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Advocate Sydney Webb retires

Good Neighbor Center successor is a familiar face around Tigard
by: Jaime Valdez The Good Neighbor Center’s Executive Director Sydney Webb has retired after 15 years.

After nearly 15 years serving Washington County's homeless community, Good Neighbor Center director Sydney Webb is retiring, saying goodbye to an organization she has helped grow to become the largest homeless shelter in the county.

'There hasn't been one single day that I woke up and said 'I don't want to go to work today.'' Webb said, sitting in her small office at the homeless shelter on Southwest Greenburg Road. 'It's like a family here: When something goes wrong, we all team up together to tackle it.'

Webb, who began working with affordable housing in the late 1990s, became director of the county's largest homeless shelter in 2001 and has spent the last 14 years serving on the Washington County's Housing Authority Advisory Committee.

Her passion for helping the homeless gave her the spark to run for Tigard City Council, she said.

Webb served two terms on the council, and said that the experience gave her the ability to make real change for people who needed it most.

'I thought that would be a good way to really be a champion for those that needed housing and shelters,' Webb said.

For Jack Schwab, who took over as the shelter's director this week, filling Webb's shoes will be something of a challenge.

'(Webb) has built this organization; she's the face of it,' Schwab said. 'When she goes, she is going to really leave a void countywide for homeless services and housing services.'

The Good Neighbor Center first opened its doors in November 1998, but closed within three months due to financial troubles, Webb said.

'We brought in mayors and county commissioners and said 'We need to get this back open again.' We reopened it in Sept. 1999 and it was really scary. We only had about $160,000 raised and literally everything was done by volunteers here.'

Webb worked to grow the organization over the next few years. Today the organization sees a flood of donated goods, including food and other items.

Webb said with her retirement, the shelter will continue to grow.

'Jack (Schwab) has the expertise to take it to the next level,' she said.

With 15 years in nonprofit fundraising, Schwab - himself a longtime staple in town who served briefly as Tigard mayor in 1994 - helped to establish the city's first severe weather homeless shelter in 1995, and has since worked as a professional nonprofit fundraiser for organizations including Northwest Medical Teams, Holt International Children's Services and the World Forestry Center.

'Right now, more than any time in the last 10 years, the big issue in our community and every community is homelessness and poverty,' Schwab said. 'The need is there, and I have some tools to bring to bear and I am happy to do it.'

The Good Neighbor Center is located at 11130 S.W. Greenburg Road, in Tigard.