Tuesday, December 1, 2020
Dec. 1, 2020

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Arc of Southwest Washington fires director

Plans for new thrift store uncertain

By , Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith
Published:

The Arc of Southwest Washington has fired its executive director and likely won’t be able to open its planned thrift store in central Vancouver.

The long-struggling human services agency, which serves people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, hired David Wunderlin two years ago after Michael Piper stepped down as executive director.

Wunderlin was terminated Monday because he had taken another job as executive director of Kitsap Community Resources in Bremerton and “things that needed to happen didn’t happen while he was away,” said John Weber, the nonprofit’s board president. He said he didn’t know until this week that Wunderlin had taken another job.

“That was enough to cause immediate concern,” Weber said.

Wunderlin was paid $74,000 annually at the Arc. Wunderlin, who lives in Kitsap, said he took the job with Kitsap County earlier this year and was trying to help both organizations. It was difficult commuting between the two communities.

“I did as much as I could do,” Wunderlin said. He added that although the Arc is a lean-run organization he’s confident it will be fine going forward.

The Arc of Southwest Washington, a chapter of The Arc of Washington State, will stay afloat with in-kind support and financial guidance from the state organization, said Weber, who will serve as interim director until the position is filled.

Historically, the local Arc has floundered financially. After what used to be The Arc of Clark County absorbed three similarly struggling sister agencies — in Cowlitz, Skamania and Wahkiakum counties — and renamed itself The Arc of Southwest Washington, things slid toward insolvency. Since then, its board and staff have been tasked with digging the human services agency out from under a mountain of debt and legal troubles.

The Arc’s 2016 Form 990 filed with the IRS showed that the organization’s expenses outweighed revenue by $21,754. Its program services cost more than $1 million annually.

The Arc relies heavily on selling used goods to Savers, the parent company of Value Village. The Vancouver Value Village closure in November 2016 signaled that the nonprofit eventually needed to find income from elsewhere or cut services. During his tenure, Wunderlin extended the Arc’s contract with Savers, but ultimately wanted to open a thrift store.

Weber doesn’t think that the nonprofit has the money to move forward with opening its own store at Vancouver Plaza. The Arc took over a space between Crunch Fitness and PetSmart that used to be occupied by a different thrift store, This-n-That. Keeping up with lease payments without making any revenue has been difficult.

“I think we’re going to have to back out,” Weber said.

Arcs around the country, including The Arc of Spokane, have opened their own thrift stores to generate revenue. The local Arc wanted to follow that model.

“We’re going to continue to make sure people are taken care of,” Weber said. “We have always been able to maintain core services.”

Those services include guardianship, representative payee, supportive living arrangements and help navigating the community. They are contracted by government agencies to provide those services. Weber, who has a son with autism, said the Arc has been around for decades and wants to continue its work.

“We need to exist,” he said. “We’ve got some work ahead of us.”

Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith
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