Laura Pople, PhD
Executive Director, Founder
Laura Pople, Executive Director of Seer Farms, is a long time community activist and leader. Born in Pittsburgh, Pople came to New Jersey for graduate school, receiving her PhD from Rutgers in Applied Social Psychology. Her background perfectly suited her for an editorial career in Higher Education Publishing, helping transition the field to the Digital Age.
Always passionate about social justice, Pople was at the helm of several volunteer community groups through the 90’s, founding one that she still leads to this day. In 2005, following Hurricane Katrina, she joined the American Red Cross as a Disaster Relief Worker, and ran a shelter for Katrina and Hurricane Rita evacuees in Deep East Texas. What a difference it made when I was able to facilitate the opening of an animal shelter for the animals making the journey from the Gulf Coast with their owners as Hurricane Rita approached.
By mid-2008, the news stories about the economic crisis and the specific disaster of foreclosure pets pointed Pople in her current direction. The grief and trauma that these families – and in fact all families going through life crises – were experiencing, compounded by the difficult decisions they had to make about their beloved animal companions, underscored a clear problem to be solved. Pople founded Seer Farms, a community service organization that provides temporary care to the animals of families in crisis, to help these families recover their self-sufficiency and reunite with their pets. Pople’s innovative work with Seer Farms was recognized by People Magazine in their “Heroes Among Us” series in 2010.
Immediately following Superstorm Sandy, Pople joined other non-profit activists in Ocean County to found the Ocean County Long Term Recovery Group, serving on the Board of Directors of that group for two years. Continuing her service to Ocean County in the areas of disaster preparedness and advocacy for pet owners, Pople was appointed Director of the Ocean County Animal Response Team in 2015.
President, Board of Directors
As someone with a special interest in the intersection of intimate partner and animal abuse, I began my work as the domestic violence advocate at Seer Farms. I was trained by Womanspace in Mercer County where I am a member of their Community Advisory Board, and Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Victim Response Teams. In 2013, I retired after nearly 35 years at Mathematica Policy Research. I served on their Board of Directors from 2006-2009. As a co-founder of Underground Pottery, in Hightstown, New Jersey, I use pottery sales to raise money for and awareness of Seer Farms.
I am a third generation trigeminal neuralgia patient. I am on the Board of Directors and a support group leader for TNA-the Facial Pain Association. Trigeminal neuralgia is a disorder of the fifth cranial (trigeminal) nerve that causes pain in areas of the face. I value the palliative role that my cats Gracie, Granite, and Lucy, and, dogs, Bessie and Sassy, (all rescues) play in my life.
Bessie and I work as a therapy-pet/handler team. Rescued from death row at a puppy mill, Bessie now saves lives by working in Mercer County police stations when we meet with victims of intimate partner violence. We also visit hospitalized children in the Visiting Paws Program at Virtua Hospital. She is the “reading dog” in the Mercer County Library System. Bessie is the mascot of our trigeminal neuralgia support group and is often seen at Seer Farms events.
My goals are (1) to have four-legged residents at Seer Farms feel as cared for as the four-legged companions in my own home, and (2) to have no one stay in an unsafe situation or abandon their pets because they do not know where to keep them safe during troubled times.
Brenda Flanagan, is currently a correspondent/producer for NJTV News, Montclair, NJ. A four-time NYC Emmy Award-winning investigative journalist, with 30 years’ experience producing dynamic news stories, Brenda has reported for Fox News, WNYW/WWOR-TV News, and NJ Nightly News. Her particular focus: politics, medical news, consumer advocacy, civil rights, and humane treatment of animals. Brenda covered Seer Farms during the Superstorm Sandy crisis, and has been involved ever since.
Brenda’s got two (human) daughters, and four (cat) fur-kids. She was born in New Orleans, and grew up in Northern Maine – where she picked potatoes and learned to speak French (badly.) She’s never lived in a home without pets.
Larissa O’Donnell is a graduate of Rutgers College She had a 25 year career in international logistics sales & marketing. She is currently self-employed at Blind Bob’s Pottery where she produces functional & artistic pottery for customers throughout U.S. & Canada, including a presence in boutique locations within NJ & Texas.
Through Blind Bob’s Pottery, she has donated products for fundraising to animal shelters & rescues.
Ms. O’Donnell is a NJ Certified NCO. She is a past Treasurer & current Board Member of Garden State German Shepherd Rescue. In addition she has served as consultant to Southern Pines Animal Shelter, Hattiesburg, MS.
Chris Velasco is a Product Manager at Merrill Lynch and has been a volunteer at Seer Farms since July, 2009. Shortly after Seer Farms opened its doors in Jackson, Chris saw an article of our facility and what our mission was. Chris and her son began to volunteer as dog walkers on Saturdays but it quickly turned into a full-weekend activity.
Chris grew up in a family that had pets and learned how to train and discipline without harsh punishment. Adding Oscar to her own small family in 2005, helped her son learn how to be a responsible pet owner and how much a pet relies on its owner. In March 2010, Chris was asked if she could foster an animal at Seer Farms that was not adapting well to being apart from his owner. He fit right into the routine and family life. Angus joined the family permanently after a difficult decision made by the owner to surrender him. Chris also took in Bear after an owner surrender in 2014 and Brooke, a dog from a hoarding situation in 2015.
Chris is a very community-minded person and has volunteered in many organizations throughout her home town. She has served as President of the West Freehold School PTO, Vice President of the Clifton T Barkalow School PTO, as Coach for 6 years with Freehold Recreation Soccer, CCD teacher at St Roberts of Bellarmine, Secretary of the Freehold Township Band Parents Organization and is currently Secretary of the Freehold Township Heritage Society. However, she is devoted to her work at Seer Farms and the animals she interacts with. Chris becomes their family during a time when their family cannot care for them or visit. She gives each animal the attention and affection they are looking for. She also enjoys leading visitors on tours of the Jackson facility and educating them on what we do and how they can help and coordinates volunteer group activities at the Jackson site.
A huge debt of gratitude is owed to the original founding members of the Seer Farms board of directors, who believed in the mission of Seer Farms and got the project underway.