Friday, July 19, 2024

St. Vincent de Paul North Idaho executive director resigns

Staff Writer | July 10, 2024 1:09 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — As executive director of St. Vincent de Paul North Idaho, Larry Riley oversees a $9 million operation with 65 employees that helps thousands of people in Kootenai County. 

He’s giving it up to help two people who live some 1,500 miles away. 

“Little did I know that a career pivot five years ago would help prepare me for what lies ahead,” Riley wrote. “There’s no greater gift than loving another. Being kind and compassionate. It’s what civilized societies do.” 

Riley and his wife, Linda, are headed to San Diego to assist in caring for her parents. He announced his resignation Tuesday.  

“I have two sisters-in-law who have sacrificed so much over the last decade. We’ve done what we can from afar, but that’s not good enough anymore,” he wrote. “Now it’s our turn, which means taking another path." 

“You can’t time everything, but you can choose your time. Our time is now," Riley continued. "Time to focus on what’s most important in life, and that’s quality of life for a few very special people."

Riley has guided St. Vincent de Paul North Idaho for just over five years. It’s a role he came to love following a lengthy career in newspapers, including being former publisher of The Press.  

“I thought that was a cool gig. This is a cooler gig,” he said. “I went from selling words for a living to changing lives — running a business that holds the hand of so many in the palm of yours.” 

That’s because one, he loves the people he works with, and two, he has witnessed the impact of St. Vincent’s services on people through housing, clothing, meals and counseling. 

“It's an essential nonprofit,” Riley said. “It’s an institution in Kootenai County. It’s so much more than a thrift store.” 

To prove his point, he told the story of a mother who was a drug addict and came to St. Vincent’s system five years ago. She overcame drugs, met a good man, got married and they bought their first home together. 

Riley said some argue you shouldn't do too much for people, don't make it too easy for them. He argues you do what it takes, and sometimes, it takes a lot to reach the point of no return. 

They have helped the homeless, destitute, needy, mentally ill, low-income and veterans. They have set them on a new path.  

“Those breakthrough moments are what make me come to work every day. Those are the success stories,” Riley said as he sat in his office at St. Vincent’s Help Center on Harrison Avenue. “It isn’t the biggest job I’ve ever had, but it is the best."

Mike McDowell, St. Vincent de Paul North Idaho’s board president, described Riley as dedicated, organized, smart, efficient and creative. He said the nonprofit has become more financially solvent under his leadership. 

But perhaps most important, McDowell said, was Riley’s heart to serve. It’s why they chose him for the job. 

“He has a good heart for working with people who really need help,” McDowell said. “That’s what impressed us most, his ability to find solutions.” 

He said a committee will be formed to look for a replacement and consider bringing in someone new and hiring a local candidate. 

“If we could replicate Larry, we’d love to,” McDowell said. 

Riley, who may remain on board a few more months, said leading North Idaho's largest social services nonprofit has been an honor. 

He said his biggest challenge was COVID-19, which temporarily shut down St. Vincent’s thrift store, which generates some $2 million in revenue annually.  

“How do you replace one-third of your revenue stream?" Riley said. "That will keep you up at night.” 

He credits his staff and board for their commitment to the cause.

“No amount of money will change the lives of people. People will change the people, and it starts from the cradle and a committed staff who cares,” he said. 

Riley often told his staff, “You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself so you can take care of others. That’s what we’re going to do. Help others in need, and get rewarded for it, from the heart."

Riley said the goal is to leave something better than when you found it. 

“I’m proud to say we’ve been able to do that,” Riley said.