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'Patient' community leader takes Brother's reins

| Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, 12:02 a.m.
Newly elected Brother's Brother Foundation chairwoman B.J. Leber poses for a photo in the nonprofit's North Side Warehouse Monday, January 28, 2013. Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review

When B.J. Leber decided to seek a leadership role on the Brother's Brother Foundation board, she sought advice from her son Daniel, who handles logistics for Hopital Albert Schweitzer in Haiti.

“In his 25-year-old wisdom, he said, ‘Mom, don't think about what you should do. Focus on what you can do,' ” said Leber, 58, of Highland Park.

Leber gets a chance to follow her son's counsel as newly elected chair of the board of the international relief agency in the North Side. The foundation said on Monday that Walter Fowler, vice president of finance and administration at Chatham University, was elected vice chairman.

The board has six new members. Luke Hingson remains its president.

Leber is president and CEO of The West Penn Hospital Foundation and vice president of fund development for West Penn Allegheny Health System. She is interim president and CEO of Forbes Health Foundation, which supports Forbes Hospital in Monroeville and Forbes Hospice..

Before arriving at West Penn, Leber was interim president and CEO of the YWCA Greater Pittsburgh and chief of staff to Bob O'Connor, the late Pittsburgh mayor.

“She brings a Pittsburgh-based, diverse, public service nonprofit background,” Hingson said. “She's very patient. She's accustomed to working with boards and diverse interests and personalities.”

Leber visited Haiti about a year ago with Brother's Brother and its partners to help rebuild schools damaged by the catastrophic 2010 earthquake.

“The first thing that strikes you when you enter the country is the tent camps,” she said. “There are tens of thousands of people in tent camps. We were on the road for an hour-and-a-half. And for the first hour, all that I saw on the sidewalks were people selling goods. They were selling everything from food to clothing to Super Glue to full-sized armoires.

“It reminded me I was fortunate enough to be in an organization like Brother's Brother so I could have a systematic impact on people's lives.”

Brother's Brother has shipped more than $3.5 billion worth of medical supplies, textbooks, food, seeds and other humanitarian supplies to people in more than 140 countries. With gifts from people, corporations and foundations, Brother's Brother last year sent the equivalent of 297 tractor-trailer loads of donated goods to needy people in 66 countries.

Leber plans to return to Haiti in March.

“Between my son's needs at Albert Schweitzer and what Brother's Brother sends with me, I expect I'll have very little luggage for me,” she said.

Bill Zlatos is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7828 or bzlatos@tribweb.com.

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