Judie Saunders: Beyond the Grant Member Spotlight
By Janet Mazur Cavano
When did you join Impact 100 JC and how did you hear of us?
Toward the end of 2017 when I was living in Holmdel, I was flipping through the town’s paper, “Community Magazine,” I saw an article about an event at Bell Works featuring a group of women doing wonderful things in their communities. My friend Carolyn Burtnick, (the publication’s editor, also a member) had been raving about Impact, so the first chance I got, I attended a reception and I joined!
I decided this is something that has all of the right elements – philanthropy, a direct impact on the community, the power of women pooling their money together – yet it felt intimate.
How involved have you gotten?
I just didn’t want to passively write a check, so I signed up for a Focus Area Committee (FAC) – Children and Family. The women on the committee were so well-organized and that was super helpful to me, as this was my first time doing anything like this. There were women from so many professional backgrounds and it was such a great thing to hear them speak as we weighed out all the options.
What is your favorite Impact memory or success story?
I was the FAC site captain and visited several of the applicants. It was so insightful to pull back the curtain, take a deep dive, and see the mechanics behind the machine.
It was also gratifying to work with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), one of our 2019 grant recipients, to coach them on presenting themselves at the annual meeting and beyond.
You’re also involved in the Diversity and Inclusion initiative at Impact. What changes would you like to see in the organization and how can we accomplish this?
At the annual meeting, I’d like to see the room filled with diverse individuals, women of all colors! I’d like to see more African American women represented in the grantees, too.
In the push for more diverse membership, I’d be open to something like taking on a student from an HBCU (Historically Black College and University) and offering her a junior membership, something that we would help to subsidize.
I am also open to really learning what the word diversity means. When I think of diversity, I may think of individuals of color but also of those with learning differences, physical differences or even the challenges faced by Native American women.
In addition to practicing law, with offices in both New York and in Red Bank, you serve on the board of a long-established area non-profit, Parker Family Health Center in Red Bank. Can you tell us a little about that?
The Parker Family Health Center is named after two African American physicians, Dr. James Parker Sr. and Dr. James Parker Jr. father and son, who served the Red Bank community together for more than 80 years. Both attended Howard University, as did members of my own family.
I am a member of the board and the governance committee. We meet frequently and work with area non-profits – it’s an extremely active board. The fun part though is being able to directly work with the center, through fundraising, or more recently, doing what we needed to do to keep the clinic running during the entire pandemic! We made sure the community got the services they needed.
It inspires me that we are carrying on the legacy of those two Black doctors who founded the center, back during a time when those doctors could not get privileges to any local hospitals. Instead, they were seeing patients in their office in the early morning hours or making house calls! That is wildly inspiring and resonates for me personally – 95 percent of the advanced degree holders in my family are from Howard University, as were the two founders. That’s why I am always excited to do anything I can to help Parker.
They offer 100 percent free health care and have a really good group of committed volunteers.
(From their website: The Mission of the Parker Family Health Center is to operate a free health care facility where Monmouth County residents who do not have health insurance or the ability to pay for medical care can be treated with dignity and compassion.)
What keeps you sane?
About five years ago, I started meditating. I was raised in a conservative religious home. I’m very versed in religion and theology — but I’m not fluent in spirituality. Whenever I feel unmoored, or uncertain, deep breathing is my parachute out of madness. My ‘gateway’ was the book, “New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle.
What’s the best life advice you’ve received?
This quote from Kahlil Gibran sits with me and shapes my parenthood journey:
“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, and though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.”
We are mere observers. We need to sit back.
What’s a fun fact about you – something people might not know?
I run marathons! I went from casually running to reading a “Runner’s World” magazine and getting so inspired I just said ‘I’m gonna run a marathon!” I’ve done a couple – the New York City Marathon and the Marine Corp Marathon in DC. It’s the training that kills me!
What is the most recent book you read?
I am just finishing up, “Your Money or Your Life,” by Vicki Robin
Judie lives in Avon-by-the-Sea, N.J., with her husband and two teen-aged sons.