After steering West Valley Community Services (WVCS) through the pandemic, which saw the Cupertino-based nonprofit’s programs expand to meet the needs of its growing client base, executive director Josh Selo is poised for new challenges as CEO of the Bill Wilson Center.
The Santa Clara-based Bill Wilson Center works with at-risk youth and families to provide housing, education, employment and emotional well-being. Some of its programs dovetail with those of WVCS, which provides food and rental assistance to clients in Cupertino, Los Gatos, Saratoga, Monte Sereno and West San Jose.
In his six years at WVCS, Selo has seen the housing crisis worsen in these communities, and in the Bay Area in general.
“There’s a fire in my belly to address the inequities in the system,” he says, adding that at the Bill Wilson Center, “I’m following in the footsteps of Sparky Harlan, who’s been the CEO for almost 40 years. … She’s been a fixture of the sector and a champion of the needs of young adults and families.
“She’s a strong advocate for system change, and that’s the model I’d like to follow.”
Selo had to pivot with the changes brought on by the pandemic, which pushed WVCS’s client base from more than 3,000 to 4,600.
“The pandemic helped me develop as a leader in different ways that wouldn’t have been possible without the fear and anxiety it created,” he says.
Among his accomplishments at WVCS, Selo counts raising the funds to purchase the Park-it Market mobile food pantry, which currently serves more than 1,600 clients at schools and senior housing complexes.
Selo also helped spearhead a one-year campaign that raised $2,125,000 for facilities upgrades including the WVCS Market, which doubled the size of the nonprofit’s food pantry and allows clients to select their own groceries. Selo says choosing their own food is vital for clients experiencing food and housing insecurity to maintain their dignity.
The fundraising campaign was a collaborative effort, and Selo says he’s looking forward to more collaborations in his new role at the Bill Wilson Center.
“I’ve developed as a leader and an individual in this incredible community that’s helped me grow,” he says of his time at WVCS. “I’ve developed a language for talking about our work and bringing together coalitions. That’s something I’m taking with me.”
Bill Wilson serves 5,000 clients and has a staff of more than 200. The nonprofit provides 900 beds per night in emergency and transitional housing, while the drop-in center serves 900 youth each year.
“Bill Wilson is a regional nonprofit with a much larger footprint” than WVCS, Selo says. “It’s going to be a shift of frame of reference.”
Selo is set to leave WVCS Jan. 20 and start his new job Feb. 21. Sujatha Venkatraman, WVCS associate executive director, will serve as interim executive director.