Gala raises funds for organization that supports foster youth

By Karen Billing

For Rancho Santa Fe resident Jaime Feder, co-chairing the “4th Annual PEERS Network Black Tie Gala” is more than just planning a big, successful event, it’s about supporting a cause that is dear to her heart.  Feder is an active philanthropist for Just in Time for Foster Youth, the beneficiaries of PEERS’ Oct. 13 gala.

Just in Time offers a much-needed resource for San Diego foster youth, who have essentially no family support system once they turn 18.

According to the Cities, Counties and Schools Partnership, 40 to 50 percent of former foster youth become homeless within 18 months and only 1 to 3 percent graduate college. About 25 percent of foster youth will be in prison within two years of emancipation.

Just in Time seeks to offer foster youth the foundation for success by giving them a caring community of adults after they hit 18 so they can thrive and enjoy productive lives.

The gala supporting Just in Time will be held on Saturday, Oct. 13, at a private La Jolla Farms estate.

Different from a typical gala, the event will be “lounge style, SoCal black tie” and feature tastings from 10-12 local restaurants and caterers. There will be a live and silent auction with some great prizes, including a Corum watch; a private dinner for eight with live music performance, a sommelier and floral arrangements from Adelaide’s Flowers; a lady’s Botox party from Dr. Ron Soltero and catered by Giuseppe Catering; and a week stay at a private home in Umbria, Italy.

For Feder, getting involved with Just in Time seemed to be fate.

Feder, originally from Connecticut, moved to San Diego as a consultant for Jerome’s furniture stores. She kept seeing letters go across her desk for Just in Time, requesting any damaged furniture for their programs.  When she started dating her now-husband Dan, it turned out that he lived in the same building as the founder of Just In Time, and Feder and the founder spoke every time they were in the elevator together.

After Feder left Jerome’s in 2010 to start a family, another friend handed her a flyer for Just in Time and she felt it was just the sign she needed to finally get involved.

“Everywhere I turned I’d see something else for Just in Time,” said Feder, who was looking for something else to do since leaving work.

She made an appointment to meet with executive director Don Wells to learn about Just in Time’s programs. Wells told her a story about a 15-year-old foster teen whose foster parent told him as soon as he walked into his new home that he was only there until the foster parent paid off his truck.

Wells told another story about a foster teen they were working with to furnish her dorm room. When the JIT team asked her what her favorite color was, she responded in awe that no one had ever asked her that before.

“It just said so much about what we take for granted growing up in families,” Feder said. “You hear these things about what foster youth go through, things that are so deep and awful and they don’t have any support.”

Just in Time offers them that support that many would take for granted — an opinion when a mechanic is trying to take advantage of a solo 18 year old by charging $900 for a $90 repair, someone to teach them how to open a bank account or make a household budget.

To benefit from JIT services, former foster youth ages 18 through 26 must be working or attending school or a combination of the both, have ongoing participation in JIT events and activities, and complete an annual program evaluation survey.

Some of JIT’s programs include Career Horizons, which builds a network of professional mentors, and College Bound, which helps provide former foster youth with computers, books, supplies and basic dorm furnishings, as well as information on financing.

“One program I really love and am really involved in is My First Home,” said Feder.

My First Home provides gently used or new items for JIT participants’ new living spaces, everything from cooking utensils to furniture.

“I went to one of the homes and was shocked that they didn’t even have a toilet seat, no shower curtain, nothing to even hang [the foster youth’s] towels on,” said Feder. “We’re not talking about pillows from Pottery Barn, we’re talking about providing actual necessities to live.”

JIT also works with San Diego Charger Philip Rivers’ Rivers of Hope Foundation’s Bridges to Success, a program for young men that seeks to form a band of brothers with monthly workshops and gatherings, offering tools and resources for jobs and building self-worth.

Just in Time runs a very lean operation but several of its employees are former foster youth.

“They are giving back and working there full time,” said Feder. “It’s truly amazing.”

Tickets to the Oct. 13 gala are $175 each or $600 for a group package of four tickets. VIP tickets are $500 and include access to a private cocktail reception followed by a tour of the largest collection of Oceania, African and pre-Columbian art in Southern California.

Tickets for the gala can be purchased at http://jitfosteryouth.givezooks.com/events/peersgala2012. For more information on Just in Time, visit jitfosteryouth.org.

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