AmeriCares, one of the world's leading disaster relief and humanitarian aid organizations, on Monday announced it had hired a new president and CEO following a lengthy search process.

Michael Nyenhuis, a veteran nonprofit executive who has specialized in global health initiatives, will succeed AmeriCares' longest-serving CEO, Curt Welling, later this month.

In April, Welling said he had decided to step down after 11 years of service.

Nyenhuis, 52, is the CEO of Medical Assistance Programs International, a Christian health organization based in Brunswick, Ga. where he has worked for the past 19 years. The nonprofit, which like AmeriCares distributes donated medicines, last year provided $350 million in aid internationally.

In a telephone interview Monday, Nyenhuis said the wider scope of AmeriCares' reach appealed to him. Unlike AmeriCares, MAP International does not operate domestic programs.

"It's such a perfect fit for me," he said. "It's in the same general space that MAP operates in, but its work is distinct enough that it presents an opportunity for me to grow further."

In a news release, Dean Maglaris, the chairman of AmeriCares' board of directors, cited Nyenhuis' "distinguished record of achievement at MAP International" and his "deep knowledge of global health."

The appointment comes during an especially prolific fundraising and program development period for the Stamford-based nonprofit, which raises money from private donors and receives contributions from pharmaceutical and medical-supply companies.

According to its count last year, AmeriCares distributed more than $500 million in aid to more than 90 countries. On a local level, the organization has opened free health care clinics in Bridgeport, Danbury and Norwalk. On Tuesday, the nonprofit was scheduled to launch its fourth, a free mobile clinic that will serve low-income adult residents of Stamford and Darien who are without health insurance.

Nyenhuis was among more than 200 candidates considered for the job, according to Donna Porstner, a spokesman for AmeriCares.

Welling, who has said he plans to pursue other professional interests, leaves behind a formidable record at AmeriCares, which began in New Canaan. Since its founding in 1982, the nonprofit has delivered more than $11 billion in humanitarian aid to 164 countries. Of that $11 billion, $9 billion came under the leadership of Welling.

Nyenhuis said he was honored to follow in Welling's footsteps.

"AmeriCares is one of the most respected relief and development organizations in the country," he said. "It's a great privilege to have the opportunity to serve there in the next part of my career."

Asked about the managing the transition to Stamford, Nyenhuis, who is set to start Jan. 27, said he was a little worried about the frigid Northeast winters. He added, "But I have Minnesota roots, so I know how to handle that."; 203-964-2265;