California native Tisha Hartman was articulate, poised, confident and professional as she addressed some 450 attendees at Bill Wilson Center's 11th Annual Building Dreams Luncheon, held May 8 at the Santa Clara Convention Center.
It was hard to believe that 18 years ago to the day, Hartman, a director of real estate lending for KeyPoint Credit Union, had been a homeless, high school dropout, who had called the Bill Wilson Center's youth hotline as a last resort.
“I was raised by a single mom addicted to pretty much everything and raised without much personal guidance … I was so headstrong that I was deemed unadoptable,” says Hartman, now a homeowner and well respected in her professional career. “I owe who I am today to the Bill Wilson Center.”
The Bill Wilson Center (BWC) in Santa Clara, established in 1973, is a nonprofit agency providing social services to runaway and homeless youth, and Hartman's is not a lone success story.
In 2014, BWC provided direct services to more than 3,512 children, young adults and families in Santa Clara County. Of those clients, 80 to 89 percent were reunified with families or transitioned into stable placements, independent living or permanent housing. Sixty families on the verge of becoming homeless received support to save their homes. Indirectly, through street outreach and crisis line programs, BWC served 34,936 additional clients.
“This organization will not give up on you, no matter what has happened to you,” says luncheon master of ceremonies Sam Brock, anchor for NBC Bay Area's “Today in the Bay” early morning program.
Brock moderated a conversation about homelessness in Silicon Valley with BWC CEO Sparky Harlan and San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Matthew Mahood.
“I'm not sure we have a clear understanding of the [homeless] problem here in Silicon Valley … We are leaving a portion of our population behind,” says Mahood, who leads the special task force created by the County of Santa Clara to find solutions to end homelessness. Mahood proposes bringing business practices to the problem of homelessness and plans to use his position with the chamber of commerce as a bully pulpit to draw attention within the business community to the issue.
“Someday is today. We want to do things right now to end homelessness,” says Harlan, honored by The White House as a Champion for Change in 2012 and named 25th California Assembly District's Woman of the Year in 2014.
The fundraiser luncheon ended in high tech fashion, with Hartman leading the way in texting 41444 to make a contribution to Bill Wilson Center (www.billwilsoncenter.org) to support its programs and preventions services.
A giant donation thermometer projected on two large movie screens immediately started bumping up as people seated at the luncheon tables texted their own contributions. The red line on the thermometer jumped from about $15,000 to over $50,000 in just a few minutes. Including prior sponsorships and donations, about $100,000 was raised towards a goal of $150,000.
It's not too late to text a contribution. After texting to 41444, type “BWC” space “dollar amount” space “name” in the message. For example: BWC 100 Jane Doe.
“You don't have to have the life you're given. You can make a better life for yourself,” says Tisha Hartman.