Sarah Lisy Steps Down as RPBG Vice President

When one door closes, so the saying goes, another opens. This is the yin and yang we feel as we happily welcome Steve Shah as new RPBG Vice President, but say a wistful good-bye to Sarah Lisy who has stepped down after a four-year stint.

Sarah and Tom Lisy were no strangers to Rogers Park when they first joined the organization more than a decade ago. In fact, there are few people in our organization who are more personally vested in the community than Sarah and Tom.

For years before joining RPBG and continuing to this day, the Lisy’s have lived near the Loyola Campus where they raised their kids and gradually acquired a small portfolio of high-quality apartment properties in the Loyola area.

Sarah and Tom have always been locally involved. They remain active at St. Gertrude’s Church where they were married 35 years ago. They have long been involved with Northside Community Resource (formerly known as Rogers Park Community Council). Tom still serves as Board President, and Sarah was a Board Member for ten years. The two are involved with Loyola University in many capacities, including as members of the Damien Society. In their free time, they have been a part of the Participatory Budgeting process that former Alderman Joe Moore began, and have been active in their block club. And this is all on top of their many years of involvement with RPBG, first as members, and then as Directors.

Several years back, Sarah was casually chatting with Mike Glasser and Marty Max. For some reason, the conversation shifted to a discussion about who ran the show. Sarah made a comment that seemed obvious to her, but came as a bit of a revelation to her RPBG buddies. She said RPBG was an “old boys club.”

Well, that’s all it took for Marty and Mike to ask Sarah if she would become the new Vice President, replacing then out-going VP, Alan Goldberg. Having thrown down the gauntlet, Sarah might have felt like she couldn’t really say no. The rest, I guess you could say, is her-story.

Of course, there are a lot of other reasons Sarah was asked to become VP. In fact, she was kind of the ideal candidate with her small property owner background and deep roots in the community. And Sarah will be the first to say that she just really enjoys being a part of our organization. She credits RPBG for offering tons of good information to property owners, and for being full of great people and collaborators who share her enthusiasm for, and commitment to, the neighborhood.

Over her four years as VP, Sarah was instrumental in seeing the organization increase its charitable giving, and in helping to determine who would get that support. The primary beneficiaries have been the local schools, but children were always the focus of this giving. This singular commitment to the children of Rogers Park became a cause taken up by the entire RPBG organization.

Sarah played an important role in making this happen. Some of the projects that Sarah worked on while VP include the Gale School Clinic, the annual gift to Chicago Math and Science Academy, and donations to families impacted by building fires and to the Lifeline/Sullivan High School Theater Project.

In her last year as VP, Sarah brought RPBG and Northside Community Resources together to make COVID relief a priority, a true lifeline to low-income and undocumented community residents who had few other sources of support. In an email to me, Sarah said, “it has been my pleasure to realize how generous our group is to the Rogers Park community and we have personally donated to many of the projects sponsored by RPBG.”

In the fall of 2019, Sarah started a new prescription medication. Before she realized what was happening, Sarah had suffered a severe allergic reaction that ultimately triggered an auto-immune response. Now, more than a year later, Sarah has still not completely recovered. This auto-immune reaction has taxed Sarah’s strength and endurance and made even simple things more difficult.

On a more positive note, Sarah also saw the birth of a new granddaughter last year and has prioritized spending time with her. By the fall of 2020, Sarah had decided that she needed to reduce her commitments to conserve energy and to be her best for her growing family. Luckily for us, stepping down as VP does not mean leaving the organization entirely. Sarah and Tom will remain Directors and plan to stay involved with the group.

We are excited that Steve Shah will be picking up the mantel, but it’s hard not to feel regret that Sarah is stepping down. She certainly did her part to make RPBG a little less of an “old boys club,” but she did a whole lot more as well. And, as everyone at RPBG knows, she is just a complete delight to be around. Might as well just say it – we are very fortunate to have both Sarah and Tom as part of our group.

We thank Sarah for her years of service as VP and look forward to many more years of association. I don’t think anyone would disagree that Sarah and Tom exemplify what the organization is all about. Thank you Sarah, and give your granddaughter an extra big hug from us all.