So, who is George Borg and why does he get his own day? Great question! George Borg is the founder of El Centro de Libertad/The Freedom Center. For years, George was known in the community as the owner of a successful auto repair shop. Most did not know the struggle he had on a daily basis. Then, in 1985, the unexpected happened. After nearly thirty years of addiction to drugs and alcohol, George entered and completed the Alcohol and Drug Rehabilitation Program at Sequoia Hospital. Instead of fixing cars, he decided to spend his life helping people find and maintain recovery. “You have to experience recovery to want more of it”, he said. George understood that the gift of renewal he had received required him to give it back to those seeking a better way to live.
In 1994, after working for 9 years in the treatment field, George saw a huge gap in programs for low-income members of the community seeking recovery from substance abuse. He read a book on how to start a non-profit agency. While working with an attorney, George, and his loving wife Janet, took out a loan on their home and opened the doors to El Centro de Libertad! What a leap of faith! They often spent the early days writing checks against the value of their home! When asked why he chose this path, George said, “I wanted to give something back to the community. The longer I stayed in recovery, the more I wanted to share this gift with others … Plus, at that time nobody was providing substance use outpatient services that low-income families could afford, particularly those most in need; the Latino community.”
George was prominent in the 12-Step Recovery community. He joined the men’s group “Work The Steps Or Die…” in 1986; they met in George’s home and then ultimately found a new meeting place at El Centro. That group remains today, over 30 years later!
Known for being “somewhat” gruff on occasion, George also has a reputation for compassion and personal generosity. Those that worked with him will tell you. He offered his staff Christmas bonuses (many for the first time in their life!). If they had a financial shortfall, needed help to pay for school, or were facing a personal or family medical issue, George was there for them. He created a special culture at El Centro that endures to this day. Part of that culture means that anyone seeking recovery will find that help at El Centro de Libertad, regardless of his or her ability to pay. That is a core value for us that will never change!
Today, El Centro is a thriving non-profit organization in San Mateo County. We work closely with other community-based agencies, and collaborate with San Mateo County Behavioral Health and Probation Department, to provide recovery services to those wanting freedom from active addiction, and freedom from other destructive behavior. With an annual budget in excess of 1 million dollars, and a staff of 15, El Centro de Libertad serves over 1000 individuals annually. George’s amazing legacy will last for generations.
George retired from El Centro de Libertad in 2015 and moved up to Northern California. We don’t get to see much of George these days, as his health keeps him close to home. But, this October 7th is George’s 35 year “Clean Date”. Therefore, we celebrate with him, wherever he is. We never want to forget the man who started it all. This year, for El Centro de Libertad’s very first Annual George Borg Day of Service, our main offices will be closed and our entire team will be collaborating with Abundant Grace in Half Moon Bay for a day of beach cleanup and celebration.
We love you, George! Thank you for creating this amazing home called El Centro!