YOU program to shut down

By Mike Linn

For the first time in more than 30 years, the local Youth Opportunities Unlimited organization will cease to service the youth of Clovis and Portales.
The non-profit agency did not receive enough money from the state’s Children Youth and Families Department to sustain a full-time staff in the upcoming years, said Dawn Pivonka, executive director for YOU.
The local agency serves the needs of juveniles and families in a variety of areas. The organization’s Portales office was vacated this week, and the Clovis office will close by the end of June.
“I’d like to say ‘thank you’ to our community for allowing us to serve them for so long,” said Pivonka, whose full-time staff has dwindled from 14 to two since January. “Everybody was shocked and upset when we found out (in mid-April). The staff are all very sad to see this go.”
Matt Dillman, director of communications for CYFD, said YOU’s proposal seeking funding scored lower than other area agencies. Even so, he said the services once offered by YOU will not be lost to Portales and Clovis.
“I know they’ve been there for a long time, but another agency is going to be taking over and providing the services Youth Opportunities did and from what I’ve been told will provide more services,” said Dillman, who would not release the name of the agency. “There isn’t going to be a gap in the services provided to Clovis and Portales.”
Erinn Burch, executive director for the Curry County United Way, said she’s sad to see YOU leave Clovis and Portales. She said the United Way took away YOU’s funding this spring because of financial concerns with the agency.
“We knew they were in financial trouble and we were trying to communicate with their board to learn if they had a plan … We never really got any answers that sounded like they had a plan though,” Burch said.
Pivonka said the YOU board took out a loan to pay salaries and that YOU owed money to the Big Brother/Big Sister program it oversaw prior to this year.
However, she said the only reason YOU is closing is because it was unable to obtain the CYFD contract. She said the debt accrued after two of her staff members quit. The staff members made money for the agency through counseling services reimbursed by the state. She said she worked tirelessly to find other counselors.
“The reason we are closing our doors … is because we didn’t get the (CYFD) funding — there is no other reason,” Pivonka said.
For Jana Sabin, a family service practitioner for YOU, not getting the funding was “heartbreaking.”
“The first thing I thought was what is going to happen to my families, how are they going to get through this,” she said.
Sabin, who works with parents trying to get custody of their children from the state, is in the process of preparing the families for the transition.
She talked about helping a father gain partial custody of his 2-year-old child from the state in March.
“There’s a lot of memories,” she said. “I’ve been able to see kids take their first steps and their parents be able to be there, be a part of that. I’ve heard kids say ‘dada’ for the first time, and for a dad whose kid is in state custody, for them to have that … gives them hope.”
Youth Opportunities provides counseling for families and youth; anger management and parenting classes; and oversees the local Parents Anonymous program.