The latest from El Centro de Libertad and our impact on the community.
The year 2020 delivered us an emotional rollercoaster. From Covid to the fight for racial justice, from fires to political upheavals, from fear of financial security to a very real sense of isolation, we have seen it all. The 2020 Presidential Election had us all fired up, stressed out, and terrified of the outcome; regardless of what side of the political spectrum you come from. We have watched as the drug epidemic was exacerbated by the global pandemic. Most days we felt emotional extremes we are not used to. We sat and waited for 2021 to usher in a new era for us. After all, there was new National leadership and a vaccine on the way, right?
2021 arrived much like 2020. Our Nation’s Capitol was attacked, along with the very fabric of our democracy. The vaccine rollout is progressing slowly, and deep divisions in our National discourse seem to persist. Do we lose hope and faith? Do we stop trying to make a difference? No. Throughout this unprecedented period, the Team at El Centro has been preparing. We have spent time upgrading our facilities, our infrastructure, and strategically preparing for the day when the pandemic, financial crisis, and deep divisions start to heal. They will heal. We are sure of it. The need for our contribution to the community has never been more evident.
As January comes to an end, we are seeing reasons to hope. There is progress in the vaccine delivery. We are seeing our clients reaching out for support. We watch as our partners join us in rising up to meet the community challenges ahead. We watch as our National government rises up to meet the needs of a nation. We watch as the conversations around racial equality become a front burner issue. We see hope for the future!
El Centro de Libertad is stronger than ever and ready to do our part in healing our community, as a new era emerges for all of us. We have formed new partnerships with other agencies to ensure that no one suffering from addiction is left alone in the fight. El Centro is here, and we are ready!
“We will rebuild, reconcile and recover
and every known nook of our nation and
every corner called our country,
our people diverse and beautiful will emerge,
battered and beautiful
When day comes we step out of the shade,
aflame and unafraid
The new dawn blooms as we free it
For there is always light,
if only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it”
-From “The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman
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.
I’m Jeff Essex, El Centro’s new Executive Director. I came on board May 1st, of this year, in the middle of a global pandemic, and at the beginning of a national movement demanding the end to systemic racism. There is nothing like jumping in head first! As anyone in recovery will tell you, change is never a welcome thing; always preceded by fear and anxiety. Not just for the person arriving to the leadership position, but the existing team is often anxious about changes in their daily lives. Soon after I arrived, we all found our rhythm and got to work in a spirit of collaboration rarely seen.
My last day at El Centro is May 1 (May Day, how appropriate) and Mr. Jeff Essex has been selected by the Board of Directors as Executive Director.
I have been involved with El Centro since around 2005 or so, and assumed the top leadership role in 2015. I leave a 2020 El Centro a somewhat different place than when I found it, but yet we have stayed true to George Borg’s vision: abstinence-based individual and group counseling services are still the core foundation of the agency, we still use the Steps as tools towards recovery, and we still make sure nobody is refused services because of inability to pay.
Supporting county and agency partners and still providing services during any emergency is part of the job, but it becomes (and will continue to be) a bit tricky during a pandemic; however, even now, new opportunities are emerging and relationships are being forged.
El Centro de Libertad is celebrating our 25th anniversary of service to San Mateo County. 1994 to 2019: How long has it been since yesterday anyway? It seems like a blink of an eye, yet so much has happened!
When George Borg saw that there were no outpatient programs that low-income families, those most in need, could afford he opened El Centro de Libertad, a bilingual substance abuse recovery center for people who needed help but also who needed to go to work or go to school or even just needed to take a break.
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.
People Are Dying:
Trust for America's Health and Well Being tells us:
Mother Jones Magazine reported:
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.
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.
Make a gift to support the agency or one of our programs! El Centro de Libertad/The Freedom Center is a 501(c)3 non-profit agency and all donations are tax-deductible as allowed by law.