On Saturday, March 1, The Yerwood Center announced that it might be closing because of a lack of funding to its pay employees. This created cause for concern if the doors would stay open.
“We thought we had to close immediately,” says Alvarez. “We didn’t really have a plan to actually be able to legally operate the Center.”
But the Center didn’t close and they did come up with a plan. Alvarez says volunteers and staff are working without pay for now, to keep it running.
“We’re hopeful that we’re going to raise money, and a lot of money, in the months to come," he says. "We have great people supporting us.”
Alvarez joined the Board in 2013 and says the Center has had financial difficulties for a while. Because of this, he says employees wouldn’t get paid at times.
“Which was a big problem for the Center, and for the Board and everybody,” he says. “That’s done with, so we have a clean slate moving forward.”
Last month, the Board discharged the Center’s director Eugene Campbell, who served in the position for 7 years. Alvarez is now volunteering as Interim Director.
“Because we’re going in a different direction; one that we believe will be way more effective for the existence and the sustainability of the brand and the Center,” says Alvarez.
Grant Longmire says he left the Center several years ago because of poor management and weeks without pay. Longmire says Alvarez is just trying to clean up a mess that was left behind.
Longmire said off-camera, “This needed to happen because things weren’t being handled properly. It’s a challenge for Fernando. Let’s see if he can turn it around to what it’s supposed to be.
“He’s proven that he is for the Yerwood Center, what it stands for,” says a Yerwood employee since 2005. “He’s been very supportive of the staff and the parents and the children.”
But not everyone agrees with Campbell’s discharge.
“He was wonderful with the children and it’s unfortunate that he’s no longer there,” says former employee Bonnie Campbell. “I think it’s a tremendous loss to the community.”
Bonnie Campbell worked at Yerwood for 9 years. After learning it might be closing, she filed an injunction against the Board of Directors for endangering the Center’s future.
“They’re not complying by the by laws,” says Campbell.
Campbell believes this is part of what led to her termination on March 1. Alvarez says she was fired because of insubordination.
About a week after being let go, Bonnie Campbell hosted a community meeting at Stamford’s Government Center to explain the injunction.
“That action was not personal,” says Campbell. “It was about the children that were taken care of and the families at the Yerwood Center.”
If the injunction is found valid, the issue will be settled in court. For now, Alvarez says the Board is working to fundraise and search for a new Director. While opinions differ on what’s best for the Yerwood Center, there’s one thing everyone can see eye to eye on.
“At the end of the day, it’s about the little people that bring so much joy and laughter to the Yerwood Center,” says Campbell.
“We have something big here,” says Alvarez “The families, the children that come here; it’s just a beautiful group of people that by us doing so little we can impact their lives in such a beautiful way.”
We reached out to Eugene Campbell’s lawyer, who declined to comment on the matter. Stay with It’s Relevant for more on this story.