From Foster Youth to Foster Champion


Gordon Boerner’s foster care journey began long before he took a seat on the Just in Time for Foster Youth (JIT) Board of Directors in 2020. Gordon entered the foster care system as an infant through the Salvation Army’s Door of Hope. Unlike most former foster youth that Gordon champions as part of the JIT community, his foster care story has a happy ending – he was placed with one loving family and adopted at 13 months old.

“In a perfect world, all foster care stories would be like mine,” Gordon shared with GB Magazine, “I was fortunate enough to be adopted so early in life that foster care was a bootstrap for me.”

Gordon has spent more than a decade advocating for transition age foster youth. Although his experience was a positive one, most children are not so fortunate. In fact, transition age foster youth across the U.S. experience homelessness, incarceration and under-education at rates far beyond their peers.

As a JIT volunteer, Gordon was impressed to find a community committed to providing not just the resources, but also the caring relationships every young person needs to thrive. This includes both Just in Time staff members and other participants who have lived experience in foster care. “How much better can it get than to have support teams who can emotionally and psychologically identify with the youths’ needs from their own lived experience?” he asks.

Gordon is a Senior Vice President at U.S. Bank, which has been a Presenting Sponsor of the Just in Time annual friend-raiser celebrations since 2013. As Gordon tells us, “U.S. Bank’s Community Possible philosophy is to engage with community-critical nonprofits through both volunteerism and board service.” U.S. Bank was instrumental in growing the JIT Financial Fitness service into three financial literacy training levels, including matched savings up to $4,500!

Gordon has also been active in the Kiwanis Club of San Diego for 30+ years and was recently elected president of the San Diego Kiwanis Club Foundation.

“I recall the first time JIT applied for a Kiwanis grant and did not get it,” says Gordon. “Many Kiwanis Clubs focus specifically on pre-K or K-12 youth. However, the Downtown-based Kiwanis Club of San Diego committed the time and energy to understand the vicious cycle for aged-out foster youth. They realized that youth-to-adult transition represents a tipping point for ALL youth, and particularly for aged out foster youth where the deck is stacked against them.”

In January, the San Diego Kiwanis Club awarded Just in Time a $25,000 Community Impact Grant to renovate and restock their My First Home Distribution Center. My First Home is Just in Time’s flagship service, enabling youth leaving the foster care system to furnish their first apartments. It is notably also the first JIT service Gordon volunteered at, along with his daughter Amy.

“My community service is driven by where I can see large impact,” says Gordon. “At the micro level, it is making the San Diego community a better place. At the macro level, it is making the world a better place. When you identify an organization providing a solution to a pressing need that can be replicated across the country like Just in Time, that is about as good as it gets.”

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Esteban Villanueva