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Heidi Shaffer, Published June 29 2010

Youth group director Barry Nelson to be laid off

The layoff of the Metro Youth Partnership’s executive director this week is due to the nonprofit’s desire to merge with another organization, board member Tim Mathern said.

The group, which promotes the value of community youth, announced Monday that Barry Nelson will be laid off Thursday because of “these tight economic times,” a statement said.

The United Way announced June 21 that Metro Youth Partnership’s MentorLink program would not receive funding for 2011-12, but Mathern said the board had already discussed a merger before that announcement.

“It didn’t move us toward the decision,” said Mathern, who is also a state senator. “Essentially, it’s part of the picture.”

The discussion to look into a merger arose about a month ago, Mathern said.

The decision to eliminate Nelson’s position was a proactive way for the organization to continue pursuing its goals and financial obligations, said Nelson, who served as executive director for eight years.

The organization operates with an annual budget of about $200,000, but donations began to slow in the past couple of years because of the tough economy, Nelson said.

The group’s MentorLink program received $35,000 from the United Way in 2010, but those funds were not renewed for the next biennium.

A group of United Way volunteers – who reviewed the application and presented Metro Youth Partnership’s recommendation to the board of trustees – felt youth mentorship is offered through other community organizations and didn’t see a need for duplication, said Jeffrey Slaby, United Way board chairman.

The United Way’s decision came as a surprise and created “urgency” within Metro Youth Partnership to plan for the future, Nelson said.

Mathern said the board is pleased with the job Nelson has done, and his layoff was more about how to better utilize the group’s funds.

“There are challenges out there and also opportunities. … and we want to make sure we are the best stewards of these resources,” Mathern said.

The organization will still employ one full-time employee and one half-time employee and plans to meet with at least four nonprofits to discuss a merger, Mathern said.

Nelson, who lost a bid for the Fargo Park Board earlier this month and a 2006 race for the North Dakota House, said he has no political aspirations at this time and will continue to support the Metro Youth Partnership. He is also in search of another job.

“Change is inevitable, and there’s a certain sadness I have in the circumstances … but I’m optimistic,” Nelson said. “I’m hopeful for both the organization and its mission and myself.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heidi Shaffer at (701) 241-5511