Big Brother, Big Sister program closes Clovis office

Ryan Lengerich

Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Curry and Roosevelt counties has lost its central office in Clovis. The result of an organizational restructuring leaves four staff members and dozens of children at least temporarily in limbo.
The Clovis-based agency may face a merger with Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Pecos Valley in Roswell. That would make Roswell the central location for the Eastern New Mexico region, which would include Carlsbad, Ruidoso, Lincoln, Curry, Roosevelt counties and potentially Hobbs.
Rebecca Fain, Director of Agency Development for the southwest region, said the potential merger is part of the national organization’s restructuring plan.
On Tuesday, Fain conducted a meeting with members of the Clovis-area advisory board to mediate declining relations between the Clovis office and the Roswell office. Clovis officials said the declining relations stem from the unacceptable merger proposal with Roswell.
Fain wants to schedule a meeting for mid-March to bring the Roswell advisory board and Clovis advisory board together to reach an agreement.
As it stands, the Curry and Roosevelt counties’ Big Brothers and Big Sisters agency has no fiscal backer. The local program has 118 child-mentor pairs, officials said, in addition to 37 youth looking for a match.
Fain collected files from the Clovis office on Tuesday, citing security and legal reasons. All four employees at the local office stopped receiving pay on Monday, said Program Director Yvette Gardner.
Fain said Clovis-area program participants are being referred to local Advisory Board President Roger Grooms for assistance.
The local Big Brothers and Big Sisters earned full affiliation with the national organization in 1999 when it fell under the umbrella of Youth Opportunities Unlimited, a non-profit youth organization in Clovis. That affiliation lasted until Feb. 1 when YOU released BBBS, believing a merger with Roswell was taking place, said YOU Executive Director Don Pivonka.
Jill Dennis, Executive Director of the Roswell-area Big Brothers and Big Sisters, said her agency proposed a management plan in early February to Clovis-area representatives. That plan would have made the Clovis office a satellite of Roswell. Dennis said the plan would have placed a full staff and office in Clovis and the Roswell agency would have been responsible for oversight and management.
Gardner said a Clovis-area advisory board, made up of seven nominated members, chose not to accept the Roswell offer due to concerns local staff would be eliminated.
“Actually we had no problem with the satellite,” Gardner said. “It could have been a wonderful thing; our concern was staffing issues.”
Dennis said there were no plans to eliminate the Clovis office staff. But she said an interview and evaluation process would have taken place with each employee.
“I think a lot of this went in a direction it didn’t have to go,” Dennis said. “We proposed the agreement to Clovis wanting what was best for the area and best for Clovis.”
Grooms said the board declined the proposal because it gave Roswell too much power over the Clovis operation.
“You come to our community to tell us how to run things — that doesn’t make any sense to me,” Grooms said. “It seems to us it was a takeover; we couldn’t negotiate, we couldn’t do this or that. I said to myself, ‘what is wrong with the picture.’”
BBBS of Pecos Valley is a stand-alone agency with satellite offices in Ruidoso and Lincoln County. Fain said the national organization is no longer creating stand-alone agencies, leaving the Clovis agency stranded.
When the Clovis-Portales operation chose to decline the Pecos Valley offer, Gardner said local officials called the national office in search of other options, such as using another city as a satellite.
“We were told that no one else was interested and they all felt we should go with Roswell,” Gardner said.
Bringing Clovis and Roswell together for a meeting may be the only way save the Clovis organization.
Fain agreed with others at Tuesday’s meeting that three options exist for the BBBS in Clovis: merge with Roswell, drop the program or create a new mentor program outside the Big Brothers and Big Sisters umbrella.
“Is it resolvable? Yes. Will we resolve this one? That remains to be seen,” Fain said. “There are some major communications problems.”