How often we hear successful adults talk about the poverty and crime of San Francisco Bay Area neighborhoods from which they finally escaped. Parents hope their children will go to college and prepare for a career so they can flee the environments of their childhoods. How sad to let ourselves ever be defined by the worst part of our community when there is beauty, intelligence and spirit there also.
Gina Fromer, Executive Director of the Bayview-Hunters Point YMCA in San Francisco, was born and raised in Bayview-Hunter’s Point, got her education and returned to the community she loves. She says her neighborhood was truly a village raising the children. “It was a fun childhood,” she says and adds that her young life was one of “happy poverty where everyone was at the same level” and no one was competing for material goods. “We had our basic needs met, and we were all compelled to do better.” When the kids in the neighborhood were hungry it was to her mother’s house they came for something to eat.
When Gina’s mother used to take her children to Pacific Heights to see the big houses Gina knew it was simply so that they would not spend their lives blinded by their own demographics. How strengthening it must be for children, even while seeing more privileged surroundings, not to think ill of their home turf. Instead of feeling it is something to run from it should, as it was with Gina, be seen as something worth salvation, worth fixing the trouble and preserving the merit.
Gina knew she needed to come back and help and cheerfully offers that she is in Bayview 8 days a week. Her husband, a Jewish musician whom she met at her church there, her mother, her work, her children and her spiritual life are all there.
Gina has been with the YMCA for 10 years and has seen some very significant programs. How can she tell she made a difference? She sees young people graduating high school and families becoming stronger in their lives. There is less isolation. Yes, there is still crime and unemployment, but she says that the community is finding a way to take itself back.
Gina brings an exceptional strength, intelligence, maturity and sweetness not only to what she does but to how she expresses it. No one in her life goes unappreciated. She is a magnificent blend of loving, practical and effective with no self-serving agenda. She puts those she serves before herself. Because this is the kind of person I think should be in global decision making capacities, I asked her if she had ever considered running for office. Her response was a lovely laugh. I waited. “People have asked me about that,” she said with enormous modesty. Well, she would have my vote.
Please listen to Gina talk about her life and how she fell in love with her husband pretty much at first sight, or at first listen to his voice. Find out about her two older sons and her appreciation of their father. Find out about her 3rd son and hear the letter she will write to him. Just for the joy of hearing about the beauty of Gina’s life. Just for the joy of getting to know her.
From me to you with love in the air,