Dr. Gina Fromer is CEO of Children’s Council of San Francisco and a proud native of the city’s Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood. A sixth-generation San Franciscan, Gina’s experience of economic struggle during her childhood galvanized her from an early age to forge a path out of poverty – and ultimately to give back to her community through both volunteerism and an impactful career in public service. With her experience and drive, Fromer has shown a steadfast commitment to improving the lives of children and families in her communities, both in San Francisco and in Marin County, where she has resided since the Summer of 2000.
Gina was one of six siblings growing up in one of San Francisco’s most underserved neighborhoods. She witnessed addiction and domestic violence in her community, and periodically witnessed violence her own home. Despite this adversity, Gina has many fond memories of her childhood, saying, “I remember during the summer being able to play outside, sharing meals with friends, and staying out until dark. It was a real village; as aware as we were of some of the violence in our environs, the familiarity instilled a sense of safety in us. And my school, meanwhile, provided a basis for hope and aspiration.”
Throughout her life, Gina has been inspired by the resilience of her mother Ramona – who, despite the difficult circumstances that life handed her, harbored a passion for education and helping others. Ramona raised six children, held a day job, attended San Francisco City College at night, earned her Associates Degree, and went on to work at Sojourner Truth Child Care Center for an impressive 33 years. Through her hard work and dedication, Ramona left a lasting impact on the people around her, especially Gina, and is still fondly remembered for her contributions to her community.
Following in the steps of her maternal role model, Gina persevered and worked hard to transcend her own challenging circumstances, ultimately overcoming her early hardships to emerge as an influential and esteemed community leader. She remembers her first summer job, which she took at only 14 years old, and says “I made $2.35 per hour serving lunch at the playground. I needed those meals myself, so I was a recipient and a participant. The money really wasn’t what drove me; it was an opportunity to give back to my community.”
As a high schooler, Gina aspired to go to law school. She says she promised her dad, a bus driver, that she would either be a doctor or a lawyer. “I hated the sight of blood!” she recalls in reference to the former option, “so I planned to become a juvenile justice attorney.” However, her life took a different turn. Despite a deep personal drive to succeed and a relentless work ethic, by the late 1980s, Gina found herself raising three young sons on her own, while trying to work, go to college, and break the generational cycle of poverty.
It was during that time that Gina turned to Children’s Council of San Francisco for help. “I remember so vividly going into that office, with my three young kids, and being greeted by someone so kind and empathetic,” she remembers fondly. “I told them how badly I wanted to go back to school and get a better job, but I needed childcare. Children’s Council helped me find a safe, reliable childcare program right in my neighborhood, which allowed me to get my life back on track. It was a pivotal moment not only for my children, but for me. I took a stand for myself. I had started to see more of the city and could still envision greater possibilities for my life.”
She got a job at Head Start, serving as an entry-level family services advocate/case manager. She says, “They promoted me to a leadership position downtown after just six months. Here I was in my late 20s, overseeing a huge spectrum of child and youth programs across the city. It was a huge step. I didn’t see myself as a leader yet, but I could see that people believed in me.”
Still seeking out a firmer foundation in her personal life, Gina was invited one Sunday to attend a service at Our Lady of Lourdes church in Hunters Point, one of only three Catholic Churches in San Francisco that employed a Black Gospel style of worship. She remembers, “The church was packed, but I heard this amazing voice singing a solo, and it just took my breath away. After eliminating the other options, I was stunned to discover that the voice was coming from this young white man sitting at the piano.” The choir accompanist was Mill Valley musician Reed Fromer, who turned out to be Gina’s soulmate. They married in 2000 and settled in San Rafael, where they lived for 22 years before moving to Novato in 2022, along with their son Devin (already a talented filmmaker at age 19).
Within three years following her move to Marin, Gina earned her B.A. in Psychology at Dominican College and began climbing the proverbial ladder in her career – on a path that has continued to focus on public service, primarily in underserved communities.
In 2000 Gina joined the team at the San Francisco YMCA, where she ascended through various leadership roles over the next 14 years, culminating in a District Vice President position overseeing three branches serving 15,000 families. She played a key role in raising over $8.5 million for the Bayview YMCA capital campaign. She says, “Working for the Y was a game changer. My career was on track; it really felt like things were moving in the right direction.”
In 2014, looking to expand her impact, Gina became State Director for the Trust for Public Land, where she oversaw creation of new parks in urban neighborhoods in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Her first CEO position, beginning in 2017, was at the San Francisco Education Fund, where she administered community volunteer programs, educator grants, and student scholarships designed to help public school students succeed.
In 2019, Gina was invited by the Board of Directors of Children’s Council of San Francisco to become the organization’s new CEO. As she went through the interview process, meeting the board, leaders, and staff, “I remembered what a huge impact this organization had on my life, and how kind everyone was to me when I needed it most. As I talked to everyone, that committed, empathetic spirit still felt the same. I knew I wanted to be a part of it. Now my life has truly come full circle, as I lead this incredible organization that touches the lives of more than 20,000 families each year, just like it touched mine.”
Despite steadily demanding work and family commitments, Gina went on to earn an M.S. in Psychology/Organizational Leadership from University of Phoenix in 2011 and, in 2022, attained her PhD in Organizational Development and Leadership from University of Arizona’s Global Campus.
All the while, Gina’s commitment to volunteering in her communities has never wavered. Prior to Covid, she ran a food pantry out of Our Lady of Lourdes Church for 16 years and would often bring loads of leftover groceries back to Marin, to distribute directly from her own driveway in Santa Venetia. She says, “Food insecurity is real, even here in Marin.” She’s worked to support immigrant communities in the far west areas of the county and has served on volunteer committees in Marin City and with the Canal Alliance. In addition, Gina served on the Marin Human Rights Commission for over four years, working across the county to promote an ethos of social justice, and fighting to eliminate social inequities and discrimination.
Far beyond the Bay Area, children on the other side of the world are reaping the benefits of Gina’s commitment to those in need. Seven years ago, she formed “Circle of Care Kenya,” a nonprofit that provides sports equipment and school supplies for over 200 children housed in four orphanages in Kenya. She says, “I was in an Uber and the driver told me he was collecting donations for Kenya. I offered him outfits and equipment from my in-laws’ family business, Dave Fromer Soccer.” It started with just one donation, but through Gina’s drive and persistence, the program has grown and flourished, bringing invaluable nutritional, educational, and recreational support to Kenyan orphans.
Gina still harbors additional goals, including an eventual run for public office. Whatever the future holds, the profound impact of her devotion to social service, community advocacy, volunteerism, and family life will stand as her calling card for years to come.