West Volusia’s leading agency for helping those down on their luck appears to have hit a rough patch of its own.
Over the past two weeks, two top staff members have left The Neighborhood Center of West Volusia. One of them, Michael Forrester, director of The Bridge, was abruptly fired Dec. 14, and Neighborhood Center officials said they have been advised not to comment on why.
The Bridge is a homeless shelter run by The Neighborhood Center under contract with the City of DeLand.
“The agency and its Board of Directors are completing a full internal review of Mr. Forrester’s tenure leading up to his termination,” The Neighborhood Center said in a news release about Forrester’s departure.
The Neighborhood Center also said there will be no interruptions in the services existing and new clients are receiving at The Bridge. Liam Sweeney, a Neighborhood Center employee of five years, will operate The Bridge while the agency searches for a new permanent director.
In an unrelated development, The Neighborhood Center said, Susan Clark, who has been the nonprofit’s executive director for 15 years, resigned Dec. 9.
Sources who asked not to be named said Clark and the nonprofit agency’s board of directors disagreed about what direction the growing agency should take.
Neighborhood Center officials emphasized that the two departures were not related.
Clark said she looks back joyfully on her time at the nonprofit.
“It was a wonderful, wonderful journey with The Neighborhood Center,” Clark said.
“The Board of Directors thanks her for her 15 years of leadership and dedication to the mission and to the community of West Volusia,” The Neighborhood Center said in a separate news release about Clark’s departure.
The agency has a search team established to find a successor for Clark, Neighborhood Center board member Rick Rintz said.
During the transition, Waylan Niece, who has been with the agency for more than 10 years, will lead The Neighborhood Center as interim executive director.
Forrester, who was hired by The Neighborhood Center to open The Bridge in 2019, was featured in The Beacon‘s recent article on the lack of housing for the homeless in West Volusia.
Despite repeated attempts, Forrester could not be reached for comment.
This story will be updated with additional information as it becomes available.