BEi announces affiliation with Erie-based Barber National

Two providers of services for adults with intellectual disabilities, one in Warren County, the other in Erie County, are joining forces.

Bollinger Enterprises Inc. (BEi) announced Wednesday, that it will affiliate with the Barber National Institute (BNI).

In a release crafted by BEi Executive Director William Clark and BNI President and CEO John Barber, the organizations announced that the affiliation is expected to take effect early next year, pending approval by the Pennsylvania Auditor General.

“Throughout our exchange over the past several months, it has become clear that both Barber and Bollinger believe in providing the highest quality consumer-driven services, and in the importance of community inclusion for adults with disabilities and their families,” Barber said. “We believe that bringing together the resources of both of our organizations will enable us to continue to achieve these goals as well as expand choices and opportunities to meet the needs and preferences of each individual.”

There should not be dramatic changes to employment nor decision-making locally due to the partnership.

“We’re going to be a stand-alone entity,” Clark said. “For now, employment stands. If anything, down the road it may lead to additional employment opportunities.”

“Our shared priority is to maintain the culture and mission of Bollinger Enterprises as it has been shaped by the citizens of the Warren community,” Barber said.

The affiliation could lead to closer ties in the future. “At some point down the road, if we need assistance, we move forward in that direction,” Clark said.

He said BNI will be in position to advise BEi and that one of the key benefits to BEi is “the resources they have with respect to expertise.”

The boards of both organizations will add three members from the other. Adding three new members to the BEi board will not take it above the maximum number allowed in its bylaws, Clark said.

“The BEi (board) will continue to operate as it has in the past, but three of the board positions will be filled by representatives from the (BNI) board,” according to a frequently asked questions (FAQ) sheet released on Wednesday. “The trustees will no longer be necessary as a check and balance for the BEi board overseer of BEi endowment funds.”

Donations that are earmarked for BEi will stay in Warren County, according to the FAQ, and the BEi endowment funds will stay in Warren County and be overseen by the BEi board.

The six stated goals of the affiliation are:

¯ maximize resources and mitigate rising operating expenses;

¯ more readily meet the increasing regulatory requirements;

¯ reduce future infrastructure costs;

¯ enhance risk management;

¯ formalize and strengthen current relationships and partnerships; and

¯ enhance capitalization.

The partnership results from meetings and discussions over the course of several years.

Former BEi Director Bob Klebacha was involved in those years of discussions.

“The partnership between Bollinger Enterprises Inc., and the Barber National Institute of Erie is a natural fit of two organizations with similar missions of service provision to individuals with disabilities,” Klebacha said in a release. “The relationship between our organizations stretches back over 60 years.”

“Dr. Gertrude Barber, the founder of BNI, played a role in establishing the forerunner to BEi’s services when in 1957 she gave a public presentation in Warren arranged by Annabel Bollinger and the Warren Association for Retarded Citizens (ARC),” he said. “The partnership with the Barber National Institute will help to ensure, now and in the future, that citizens with disabilities in Warren and Forest county will continue to receive current services, as well as expanded service opportunities that can be offered and provided through this partnership.”

“Pennsylvania officially became an ‘Employment First’ state in March, encouraging all providers to make community employment a primary option for all adults with disabilities,” Clark said. “Barber has been successfully providing supported employment since 1986, and has placed more than 600 adults in jobs in their communities. We look forward to expanding this service in the Warren area, and believe it will be a benefit to our adults as well as to employers looking for loyal, dedicated employees.”