Clothing drive keeps Arc afloat

Nonprofit agency makes progress with budget woes

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian arts & features reporter

Published:

 

Three hundred and forty thousand pounds of donated clothing isn't exactly a million. But it's still a huge haul for the Arc of Southwest Washington.

The million-pound clothing drive that the Arc was using to bolster its bottom line didn't quite reach its goal, according to acting Arc director Justin Myers. But that doesn't mean it hasn't been a big success.

If you go

• What: Arc of Southwest Washington open house.

• When: 2-5 p.m. Nov. 19.

• Where: 6511 N.E. 18th St.

• On the Web: Click here.

• Call: 360-254-1562 or 360-759-4917.

• Donations: Call 360-546-3158.

Without mentioning any dollar amount, Myers said the grand total of 338,948 pounds of clothing and other stuff donated to the Arc will go a long way toward retiring debt and hiring an interim executive director for the long-standing local nonprofit agency. Its mission is to provide a variety of educational and support services for people with developmental disabilities.

The Arc has an ongoing relationship with Value Village thrift stores, Myers said, and is reimbursed for the donations it sends along. Myers said he's looking to renegotiate the contract so it's more lucrative for the Arc to deal not just in clothing but also in housewares "and miscellaneous things -- the things you see at garage sales," he said.

'Don't stop now'

Even though the million-pound drive is technically over, Myers said, he hopes the public will keep right on donating. "November and December are usually our toughest times," he said. "Just because things are looking up for us, don't stop now." To schedule a pick-up, call 360-546-3158.

The donation money has allowed the Arc to retire debt, set aside savings and probably hire an interim executive director sometime soon, Myers said.

"The community has been looking at us, saying, 'Are you guys doing the right thing?' We've been able to put aside money for programs, salaries and our bank account," Myers said. "We're saving and paying our bills and growing. Just like our name, no pun intended, we keep moving forward even when times bring you down."

Changes

In 2010 and 2011, the financially faltering Arc of Clark County lost government contracts and funding streams, and merged with the Arcs of Cowlitz, Skamania and Wahkiakum counties to save money and become the Arc of Southwest Washington.

But Cowlitz County recently went through an official process to become mostly independent again, Myers said. Educational and support services will all go back to being based at the Arc of Cowlitz County. The Arc of Southwest Washington will continue guardianship and payee services for adult clients in Cowlitz County. The move is revenue-neutral for the Arc of Southwest Washington, Myers said.

"The community in Cowlitz wanted to have their Arc back," Myers said.

Meanwhile, at the Arc office on East 18th Street in Vancouver, there have been a couple of internal promotions and an informal search for an interim executive director. Myers said he is getting close to making an announcement regarding who will steer the Arc for the short-term future.

"The interim position could lead to a permanent one," he said.

The hire should be decided at a late November meeting of the Arc board, he said. At that same meeting, a new president will also be chosen. Myers, a manager at U.S. Bank who has been president of the Arc board and de facto executive director for nearly two years, said he is looking forward to stepping back down into a more natural role for a banker: treasurer.

An Arc open house, aimed at introducing the Arc to people who don't know it and thanking those who have helped with donations, is set for 2 to 5 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Arc offices at 6511 N.E. 18th St.

"We want to say thank you to the community and let everyone know we are here," Myers said. People will be able to meet staff and board members, have refreshments, take tours and leave with information about the Arc, its programs and its future challenges.