In an innovative move to strengthen and expand services to the at-risk, run-away, foster and homeless youth it serves, Santa Clara-based Bill Wilson Center (BWC) announced Jan. 17 that it has initiated a partnership with Uplift Family Services. The partnership awaits final approval by the state of California.
The nonprofit organizations are combining and sharing their expertise. BWC, which primarily serves Santa Clara County, is acknowledged nationally and has won awards for its effective programs to assist youth with housing and keep them off the streets.
“We’re clearly a national model in working with runaway and homeless youth,” said BWC CEO Sparky Harlan. “We’re known nationally for that.”
Uplift Family Services is one of the largest, most comprehensive behavioral and mental health treatment programs in California, operating in 30 counties. It has expertise dealing with children and adolescents with complex behavioral health challenges such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and trauma such as abuse, severe neglect, addiction and poverty.
“Expanding expertise in housing and youth homelessness is a top priority for us. Through this new relationship, we are excited to leverage Bill Wilson Center’s expertise in this space across California,” said Darrell Evora, President and CEO of Uplift Family Services.
The two agencies intend to merge within four years. In the meantime, BWC will continue to operate as an independent agency. Harlan, who has been with BWC since 1983, will continue as CEO of BWC.
“Bill Wilson Center doesn’t have to be the one to do everything,” said Harlan. “I look for who we can collaborate with to strengthen what we do.”
“Uplift Family Services will strengthen our behavioral health services for homeless youth by adding their expertise in serving those with the highest needs,” said Harlan. “We are excited to join with Uplift Family Services to improve services for all youth and families in the greater Silicon Valley region.”
Past and Future
Uplift Family Services (www.uplift.org), formerly known as EMQ (Eastfield & Ming Quong), has early roots in California. It began in 1867 as a San Jose orphanage and, in 1874, added a San Francisco orphanage for Chinese girls rescued from slavery.
BWC (www.billwilsoncenter.org), at 3490 The Alameda, first opened its doors in 1973 as the Webster Center and was later renamed to honor the late Bill Wilson, Jr., who spearheaded the idea of establishing a counseling center for troubled youth.
Wilson was the owner of Wilson’s Jewel Bakery, which closed in 2006. He served as a Santa Clara Council Member from 1963 to 1971 and served a term as mayor in 1965. Wilson’s son, Alex Wilson, now serves on the BWC Board of Directors.
“In Santa Clara, it’s more about doing what’s right than figuring out [a kid’s] last zip code and turning them away,” said Harlan. “It makes the City a national model. Any homeless kid under 18, we’re going to serve them here. They’re our kids.”
In the eventuality of Harlan’s retirement, she is making sure that the legacy of BWC, which has six facilities in Santa Clara County, is transferred to others.
“I want to be able to say that in 200 years, Bill Wilson Center will still be around doing valuable services for the community,” said Harlan. “The partnership with Uplift Family Services will ensure that.”