Philanthropists, corporate leaders, and County officials gathered at a reception at the Bexar County Courthouse Thursday afternoon to celebrate the 15-year anniversary of the Hidalgo Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by Tracy Ann Wolff, wife of Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff.
The three major goals of the organization were to restore the Bexar County Courthouse to its original design, establish the Child Abuse and Neglect Courts which include the Family Drug Treatment Court, and expand the library collection of BiblioTech, an all digital library that has two physical branches and a presence in 14 school districts and Joint Base San Antonio.
In her speech at the reception, Tracy Wolff said all three major goals set by the foundation had been met.
“In 2002, I had an anonymous donor give me $1.37 million, and that started what became one of the most unique public-private partnerships in this part of the world,” Wolff said. “We were able to physically take the Children’s Court from a crowded, sometimes violent 900 sq. ft. (area) to more than 10,000 sq. ft. protected area.”
The Children’s Court is nationally recognized as a “model for the nation,” Wolff said, adding that the Santikos Foundation has pledged $1,070,000 in support of Bexar County’s Early Intervention Program through the Hidalgo Foundation. The gift will be used to fund a program that focuses on families with children under the age of three, who have fallen into the child welfare system due to abuse or neglect.
“We are very honored that the trustess consider this project worthwhile,” Wolff said. “And I think it will be another model for the nation.”
She also praised the completely digital infrastructure and management of BiblioTech, which has more than 80,000 registered patrons.
“The BiblioTech is one of the first public, digital libraries in the United States,” Wolff said. “All you need to sign up for a library card is live in Bexar County. And you can go online and download books anytime you want, day or night, all for free.”
She added that the idea was her husband’s – an avid reader who recognized that free e-books would benefit many children in San Antonio.
“These numbers are incredible,” Wolff said. “We have more than 300,000 onsite users, 290,000 e-books in circulation, 40,000 in our collection, and 90,000 registered patrons.”
She also thanked Bexar County employees for their work and for never saying no to a task.
“All of the people who work for Bexar County, you are incredible,” she said. “For (the) 15 years we’ve been here, there’s been a total can-do attitude all the time.”
Fr. David Garcia, who gave the opening prayer at the reception, told the Rivard Report after the reception that the Hidalgo Foundation provided the means for things that seemed impossible before.
“What was needed 15 years ago was something beyond the capacity of the County to do on its own,” Garcia said. “(The Wolffs) marshaled the resources that would not have otherwise been available to the County, not only to restore the courthouse but to do some really innovative work for the cause of justice in Bexar County.”
Garcia said that the justice available to children in need today was not adequately provided 15 years ago.
“People come to the courthouse looking for justice,” he said. “When you’re saddled with an inadequate facility and not enough programs to really deal with the issues at hand, then you cannot really achieve justice.”
After the reception, some attendees walked over to San Fernando Cathedral to participate in the 64th annual San Antonio Red Mass, a yearly Mass that celebrates attorneys and judges in the county. The mass was presided over by Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller and was attended largely by the students and faculty of St. Mary’s University School of Law, the only law school in San Antonio.
Top Image: Children’s Court Division & Programs Administrator Judge Peter Sakai presents Hidalgo Foundation Founder and President Tracy Wolff with a bouquet of The Yellow Rose of Texas. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.