meet sara thom
Sara Thom is one of JLOSH's Sustainer members that has been part of the league since 2004. She was invited to JLOSH by another member (Sara D'Andrea) who at the time both had preschool aged children. She had been volunteering on a domestic violence hotline. It wasn’t close by, and she was paying a babysitter every week in order to volunteer. When she learned that JLOSH had domestic violence programming and family friendly events, she said "I want to hear more!"
Tell us about where you're from and what led you here.
I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin called Beaver Dam, not far from Madison. I went to college at Brown, and then got my Master’s in Public Health Policy at UNC-Chapel Hill. After grad school, I moved to the DC area, where I worked on health reform first at the Department of Health and Human Services, then spent a few years working on social policy issues on Capitol Hill, and later moved to a think tank. I took about 8 years off from paid work to raise my kids, and during that time we moved to Park Slope, Brooklyn. Once my second child was born, we were bursting out of our apartment, and moved to Maplewood.
What do you do outside of JLOSH?
I work for a nonprofit called Bedtime Math Foundation, which was founded by former JLOSH president Laura Overdeck (who was in my provisional class). We’re working to change our culture and help kids love math, and we do that by creating high-energy, kid-appealing activities, games, books, apps and more. We’ve got several other amazing former JLOSH members and sustainers on our team, including Sandy LoPiccolo, Joy Kalfus, and Maura Bigelow. Junior Leaguers know how to get the job done! In terms of volunteering, I’m the Chair of the Board of Trustees of Advocates for Children of New Jersey. ACNJ advocates for policies and legislation that help kids in our state grow up safe, healthy, and educated. During the pandemic, they’ve been instrumental in securing funding to keep child care centers operating, and they helped get New Jersey’s new home visitation law passed. I also co-facilitate a support group for parents in the Maplewood-South Orange community who have teen or young adult children with mental health challenges. It’s a chapter of a larger organization, and we bring in speakers and provide opportunities for parents to share their experiences and resources with one another.
What's your favorite thing you've done/learned/experienced with JLOSH?
I’m very proud of the work Karen Hilton and I did to spearhead the resource fair for Essex County teens aging out of foster care, which was a partnership with the Junior League of Montclair-Newark. The program became a model for similar resource fairs in every county in New Jersey, and our leagues received an AJLI Vision Award for it in 2013. The partnership came about because I’d gotten to know women in other leagues through my placement on SPAC (State & Public Affairs Committee). The Junior League network is powerful, and serving on SPAC is a great way to get to know some dynamic, smart, interesting women from other NJ Leagues.
What is your favorite local restaurant?
Begum Palace in Madison has really delicious, authentic Indian food. My friend and former JLOSH member Sumukah Ravishankar introduced me to it before she moved VA a few years ago.
What is your favorite movie of all time?
Before Sunrise. Or pretty much any movie by Wes Anderson.
What are your hobbies / what do you like to do for fun?
Read, cook, drink good wine, hang out with friends, watch movies with my husband.
Tell us a little bit about your home life (family, pets, kids, etc).
My son Peter is a senior at Rutgers and my daughter Ellie is a freshman at West Chester University, so my husband Marc and I are new empty nesters. We’ve got 2 cats to keep us company.