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August 1st 2013

There's More to the 'Loin than Meets the Eye

Midge Wilson doesn't take no for an answer; at least not when it comes to getting things done for the community she loves.  Wilson is the Co-founder and Executive Director of the Bay Area Women’s and Children's Center (BAWCC) which is located in the heart of San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood. When asked how she got such a gutsy attitude Wilson replied, "I think it's just a part of who I am. Also, you know even when I was a little kid I started a clothing drive when I was in elementary school because I walked a mile to go to school and there was a church on the way and there were some kids in my class that seemed to not have many clothes; they wore the same clothes every single day to go to school. And yeah, the first time I ever did a clothing drive it wasn't even my church.  It was a church that I passed. And I went in and I talked to the Pastor one day and I said, 'there are some kids at my school, which was the local community school, that I think don't have clothing. Can we do a clothing drive?'  So where did I come up with that, I don't know."

The answer of how she became such a determined and fearless leader may also be as a result of her seeing her father overcome many physical limitations after he suffered a debilitating stroke. "He learned to drive a car again. He was a staff doctor at a veteran’s hospital. He never got his right side back but he worked until retirement age. So we all have these life examples that inspire us." she explained.  After arriving in San Francisco by way of Chicago in 1979 and making her home in the Tenderloin, Wilson quickly realized her community lacked many basic but vital services. Thirty-three years later, BAWCC continues to fill voids that would otherwise leave more than 4,000 children and families with a limited option for free clothes and free meals, without a scholarship fund. They also would also be without the "Angel Child" holiday gift-giving program, which reaches more than 350 kids, and perhaps most importantly, or the Tenderloin's one and only elementary school where numerous low-to-no-cost programs and services are provided to kids and families. "If we didn't have a people like this...organization, we'd be lost," said one of BAWCC's clients.

Generally speaking, opinions about the Tenderloin aren't vast and varied. "I've been here for 34 years so I've seen a lot and I've heard a lot of things that weren't true about the Tenderloin. I ask this, when I have a group of volunteers at the school, I ask everybody to go around and say who they are and say one sentence about what they think they know about the Tenderloin. And there's nothing that I hear that I haven't heard before many, many, many times over the years. And you know, what I say is a lot what you're saying is true. It is, if not the most probably one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in San Francisco. But the part that's always left out is the great stuff," Wilson commented.

And one undeniable reason there are great things in the Tenderloin is as a result of the advocacy and leadership of the BAWCC. Their many successes include leading the efforts that resulted in the creation of five neighborhood playgrounds, the development of the Tenderloin Recreation Center and the beloved sports, gardening, library and literacy programs. BAWCC has also found success by collaborating.  University of California San Francisco's (UCSF) Pediatric Dental Division, Yerba Buena Bowling and Ice Skating, and the San Francisco Ballet are all examples of community connections resulting in increased services and opportunities for Tenderloin kids and families.  BAWCC's neighbors at Twitter and Yammer have even provided support to their technology program at the Tenderloin Elementary Community School. "I meet with all of our volunteers personally. I sit down with them and ask what they're interested in doing, what kind of time commitment they can make so we can really get them involved with what they care about and what they're interested in," Wilson explained.

We are very excited that our August 21st Music for Good party at 50 Mason Social House will be benefit BAWCC and feature performances by Jonah Montraga, Tzigane Society, and Courage. Click HERE to purchase your $10 pre-sale tickets. ALL proceeds will go to BAWCC. For more information about BAWCC please check out their website. And once you're there take a few minutes and watch their amazing short-film featuring client testimonials, descriptions of their 30+ years of service in the community and the history of how it all got started.

Posted by Olivia Swilley


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