In the Limelight with Jeannie Savage
A transplant from the Big Apple, Jeannie Savage has put down deep roots in Berks County since moving here 25 years ago. What she thought would be temporary — four years to earn her teaching degree from Alvernia University — has turned into a cherished life of family, work and community. Among the many good causes and organizations she supports, Savage has found a special place in her heart for a unique nonprofit, Berks Connections/Pretrial Services, which helps inmates and their \ families through rough times. She lives with her own beloved family (husband Eric and children Gabriel, 18, and Genevieve, 11), but they like to travel the globe, always carrying a bit of Berks tradition with them.
Q: You are not a native Berks Countian?
No, I’m from New York City. I came for Alvernia University as an 18-year-old undergrad who wanted to teach and never expected to stay. Then I got a position teaching English for Wyomissing High School and met my husband.
Q: How did you transition from teaching to philanthropy?
left teaching after 10 years to have children but always meant to go back. Just as I was about to do that, however, I was presented with this fantastic opportunity to complete the Leadership Berks program – again through Alvernia. It’s a year-long program that includes training in things like strategic planning and development and connects you with committees or boards, ways to serve. My husband and I have always been active in the community and feel strongly about volunteering, but I really didn’t expect to find my passion.
Q: Which is with Berks Connections/Pretrial Services?
Yes. I told my husband that whatever I did, it would involve kids. Soon after, I volunteered for the day with the United Way, helping at a family picnic for Berks County prison inmates and their families. I was asked to take photos, and as I did it was so interesting, so intimate. Some inmates – women and men – hadn’t seen their children in a long time. And unlike visiting at the prison, this event allowed them to play and eat together, for the adults to hold their babies, and that went right to my heart. I learned more about BCPS and how children are impacted by family reunification, and my husband said, “I think you found your niche.” He was right.
Q: What is your favorite activity with BCPS?
A program called “Mother’s Voice-Father’s Voice.” The parent reads an age-appropriate book on DVD, and we give the DVD and book to the child so they can read together. As a teacher, I know how important it is for children to be read to, and for the parents, it connects them to their children. The feedback from families has been so wonderful. It gives the child something to keep and reinforces that [he is] loved.
Q: How about your family — what makes special memories for all of you?
Traveling together is important to us. It’s remarkable to allow your children to experience being the stranger in a strange land. We typically go somewhere for New Year’s Eve, and my husband brings his tradition of eating pork and sauerkraut, so we have some great family memories of finding a way to eat that meal in places like Greece, England and Rome. It can be no easy task [laughs], but it’s always a fun adventure.