                     



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