By Collin Breaux | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: @collin_breaux
A dispute between Mission San Juan Capistrano leadership and the Mission Docent Society has resulted in the docent organization being removed from volunteer services at the Mission.
The Docent Society was reportedly dissolved in September, with disgruntled members saying Mission San Juan Capistrano Executive Director Mechelle Lawrence Adams was involved in the dissolution. For years, Docent Society volunteers had given tours at the Mission and had volunteered in other ways.
As of a recent count, 30 of the 99 touring docents had resigned or had chosen not to respond to whether they’re still actively volunteering, according to Karen Kirby, a former Docent Society Education Committee member.
Maria Salcido-Nelson, who was an active touring docent for six years, said the Docent Society has helped the Mission.
“The Society has always served to educate, inform and guide the children that came to learn about Mission life,” Salcido-Nelson said. “We have served the Mission as a Society for over 38 years. It’s with a heavy heart that the camaraderie and love for the Mission and children has been tarnished.”
Adams said disgruntled Docent volunteers “want to run the Mission rather than serve the mission of the Mission,” saying the Mission is focused on its preservation, Christmas programming, education efforts, serving low-income students and other goals.
“Despite being a historic place, however, we all need to change how we do things from time to time. I do not think length of time doing something is an acceptable excuse to not change,” Adams said. “Length of time doing something wrong, in other words, doesn’t validate behavior that can be better or more impactful or more inclusive.
“I wish we could make everyone happy, but we can’t. There’s just a lot of other important things that we can be doing for the betterment of the community than being mired in outdated notions of history and representation.”
Adams said she respects everyone’s past contributions, but the Mission is a professional organization “trying to do the right thing for the good of all,” and if disgruntled volunteers “got on board, there would be no issue.”
The matters raised by disgruntled docents were “disruptive, personal, petty grievances,” and the Mission does not discuss personnel matters, Adams said.
Helen Gavin, a member of the Docent Society for 32 years, said the Docent Society and its members never wanted to run the Mission and that the aim of the Society was educating and informing visitors about Mission San Juan Capistrano.
“The docents have been more than willing to change, as that is how the Society has lasted for 38 years,” Gavin said. “It is not a question of making ‘everyone happy,’ but it is the poor and what I believe to be disrespectful treatment of the majority of the Mission’s volunteers that has caused docents to present their concerns.”
Docent Society member Peg Hyland said there has been talk of members still working in other ways.
“There are other places to be a docent,” Hyland said. “I don’t know what we’ll do.”
The Docent Society had its own charter and bylaws, Docent Society members said.
Adams said the Docent Society was never independent of the Mission. Student field trip tours are continuing uninterrupted, and the Mission has more than 200 other volunteers, Adams said