Local nonprofit merges with Albuquerque office

Noel Lyn Smith

FARMINGTON — Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Juan County has become a member of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central New Mexico.

Two youngsters served by Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Juan County take part in a painting activity. The organization recently merged with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central New Mexico.

Neilson Francisco, site manager for the San Juan County agency, said the nonprofit organization's board of directors decided to merge with the Albuquerque-based agency as a way to continue delivering services to children in the county.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central New Mexico is the local affiliate of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, according to its website.

The board's decision came after Christine Garcia resigned as CEO in January, Francisco said. Francisco, who served as interim CEO while the board considered the next step for the organization, said the five-member staff has been receiving assistance and training from the Central New Mexico agency since the merger was completed earlier in the year.

In addition, the Central New Mexico agency manages the office's administrative, marketing and accounting responsibilities.

"They're mainly making sure our staff is focused on the goals of what we need to do," he said, adding that employees have also received training that focuses on increasing donation efforts.

As part of that effort, large green bins have been placed in 10 locations around Farmington, Aztec and Kirtland to collect donations of used clothing and small household items.

Proceeds generated from the sale of the items will go toward funding the San Juan County agency, Francisco said.

Angela Reed Padilla, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central New Mexico, said it is important for the local agency to thrive after Garcia's departure because most children served by the organization come from single-parent or low-income families.

"Its mission is critical," Padilla said.

With the merger complete, the Central New Mexico agency now oversees office locations in eight counties.

At the heart of the local office are two core programs — a school-based mentoring program and a community-based program that matches children with adult volunteers as part of an effort to improve their lives.

Francisco said those programs are not affected by the merger, and neither is planning for the annual Discovery Festival, a Big Brothers Big Sisters initiative that introduces students to careers and activities focusing on science, technology, engineering, mathematics and health. This year's event will be Oct. 7-8 at the McGee Park Convention Center.

Last year, the agency served approximately 200 children throughout San Juan County, Francisco said.

As of this week, there are about 150 matches between mentors and children, but approximately 75 children are waiting for mentors, he said, adding that individuals can learn about mentoring by contacting the office at 505-326-1508 or visiting the website at littlesneedbigs.org.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.