Our History

Wildcat Service Corporation was founded in July 1972 by visionary social entrepreneur Herb Sturz. It was the first organization in the United States to design and implement a transitional work program for unemployed persons with criminal convictions. Wildcat recognized that the training and experience acquired through transitional employment would open pathways to work for individuals with barriers.

Herb’s vison was led by Amalia Betanzos, Wildcat’s first CEO. Amalia was a legendary public servant to the people of New York City. Working under four mayors, Amalia held numerous posts, including Chair of the New York City Commission on the Status of Women, Commissioner of the Youth Services Agency, and Executive Director of the Puerto Rican Community Development Project.

Amalia expanded Wildcat’s programs and services for the justice-involved and also served as mentor to many of NYC’s leaders, including Jeremy Travis, former President of John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York, and Carl Weisbrod, currently a Senior Advisor to HR&A Advisors. Both were recipients of Wildcat’s annual Amalia Betanzos Distinguished Service Award, which is given to individuals for outstanding contributions to criminal justice reform.

For decades, Wildcat embodied the power of work, connecting thousands of people to employment.

In 2011, Wildcat joined The Fedcap Group. and became an integral member of the Fedcap family of agencies. Upon joining the Fedcap Group, Peter Samuels, Wildcat’s Board Chair at that time, stated: “Together we will offer a wider range of programs, career tracks and job opportunities to the people we serve and will be able to reach many more. This combination demonstrates strategic vision and good business sense and sets an example in the non-profit world with the benefits that will be gained, lessons that will be learned and innovations that will be achieved.

Wildcat continued to work in partnership with city agencies, businesses, and community organizations to expand the work envisioned by its founders. Combining workforce development, job training and job placement, Wildcat successfully advanced the long-term economic well-being of those impacted by the criminal legal system.

Today, Wildcat is further expanding this work by designing and operating initiatives focused on holistically addressing the individual needs of adolescents and adults; impacting policy discussions; advancing equity; and working to transform existing cultures of bias in work, healthcare, the legal system and social services.

Each year Wildcat works with thousands of individuals involved in or impacted by the criminal legal system. Together with others, those who come to Wildcat join a powerful community of people pushing toward economic well-being, personal growth, individual healing and strong self-advocacy. At Wildcat, people continue to find jobs, build careers, and receive invaluable training and guidance.

“Wildcat’s history serves as a foundation for a remarkable future. With a reputation for delivering quality services that place people of all backgrounds on the road to economic well-being, Wildcat is a critical link in the New York City provider chain. I am proud of the role I play in advancing the work of Wildcat, and anticipate tremendous growth and even greater impact in the upcoming decades.”

Gene Waddy, Chairman, Wildcat Board of Directors

Honoring Amalia Betanzos Distinguished Service Recipients