Erin Lepone is the founder of the Lady Savant Foundation. A non-profit organization that seeks to “empower the next generation” around the world through projects such as building and funding a middle school in Cambodia and sponsoring an elementary school in Liberia. Originally from California, Erin moved to NYC and then settled into life in Franklin Lakes, NJ with her husband and two kids.
Describe your journey to Franklin Lakes. What made you decide to move there? What other towns were you looking at?
I’m originally from Southern California, so NJ never really crossed my mind as a place I would eventually live! But after moving to NYC, I met my husband who is from Bergen County, NJ and the rest is history. We looked at Ridgewood (which we really liked), Upper Saddle River, and a few others. But we were drawn to the places with ‘downtowns’ or some sort of central area.
When you moved to Franklin Lakes, did you know anyone?
No- I didn’t know ANYONE and didn’t have kids yet.
How did you make friends? Did you join a club (social club, newcomers) to meet people? If so, what club? Any advice for newcomers on the best way to meet people?
Since I knew no one and had just quit my job in NYC, I joined the Franklin Lakes Newcomers club and found that they were just SO nice and welcoming. I then joined the tennis club in the Newcomers Club and met one of my closest friends today. We started playing tennis at the same time and got better and better and then started playing at different places in Bergen County and meeting all kinds of new people. Then when I had a baby, I went on playdates and other activities through the Newcomers Club. This is also how I met another one of my good friends here. My advice to newcomers would be to find your town’s local newcomers club!
Can you describe your social life?
We are pretty social, between friends from town sports, kid’s classes, etc. we really have built up a pretty busy schedule!
How would you describe Franklin Lakes residents?
Generally very nice, very open, and very generous. As I’m not originally from Bergen County or even New Jersey, everyone has been so welcoming which is especially great since everyone in NJ seems to move back to the town they grew up in and knows one another already.
Do you have kids? How old are they? What do you like to do with your kids in the area?
Yes, we have two boys- 5 and 7 years old, and one stepson who is currently studying at Cornell. When he was little, he loved HealthBarn. The little guys are starting in rec sports now, but when they were babies we loved the local library, parks and the pool at our local club. We are also really involved in giving back and community service. Once a month, through the non-profit I run called the Lady Savant Foundation, we get kids of all ages involved in a community service activity including feeding the homeless, visiting a nursing home, and cleaning up our town. It has been really rewarding so far!
What are your favorite restaurants in Franklin Lakes or in the area?
There’s a new place in town that is great called Pazza, and for date night or girls night we love Varka. For breakfast the local Country Cafe is great.
What are your go-to places in Franklin Lakes or in the area?
I’m really into tennis and just started playing paddle. So you can usually find me at Indian Trail club playing one of those sports.
What are some things you don’t like about Franklin Lakes?
I wish it was just a little more diverse, but regardless it’s really a great town. I also wish we had more variety of cuisines and also an awesome fresh and organic salad/lunch/juice place. That would be great! We don’t need another pizza place! In addition, I wish the Board of Education would come to an agreement with our teachers. Our teachers are truly amazing and teachers, in general, deserve more.
Are you a member of a country club/beach club/yacht club? If so, which one?
We are members of the club in town called Indian Trail Club. We chose it obviously for location, but we are so thankful it is here. That’s also how I’ve met some of my closest friends on the east coast, and also my boys LOVE their summer camp. Overall it’s one of the best clubs around- it has everything and its a safe place for kids to grow up. Not to mention the views on the lake are breathtaking! During the summer we can sit out on the sand on the lake and have a glass of rose with friends on the Adirondack chairs. Bliss!
What has your experience been with schools in the area?
I can’t say enough great things about our public elementary school- Woodside Avenue Elementary School. My son is now in 1st grade and has loved every minute of school so far. What more can you ask for! The teachers have been above and beyond in my experience so far, and the principal is really amazing. In terms of preschool, both boys miss that Oct 1 cutoff so we had to find programs that accommodated them when they were ready for school. We are sad that our youngest has his last year at Green Twig School in Midland Park, NJ. It is a wonderful preschool- loved Melissa the owner, the teachers and the curriculum (it’s sort of a mix of traditional and Montessori). Melissa is so flexible and just amazing altogether. Also, I love how it’s kind of “old school” and not obsessed with technology but instead lets the kids play and learn and be kids!
Do you or your spouse commute to the city? What has your experience been with the commute?
My husband commutes to NYC. Unfortunately, there is no train in Franklin Lakes so he drives. It usually takes 1.5 hours each way so there’s nothing good to say about that. He has a monthly parking space in NYC.
Any tips/advice you wished someone had told you when you were looking to move to the suburbs?
Just go with your gut…
Tell me more about Lady Savant Foundation
The Lady Savant Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit that I run and founded with one of my closest friends in NJ. Our mission is to ‘empower the next generation’ around the world. We started not long ago in 2017 and since then we have built and funded a thriving middle school in Cambodia as well as sponsored an elementary school in Liberia. They are both located in villages that suffer from extreme poverty, and unfortunately, in Cambodia the girls are subject to the human trafficking trade. We employ a program there in Cambodia that keeps our girls in school and out of sex trafficking focused on our most ‘at risk’ girls and families. We are so proud of all of our students there and are constantly trying to come up with ideas to help fund new programs for them. So far we have a sustainable garden, soccer field and computer lab. Here in the U.S our goal is to get kids involved in giving back and community service. As we have younger kids we were finding that it was hard to find opportunities for kids under 14 or 16 years old. So we are also always looking for fun activities to get little ones involved in giving back as we firmly believe they fully benefit at a young age. Our youngest volunteer to date was 3 years old! It has been incredibly rewarding for the kids, and surprisingly equally as rewarding for us as parents to see them light up when helping others.
About Erin Lepone
Erin is a native of sunny Southern California who moved to NYC and worked in finance at an asset management firm for 8 years, and is now a stay at home mom in NJ with 2 young boys. She got her start in the non-profit world at the Robin Hood Foundation, working on projects including various outreach programs, the Lemonaid Project, the annual Investor Conference, and Holiday programs. Erin’s other passion are tennis and traveling, but education has always been at the forefront. She graduated in 2000 from the University of Southern California with a BA in International Relations, followed by a dual Masters program in Europe (MA from the University of Exeter (England) in European Studies, and an MA from the Universidad de Salamanca (Spain) in Latin American Studies ((Maestria de Estudios Latinoamericanos). Website: www.ladysavantfoundation.com Instagram: @ladysavantfoundation