El Centro de Libertad

Every day starts anew.

News From El Centro; Fall 2018

I read somewhere that “The old order changeth yielding place to the new….”

Nothing remains constant, no matter how grand it has been. But a new world always rises again and is always as captivating as the old world. I would say the same has always been true about El Centro de Libertad.

While the spirit of “Recovery with Dignity” remains the foundation of all that we do, everyone else and, with one exception, everything else has yielded to the new. The one exception is the original value, the original order; nobody will be refused service because of inability to pay. We hold true to this.

Yet the agency that was originally a twinkle in the eyes of George and Jan Borg in 1994 continues to follow its own life’s journey, changing just a little bit with every breath in and out. Even George moved on these three years past.

Now twenty-four years later El Centro still offers programs that break the cycle of alcohol and other drugs, but some subtle changes have become noticeable:

Management: The agency is provided stability through the presence of an empowered Management Team consisting of Administration Manager, Finance & Contracts Manager, Program Manager, and Clinical Supervisor.

Prevention Education Program: An education model unique to El Centro, the Prevention Education Program is now led by our Prevention Education Team (yes, we do call them PETS) who are currently providing youth in four schools in San Mateo County with weekly substance use education, hopefully before treatment becomes necessary for them.

Rural Programming: Our presence in Coastside communities has been revitalized and is growing. This year we had a Grand Opening in our new facility in Half Moon Bay, then we received the first-ever grant from the City of Half Moon Bay. In addition to our standard fare, enhanced outreach efforts to serve the farmworker community are in place.

Board of Directors: We are always interested in meeting with individuals who have board leadership skills and experience, and are pleased to welcome Ms. Waynette Brock as our newest board member!

Yes, the old order changeth. How long has it been since yesterday anyway? It seems like a blink of an eye, yet so much has happened. What about tomorrow?

So, here we are. All of a sudden, we are the “new”.

For now.

First there was George!

I am the second Chief Executive Officer of El Centro de Libertad/The Freedom Center which for over two decades has provided substance use treatment services to rural and urban communities of San Mateo County; however, the fact that El Centro has long enjoyed a strong reputation for providing services to low-income communities in a compassionate and effective manner, and is held in high regard for our “Sobriedad con Dignidad” (Recovery with Dignity) approach, has little to do with me.

First, there was George.

The first person ever employed here was a fellow named George Borg, the founder and driving force behind the creation, philosophy and direction of El Centro de Libertad. There are many interesting stories about George operating a successful auto repair shop for years before it became apparent that recovery was in his future, if he was to even have a future.

Then the unexpected happened. After nearly thirty years of addiction to drugs and alcohol, in 1985 George entered and completed the Alcohol and Drug Rehabilitation Program at Sequoia Hospital and, 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 recently.

After completing coursework at UC Santa Cruz, George spent the next 9 years working as a Counselor and becoming certified in Domestic Violence, Anger Management and Cross-Cultural Differences before taking a huge leap in 1994. George saw a huge gap in programs for low income members of the community seeking recovery services from substance abuse, so he opened an outpatient recovery center for people who needed help but also needed to work or go to school or even just take care of basic needs. He read a book on how to start a non-profit agency, worked with an attorney and opened his own agency, El Centro de Libertad.

And what a leap it was…Jan and George Borg took out a loan on their home in order to get the agency off the ground, and spent the early days writing checks against value of their house! The Board of Directors has always been from the community and the originals included Maggie Cuadros, Ronnie Leaf, Amparo Salgado, Mona Magee, and of course the irrepressible George Borg.

When asked why he choose this path, George said, “I wanted to give something back to the community. The 12 Step Model has always worked for me. It is like a lifestyle road map. The longer I stayed in recovery, the more I wanted to share this gift with others that had the same problems that I had. Making amends is very much part of the Steps and this was my way of giving back. Plus, at that time nobody was providing substance use outpatient services that low-income families could afford, particularly those most in need which was the Latino community.”

George certainly has made an impact on many levels:

  • He joined a group in 1986. This was a men’s recovery group that met every Thursday evening in San Francisco and was called “Work the Steps or Die….” George, in 1987, moved the group, first to his home in Redwood City and then to El Centro when it opened. This group has met every Thursday evening ever since! (over thirty years)
  • He joined a group in 1986. This was a men’s recovery group that met every Thursday evening in San Francisco and was called “Work the Steps or Die….” George, in 1987, moved the group, first to his home in Redwood City and then to El Centro when it opened. This group has met every Thursday evening ever since! (over thirty years)
  • Known for being “somewhat” gruff on occasion, George also has a reputation for compassion and personal generosity; ask any of his employees who received Christmas bonuses (many for the first time in their life!) or had a financial shortfall or needed help to pay for school or were facing a personal or family medical issue. This part of the El Centro culture still endures.
  • El Centro de Libertad was founded in response to the growing need for culturally competent drug and alcohol services. Originally focused on providing outpatient substance abuse treatment primarily to adults in urban Redwood City, El Centro de Libertad has expanded to serve more youth by opening an office for the rural Coastside communities of San Mateo County.

Today, even with all the challenges facing non-profit agencies and the communities that we serve, El Centro still impacts 900 to 1,100 individuals every year. This is quite an amazing legacy that has been built, and all because of the vision of George Borg, founder and first Chief Executive Officer of El Centro de Libertad/The Freedom Center.

Are You Looking to Serve?

Are You Looking to Serve?

El Centro de Libertad/The Freedom Center is looking for new board members. Serving as a board member can be a fulfilling way to give back to the community. Prospective board members come from all walks of life and bring differing experiences to the Board they serve, such as knowledge about agency administration, legal or financial options, marketing or program assessment.

The goal of the board of directors is provide the passion and stewardship that moves the agency towards fulfilling the mission.

Our board meetings are held on the third Monday of every month from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm, in the third floor conference room at 500 Allerton.

Should you be interested please contact Michael Stoll, CEO at 650-599-9955 to request a board nomination packet.



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