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Arlington Thrive executive director Andrew Schneider steps down

Andrew Schneider, Arlington Thrive’s outgoing executive director (courtesy photo)

(Updated at 1:35 p.m.) After seven years, the executive director of local nonprofit Arlington Thrive, Andrew Schneider, is stepping down.

“After much reflection and discernment, I have decided to step down as Executive Director of Arlington Thrive to pursue other opportunities,” Schneider announced in an email Wednesday evening. “It has been an absolute pleasure to work with you to deliver Arlington Thrive’s mission over the past seven years.”

Arlington Thrive provides direct, emergency financial assistance to eligible residents to pay for unexpected medical expenses, rent and utility payments, “and other crippling expenses,” according to the website. Originally a faith-based nonprofit addressing community needs, the nearly 50-year-old organization rebranded in 2013 as Arlington Thrive to “embrace our vision of progress, which includes all Arlingtonians regardless of creed.”

When the pandemic hit, requests jumped seven times over requests made in 2019, and the nonprofit worked with Arlington County and many other nonprofits to ensure people weren’t evicted and had food on the table. Schneider said Thrive served thousands of families during the pandemic and managed more than $10 million in eviction prevention assistance.

Beyond pandemic-era assistance, under Schneider’s leadership, the organization transitioned went from being a volunteer effort to a nearly all-virtual, “technology-forward operation,” and launched two initiatives, one focused on child care and another on bringing together local clergy of all creeds, community leaders and nonprofit staff to address community needs, per his email. In addition, the nonprofit has worked with local nonprofit Arlington Community Foundation, elected officials and the Arlington County Department of Human Services to improve the safety net for vulnerable residents.

Reflecting on his tenure, he told ARLnow in a statement that everything he set out to do as has been accomplished.

“Now seemed like the right time for me to step back,” he said. “We have a terrific team and committed board in place, with systems that were battle-tested through the pandemic and are now ready for whatever may come next. When I considered my personal situation, with two children approaching high school graduation, my long-term career goals, and the fact that leading Thrive has been an all-consuming and exhausting task, especially since March 2020, I realized it was time to move on.”

Despite all those efforts, he says two fundamental issues hold Arlington back.

“First, many low-income families, despite the safety net’s best efforts, struggle to remain in Arlington,” he said. “Costs for housing and childcare are very high, and access to affordable housing is limited, dwindling, and difficult to obtain. Secondly, there are remaining structural issues related to inequity and injustice which we are working to address. We are fortunate to have a strong network of nonprofits and faith-based organizations in Arlington who are committed to working together to ensure that Arlington remains a diverse community where all neighbors can thrive.”

But Schneider says he has confidence in the interim CEO, Susan Cunningham, as well as Thrive’s Board and its strategic framework to move the organization forward and select a new leader. Cunningham recently served as the interim CEO of affordable housing nonprofit AHC, Inc., steering the ship after Walter Webdale retired amid reports of poor conditions and maintenance at its Serrano Apartments complex on Columbia Pike.

“Susan brings extensive experience leading nonprofits and community organizations,” the outgoing executive director said in his email. “She is already working closely with us to ensure a smooth transition.”

His former organization sent well wishes on social media.

During the pandemic, Arlington Thrive saw an uptick in donations as well as applications from locals who needed emergency assistance, per a 2020-21 audit available on the ProPublica Nonprofit Explorer. At the time, auditors recommended Arlington Thrive improve how employees submit timesheets, as well as how they document and evaluate the financial needs of clients. Thrive concurred and made several changes, such as upgrading its database for case management and hiring a quality assurance specialist.

In the current budget, Arlington County set aside $25,000 to go toward the salary of the nonprofit’s child care coordinator, who is working to help nearly two dozen clients find child care. Over the last two fiscal years, the county paid nearly $40,000 to the nonprofit for a case management pilot aimed at helping families at risk of homelessness.

Schneider told ARLnow this kind of work “building a pathway to stability” is as important as emergency financial assistance.

“Our efforts in childcare… are amongst our top priorities, as is our collaborative work with the entire safety net. It is still too challenging for families to obtain the help they need, even though it is available in our community,” Schneider said. “Our childcare navigator has had great success connecting families with affordable and available childcare, and we hope to expand that capacity in the coming months.”

This story has been updated to include further comments from Andrew Schneider, Arlington Thrive’s outgoing executive director. 

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