By Ryan Lengerich: CNJ staff writer
The Big Brothers-Big Sisters program of Curry and Roosevelt counties has become a branch of the agency based in Roswell, an organization’s official said.
Jill Dennis, executive director for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pecos Valley, said she hopes to have a program coordinator in Clovis by the middle of June. The Roswell-based agency will oversee operations in the area, with mentor/child relationships reporting to a coordinator in Clovis.
The Clovis agency closed its office in early March as part of a national organization restructuring that put four local employees out of work and left more than 100 local mentor-child pairs in limbo.
Since that time, officials from Roswell and Clovis have been unable to agree to terms for a merger. Clovis advisory board members wanted to retain their employees and requested more representation on the Roswell advisory board. Roswell officials said they could not guarantee the employees would be retained and it would be difficult for too many Clovis board members to attend meetings in Roswell.
The Roswell agency submitted a merger proposal at a March 29 meeting between the two sides. Concerned with the agreement terms, Clovis officials agreed to resubmit the proposal by April 15.
Dennis said Tuesday she never heard back from Clovis officials and received resignation letters from four Clovis advisory board members, who could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
“We’re at the point now where I feel like we can’t wait anymore. We haven’t had any contact with any advisory board members,” Dennis said. “I think that we have made a full effort.”
A branch has a fully staffed office in the community with no advisory board while a satellite merger would have included an advisory board, Dennis said.
More employees could be hired in the future depending on the branch’s growth and Dennis said she hopes to organize a Clovis advisory board as well.
Rebecca Fain, director of agency development for the southwest region said the Clovis mentor/child files were moved to Santa Fe when the office closed. There, the files are being audited to find out which matches are still active.
Dennis expects to have the files in Roswell by month’s end. She said the files will be relocated to Clovis when the coordinator is in place.
Dennis said the coordinator will be asked to concentrate on stabilizing the local matches already in place, before adding new pairs.
The Clovis program, she said, has taken a hit to its reputation.
“They have a good program but I think this definitely set them back,” Dennis said. “Locally, I think the matches that may have fallen out because of this turnover will be rebuilt with new matches.”
The Clovis branch will have a separate bank account, allowing all money donated to benefit only the Clovis branch.
Erinn Burch, executive director for Curry County United Way, said her organization will allocate $7,500 to the Big Brothers Big Sisters program this year and the Clovis BBBS branch will hold office inside the United Way building on East Grand Street.
“I am comfortable with the arrangement and the reason is because there is no other option,” Burch said. “As far as I know they are the only ones who want to provide the service right now.”
Burch said she was disappointed not to see the Clovis advisory board work out an agreement with the Roswell board.
Recovering from more than two months in limbo, she said, will be challenging.
“With the downtime I think you have some attrition and connections have to be made and things have to be smoothed over,” Burch said. “A program doesn’t go into limbo without people wondering if they have been left high and dry.”
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Mentors from Big Brothers-Big Sisters of Curry and Roosevelt counties with questions or anyone interested in being a mentor can call Jill Dennis at 505-627-2227.