Sarah Javier

The St. Louis Business Journal recognized UMSL alumna Sarah Javier as one of the “Most Influential Business Woman” 2021 class. Javier, who earned a Masters of Public Policy Administration at UMSL, now leads the Animal Protective Association of Missouri as president and CEO. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Javier)

When Sarah Javier ponders what she’s most proud to have accomplished at the Animal Protective Association of Missouri since assuming the roles of president and CEO in 2016, she’s got a lot to pick from.

But she doesn’t name the organization’s large increase in endowment and planned giving that her background in fundraising helped allow or even the thousands of pets placed into homes, fostered, cared for in the APA’s wellness clinic or reunited with a lost owner. Though those are all important to her.

Instead, Javier thinks of the pandemic and how everyone at the APA rose to the unprecedented challenge.

“We recognized that the issues that impact humans also likely impact their furry family members,” she said. “It’s been a challenge, but also an opportunity, and I’m proud of how everyone at the APA has come together to care for both pets and humans.”

Though the University of Missouri–St. Louis alumna is humble about her contributions to the nonprofit, not everyone at the APA agrees with her understated take on things. Marissa Curran, board president and an attorney with Polsinelli, nominated Javier for the St. Louis Business Journal’s “Most Influential Business Woman” 2021 class.

Receiving an email from the Business Journal informing her that she’d been selected for the acknowledgement was something of a shock for Javier.

“I’m very thankful for the Business Journal and to Marissa for nominating me,” she said. “Though I do find the recognition to be a little uncomfortable because our success at APA comes from the entire team.”

Javier’s path to this moment starts in her hometown of Bonner Springs, Kansas, and continued at Kansas State University, where she earned her BS in family studies and human services, before beginning teaching with Head Start and the Bonner Springs Department of Education.

She made her way to St. Louis in 1999, becoming a Child Life Specialist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. She stayed at Children’s for almost 10 years, evolving from working with patients and their families in the emergency room and with the heart and lung transplant teams to a more expanded role that included leadership and fundraising.

At Children’s, Javier began working with the children protection team, serving patients who had been victims of abuse. Through that position, she supported children who had been removed from unsafe living situations by the Department of Family Services.

Noticing that those children were placed into foster homes without much in the way of necessary possessions, Javier started a backpack program that would help provide items such as clothes, toiletries, school supplies and more.

Raising funds and soliciting donations of materials for the backpack program turned out to be a key effort for Javier in more ways than one. Aside from reinforcing her desire to help, it awakened in her a desire to broaden the circle of her impact by taking on more leadership positions.

“The backpack program was my first experience with developing partnerships that directly helped the individuals I was seeking to help – kids who experienced abuse – and I loved building those connections,” Javier said. “I also loved the volunteers who supported the work being done in the hospital as they were so critical to our success.”

That experience led her to the UMSL Masters of Public Policy Administration program where Javier focused on nonprofit management.

One of Javier’s favorite aspects of the program was learning from instructors who worked in the field. She found solid practical advice and valuable mentorship from many, especially Patricia Rich, who was also the principal of EMD Consulting Group.

“I am so grateful for how open and supportive Pat Rich and other professors and instructors were even beyond the time I shared with them in the classroom,” Javier said. “Pat and I have continued to cross paths from time to time, and she has even made herself available in the past when I’ve needed input or wanted to get her expert advice. This support definitely contributed to my own personal career success but also taught me the importance and value of helping other future leaders.”

After graduating in 2006, the knowledge gained at UMSL quickly came in use in Javier’s professional life as she moved from Children’s Hospital to alumni and constituent relations at Washington University in St. Louis, then to corporate and foundation relations at Lindenwood University and back to health care as vice president of community engagement and advocacy at Crider Health Center – Compass Health.

Then, in 2016, Javier saw an intriguing opportunity – the APA was looking for a new president and CEO. Having wanted to lead a nonprofit for some time, Javier leapt at the opportunity.

Though caring for human health and animal wellness might seem different at first, Javier says they are more similar than they might appear.

“The connection between people and pets is so valuable, and for many, pets are considered family,” she said. “It has been rewarding to bring my experience in health and social services to animal welfare in order to facilitate those connections.”

This has been especially critical during the pandemic.

Javier led the APA in partnering with human serving organizations to address issues facing pets and their people together. She points to pet food distribution as one example of this synergy.

“We partnered with human food pantries so an individual could get human food and pet food all in one stop,” she said. “This reduced barriers, such as a lack of transportation, and helped us get resources to the people who needed them most. We also worked with the United Way 2-1-1 to begin asking about pet needs when a person was facing a human issue, such as eviction or foreclosure, so we could address those issues for the pet, too.”

These efforts during the pandemic are in line with the overall APA mission of bringing pets and people together and deepening the human and animal bond.

That’s something Javier intends to continue to focus on going forward.

“The APA has been serving pets for nearly 100 years, and while we have evolved over time, our focus has always been on the connection between people and pets,” she said. “My dream, of course, is for the APA to end pet homelessness and for every pet to have a safe, loving home. I believe we will get there someday. In the meantime, we will continue this important work of serving pets, creating connections, and being a resource to the St. Louis community and beyond.”

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