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. 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! 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 Latinx community.”
George 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 multiple San Mateo County agencies to provide services to those wanting freedom from active addiction and other destructive behavior. When Covid-19 arrived, El Centro began outreach efforts to get people tested and vaccinated, and connect people with rent relief programs.
With an annual budget in excess of 1.5 million dollars, and a staff that has grown to 25, El Centro de Libertad serves over 1500 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 do not get to see much of George these days, as his health keeps him close to home. This October 7th is George’s 36 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 second annual Annual George Borg Day of Service, our main offices will be closed on Friday October 8th, and our entire team will be 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!