BEDMINSTER, NJ - Basking Ridge resident Sara D. Soden was among the four new trustees elected to serve on the board for The Friends of the Jacobus Vanderveer House "living museum" that highlights the active role that the Somerset Hills played in the American Revolution.

The Friends of the Jacobus Vanderveer House elected the new trustees and reappointed three current trustees to serve three-year terms on the nonprofit museum’s board at the Friends' January meeting. Newly elected board members include: Laurel A. Porcelli, of Far Hills; Soden, of Basking Ridge; Christine Socha Czapek, of Mountainside; and Debbie Weisman, of South Plainfield. 

20th anniversary for Friends of Jacobus Vanderveer House

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The appointments are made on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the organization that began with volunteers intent on restoring the house and property, which had been previously purchased by Bedminster Township, and creating historically accurate exhibits. “We are delighted to welcome these four talented women to our board,” said Craig Sutherland, President of The Friends of the Jacobus Vanderveer House Board of Trustees. “Each brings a unique set of talents that will be instrumental in steering this organization as we enter our 20th anniversary year.”

The Jacobus Vanderveer House, located at 3055 River Road and accessed via River Road Park Off Route 206 in Bedminster, holds many special events during the year. Those events include the annual Colonial Christmas open house, and a summer history camp where students help unearth the history of the property, at the center of the Pluckemin encampment for artillery training for Colonial troops.

Soden in philanthropy, employed at Sloan Kettering in Basking Ridge

Sara Soden has dedicated much of her career in the philanthropy industry to the medical and educational sectors. Currently, she is the Associate Director of Development for the Regional Program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Basking Ridge, where since 2015 she has been responsible for generating annual revenues of $10 million.

Previously, Soden worked with the development team at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, and led capital and endowment campaigns at two private schools in Manhattan. She earned a B.A. in public policy from Hobart & William Smith Colleges (HWS) and an M.S. in Nonprofit Management from Northeastern University. She was elected to the Board of Governors at Blair Academy, where she is currently a Class Representative. Soden also lends her energies and fundraising talents to both Blair and HWS. 

Laurel Porcelli is the co-director of Trusts, Estates and Appraisal Services at Rago Arts and Auction Center, after starting her career at Rago as a specialist in the Fine Furniture and Decorative Art Department. She is a graduate of New York University’s Appraisal Studies Program in Fine and Decorative Art and a certified member of the Appraisers Association of America. A USPAP (Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice -compliant appraiser since 2006, Porcelli has successfully conducted estate planning, estate tax, equitable distribution, fair market value for sale, charitable contribution, insurance scheduling and damage/loss appraisals for clients, attorneys, accountants, wealth managers, insurance companies and internationally recognized museums and institutions. Porcelli earned a B.S. degree in textile design from Philadelphia University and she is a sustaining volunteer with the New York Junior League.

Socha Czapek is a founding partner and president of the law firm Borteck & Czapek, P.C., in Florham Park, practicing in civil litigation with a concentration in trusts and estates planning, probate litigation, fiduciary disputes, guardianships, corporate matters, and 501(c) (3) organizations. Prior to the formation of Borteck & Czapek, Ms. Czapek was an associate with Robert D. Borteck, P.C. and Norris, McLaughlin & Marcus, PA. 

Czapek received her law degree from Seton Hall University School of Law and graduated magna cum laude from Lafayette College with a B.A. in Government and Law.  A frequent speaker on estate planning and administration, she is a member of the Estate Planning Council of Northern New Jersey, the New Jersey and New York State Bar Associations, and the Morris County and Somerset County Bar Associations.  She has been recognized numerous times as a “New Jersey Rising Star” and “Super Lawyer” by New Jersey Monthly and received a Professional Service Award for her pro bono work with the Raritan Valley Chapter of Habitat for Humanity. Czapek’s volunteer interests include a board position with the Mountainside Newcomers Club, alumni activities for Lafayette College, and the youth ministry program of St. Helen’s Church in Westfield.

Debbie Weisman is an independent and award-winning photographer, who has lived and worked in the Somerset County area for over 25 years. Her photos, which have appeared in New Jersey Hills Media newspapers, New Jersey Monthly and other publications, have chronicled breaking news from all areas of the Garden State. 

From recent presidential visits, celebrity appearances and fundraisers, and the Basking Ridge 600-year-old oak tree to the many events at the Jacobus Vanderveer House & Museum, the Pingry School and Bonnie Brae School in Basking Ridge and The Discovery Orchestra,  Weisman has visually documented Somerset Hills history. Weisman attended Alabama University, Muhlenberg College and Douglas College (as a journalism major).  She has taught photography in schools and local institutions and participates in photography shows and exhibits throughout the state.  Weisman has been a longtime member of the Warren Township Lions Club and Watchung Hills Elks Club. An avid animal lover, she is a volunteer for Lifeline Animal Rescue in Watchung.

Bedminster residents reappointed to board

Bedminster residents Leslie Molé, Robin Ray, and Sean Blinn, each of whom have completed three-year terms on the board, were unanimously reappointed to serve second three-year terms.

“Each of these board members has a long history of service to the Friends’ organization, including terms as president,” added Sutherland. “They have been an enormous asset to our leadership and development efforts, and we are thrilled to have them return for another term on the board.”

Molé will continue in her role as first vice-president of The Friends’ Executive Committee. Ray will continue to serve as assistant treasurer, and Blinn will continue to serve on the Communications Committee.  

Jennifer Becker of Basking Ridge to continue as second vice-president of Friends' Executive Committee

Other members of the Friends’ Executive Committee include Jennifer Becker, of Basking Ridge, as second vice-president; Lori Rothe Yokobosky, of Fredon, as Treasurer; and Janice Marano, of Califon, as secretary.

The Jacobus Vanderveer House served as headquarters for General Henry Knox during the winter of 1778-79, and is the only surviving building associated with the Pluckemin Artillery Cantonment, now recognized as America’s first military training academy and the precursor to The United States Military Academy at West Point. The Jacobus Vanderveer House & Museum interprets Dutch colonial life in America as well as the stay by General Knox and his family during the 1778-79 encampment. A National and New Jersey Historic Site, the Jacobus Vanderveer House & Museum is a true landmark that offers a vivid look into the history of our country and the lives of those who were there at the birth of the nation.  

Operated by the nonprofit Friends of The Jacobus Vanderveer House for the past 20 years, information on the house and museum is available online at

The Friends of the Jacobus Vanderveer House received an operating support grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State.