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Tuesday, November 28, 2023
Nov. 28, 2023

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‘Spirit of collaboration’: Share’s longtime executive director retires

By , Columbian staff reporter
2 Photos
After 34 years, Share's Executive Director Diane McWithey has retired. She started at the nonprofit as an office manager.
After 34 years, Share's Executive Director Diane McWithey has retired. She started at the nonprofit as an office manager. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

After 34 years leading the nonprofit Share, Diane McWithey has announced her retirement.

The nonprofit is one of the leading housing and homelessness service organizations in Clark County. It provides housing assistance, outreach resources, meal programs and case management to community members.

McWithey’s last day as the full-time executive director was July 14. Amy Reynolds, who has worked at Share for 22 years — most recently as the deputy director — will take over as executive director. McWithey will stay on for two more weeks part time to help with the transition.

In 1989, McWithey, a mother of two, was scrolling through local job advertisements looking for part-time work when she stumbled across an office manager position for Share. She was interested in working in a nonprofit for personal growth, after working nearly a decade as an accountant in a for-profit company.

“I stayed home for a bit and then decided that it was wonderful being a mom, but I needed something a little bit more,” McWithey said.

Within her first six months at Share, the organization was on the hunt for a new executive director — she watched as candidates got hired, left the position, some were rehired but nobody was sticking. McWithey was asked if she’d be interested in the job. She laughed.

“I said, ‘You know I’m an accountant, right?’ I didn’t know anything about social work at all,” she said. “They asked me to fill in, so I did. I’ve been filling in ever since.”

McWithey hit the ground running in her new position, sitting down with local organizations including the YMCA and Council for the Homeless to talk about how they could work together going forward.

“I said to them, ‘What is Share doing well and what can we do better? How can we partner together?’ ” said McWithey. “That’s how I learned my job, by our partners, telling us how to do things better and what to do. I think that was the attitude that has prevailed through my career — just working collaboratively and recognizing the importance of all the other nonprofits, not just being competitive.”

A lot has changed in the organization while McWithey has been leader. The organization grew from a staff of just her and a budget of $125,000 to a staff of 127 and a budget of $26 million, according to a Share Facebook post.

Share has added various food and housing assistance programs during her time, as well as the expansion of the outreach team — which was the brainchild of McWithey.

“(Diane) has a tremendous spirit of collaboration,” said John McDonagh, president and CEO of the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce and a former Share board president in a Share video. “I think that’s been a real benefit not only to Share but to the community.”

Looking back at her time at Share, McWithey has trouble picking just one memory that sticks out from the rest.

She can recall vividly the phone call she received in the middle of the night in 1996 when Share was set on fire by a disgruntled resident. She stood outside the building watching it burn to the ground.

But most memories she dotes on are about the people she met throughout her years. One she favors is the time a former client reached out to tell McWithey he had a job and was now married. The former client thanked McWithey for “giving him a stepping stone” in life.

“Those are the memories that resonate with me and I will treasure forever,” she said.

“Working at Share gave me a lot of different perspectives because I would hear a multitude of views of how we could help those that were homeless. I think I’m walking away a better person.”

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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

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