Laura Pople, PhD
Executive Director, Founder
Sr. Editor, Cengage Learning
APPlaznmeIn mid-2008, the news stories about foreclosure pets became a regular occurrence.  The grief and trauma that the families were experiencing, compounded by the difficult decisions they had to make about their beloved animal companions was painful to read.  It seemed to me that something could be done to help alleviate some of that pain.  And that perhaps if I put together the right group of people, we could actually effect change for the good with a program that allowed for a temporary surrender of their animals.  Nothing like this seemed to be out there, and in fact, I still haven’t found a dedicated program of this sort.  There was a definite problem to solve, and this seemed like a potential solution.

I have been rescuing pets, for myself and for others, all my life.  After Hurricane Katrina, when I was stationed as a disaster relief worker in a shelter in Deep East Texas, I saw first-hand the devastation in people’s lives when forced to leave their animals behind during a crisis.  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.

I currently have six cats and one dog.  They are all rescues.  Two of the cats, Lewis and Clark, are tawny tabby brothers.  One cat, PalmPilot, was found as a tiny kitten during Hurricane Floyd.  The senior members of the household are Isis and Mischief.  And Echo, my miracle boy, is a blind, seizure disorder cat who is now 10.  Representing the dog species (although more cat-like than not most of the time) is my American Eskimo, Hamlet.  I an now also sharing my home with several animal who came to me through Seer Farms; two cats Sacha and Wolfgang, who lost their mom from complications following the surgery that placed them in Seer Farms care, and Cali, an English Setter mix, who arrived at Seer Farms as an underground railroad stop from a kill shelter in the deep south.  Over the years I have had the privilege of also sharing my life with Cody, Anushka, Bunnyfur, Stonewall, Loki, Xanthe, Drood, Pilot, Zephyr, Iansa, Matata, Suki, Wookie, Lazarus, and other four-legged companions.

My previous non-profit experience includes my role as a Red Cross Disaster Relief Volunteer.  In addition, I was one of the founders of Jersey Pride – the all volunteer non-profit organization that runs the statewide annual GLBTI pride celebration and have been its president since its inception.  We are now in our 18th year.  I am also president of the New Jersey Lesbian and Gay Coalition and its Personal Liberty Fund, an umbrella organization that provides education and advocacy around GLBTI issues.  NJLGC was instrumental in the passage of an amended law against discrimination and domestic partnership legislation. 

My goal is for people who come to Seer Farms to place their animals in temporary custody with us to find a welcoming environment when they come.  I want our facility to place the highest emphasis on easing the transition for the families and their animals during the surrender process.  Seer Farms will be a destination for volunteers, for potential adopters of animals that we ultimately need to place, and for those families who must temporarily surrender their animals for whatever reason.

Robin Nafshi
Rabbi; Temple Beth-El, Hillsborough, NJ and Ohr Tikvah
Jewish Healing Center, Bridgewater, NJ
BA, New York University; JD, Cornell Law School; Master of Hebrew Letters and Rabbinic Ordination, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

I am passionate about treating all of God’s creatures – human and animal – with kindness and compassion. In my work as a rabbi, I encounter many people in crisis. Their  animals are often their primary or only source of comfort.  Yet, they resist getting the treatment they need because no one can care for their animals.  Others are experiencing a housing or financial crisis and need help caring for their animals.  Seer Farms addresses all of these concerns. 

I was a founding member of the Faith Advisor Team at Best Friends Animal Society. In that role, I helped draft the Religion and Animals Proclamation, and was one of the three speakers who helped unveil the Proclamation in Washington, DC, before members of Congress. I share my home with ten animals, eight of whom are rescues. I have three dogs, four cats, and three horses.

My work with other nonprofits stems back to the mid-1980s. From 1985-2000, I served in virtually every board position at my synagogue in San Francisco. From 1989-2000, I was a volunteer with Project Open Hand in San Francisco, which delivers daily meals to people living with HIV, AIDS and other life threatening and chronic illnesses.  As of March of 2009, I assumed the position of treasurer of the Women’s Rabbinic Network, where I serve on the executive board.

Cheryl Vitow
Vice President – Programs and Co-founder
Medical Writer, President of CliniQuill Associates, LLC
Since the age of 5, after convincing my parents to get me a kitten, I have had animals in my life.  I rescued reptiles and amphibians around my Virginia home as a child and continued rescuing animal as I grew older.  Although I continued to foster reptiles (a garter snake and 6-foot-long boa constrictor) for some time, most of my adopted pets have been of a furry nature.  Currently, I live with my partner of 17 years and our three cats, Othello, Rico, and David Cassidy.  David Cassidy was  born at Seer Farms and is creating havoc and bringing joy with each day.  And we have a feral cat, Charlie, who is 14 years old and commutes to her heated home in our garage through a cat door.  All of our furry pets have been rescues. 

Few things are more special than the love of a pet. Now more than ever, pets and just as importantly, their people need help.  Seer Farms provides a way to bring peace of mind to both people and their pets.  Temporary placement with the hope of reuniting families when lives are readjusted fills an unmet need.  Like children, pets depend on us for their survival.  They are the unwitting victims in a situation that often is unavoidable.  Seer Farms is our answer.

When Laura Pople first approached me with the idea of Seer Farms, there was only one response.  Of course this must be done and yes, I want to be a part of it.  My previous experience with animal rescue other than adoption was as a volunteer at the Raptor Trust, where I learned quite a bit about birds and about animal care in general.  I have previous board experience as a Board member for the Institute for Humanities and Education (now a part of Young Audiences) and  the New Jersey Lesbian and Gay Coalition, among others. 

I have degrees in Medical Technology (A.A.S), Biochemistry (B.S.); with Masters work in Clinical Pharmacology.  As a scientist working in the healthcare field, I am also especially interested in pet nutrition.  I make nutritionally sound food for my cats to ensure their good health.

My vision for Seer Farms is to ultimately be the premier sanctuary for pets in need.  To create an environment that allows for healthy transitions for pets and leaves their people with a sense of comfort during an otherwise stressful situation.  I plan to help Seer Farms grow and eventually be self-sustaining.

Gina Rubin
Vice President – finance
Ms. Rubin has worked for over 15 years in the garment industry & currently works for a non-profit organization. She is both a certified Delta Society Partner handler & R.E.A.D. (Reading Education Assistance Dogs) specialist. She has participated in in the pet therapy program at Hackensack University Medical Center, visiting both the department of pediatrics and the Tomorrows Children’s Institute. She has also volunteered at The Jewish Home at Rockleigh, and helped establish the Reading to Rover program at the Harrington Park, NJ library. She is the proud caretaker of Maggie, a 2 year old Golden Retriever rescue, who aspires to be a therapy dog & Harley, a 10 year old Welsh Springer Spaniel who prefers to spend her days rolling in the grass & chasing squirrels.

Sherri Rase
Seer Farms is attractive to me for the help it provides to people in need, keeping pets and their families together.  I am a pet owner, and I love most fur-bearing varmints.  I have two examples of felis domesticus, one gray and white tabby named Serena and a faded calico named Gillian.  They are each 17 years old, and from separate litters.  Gillian was adopted from a NJ shelter.

 I am a founding member and officer of Jersey Pride, Inc.; a long time member, current officer and board member of Gay Activist Alliance in Morris County; past board member and officer of the New Jersey Lesbian and Gay Coalition; current board member of Planned Parenthood Central New Jersey and board member and officer of Arts Project of Cherry Grove. I have won an Honor Award for my service to NJ’s LGBTI community and I currently write for a web-based NYC arts magazine,  I have a BA in Philosophy from Marietta College, with concentrations in Theatre, Music and Competition Speech.

My vision for Seer Farms is for families to know they have someplace to go for short-term care that is like home for their pets, until such time as those pets might be reunited with their families once a home or living situation is more stable.  Seer Farms will also be a place, in my mind, where families may come to meet and perhaps adopt pets who will enrich their new families with the love that animals and humans share.

Susan Menahem
Founding trustee
Ms. Menahem is a long time community activist.  She was a founding member of Jersey Pride where she has been, and continues to be the festival coordinator.  She served as Executive Director of the Tri-Community Alliance in Monmouth and Ocean Counties of NJ.  In that capacity she was responsible for programming and fundraising.  She is now a very successful therapist. 

Rob Reynolds, PhD.
Founding trustee
Mr. Reynolds is a life-long educator and experienced business person and entrepreneur. Rob spent more than two decades as a classroom teacher and university administrator before moving into the corporate world and, later starting his own company. As an entrepreneur in the 90’s, he helped establish trucking routes into Mexico for Lucent and an independent trucking firm. In the last five years, he has established multiple new companies and has proven effective at securing capital for those companies. Rob has experience with VC’s, Angel investors, and investment bankers. 

Former Members

Susan Addelston, director
Susan Addelston is a retired NYC Social Studies teacher.  Now an active member of many local and national animal welfare organizations, member, she is on the Volunteer Auxiliary for Animal Shelters in Jackson and an ex-officio member Animal Welfare Committee (Jackson).  She currently resides in Westlake senior community in Jackson.

Karen Holmes, director
Karen Holmes is a small animal veterinarian practicing in Massachusetts.  Her professional interests include working with birds, dogs, cats and smaller mammals.  Karen enjoys practicing all aspects of veterinary medicine, but particularly likes working with families to better understand the nature and needs of the animals they’ve chosen as companions.  She finds it especially gratifying to work with some of the larger parrots who may be part of a family over two or more generations and help those involved develop and practice a natural approach to life with an avian companion.

Working with animals and their humans has given her the chance to be of service in a completely new way that is challenging and rewarding.  Volunteering her time and skills for rescues, shelters and other animal oriented non-profit organizations helps Karen keep in touch with the resilience and wonder of animals.

When she isn’t practicing veterinary medicine, Karen likes to kayak, read and play with the animals living in her home.

Being a part of Seer Farm is both a labor of love and partial payment for a debt of gratitude for the good work they do in general and for one very large, loving dog in particular.

Linda Phillips, director
Animals have been a part of my life since my young days as a child growing up with my dog, Chico,  and our cat, Mittens, who came into our home from the streets. As an adult I can remember the first home I had where I could adopt a pet, my first dog, Sadie. She was a rescue, as all my dogs have been. My dogs are part of my family. If I found myself in difficult circumstances where I could not take care of my animal family for a period of time, I would be heart-broken and worried about what would happen to them. That is why the idea of establishing a home for temporarily displaced animals, until a time when their families can come back to take them home, made me smile and say yes, I want to be a part of that. Helping people and helping animals, a perfect combination.

I have been active in many community projects for much of my life. I believe in giving back to my community, whether as an organizer supporting gay/lesbian rights, both statewide and in my home town of Asbury Park; as a labor activist and active board member on local political organizations in the Middlesex county area; or working to beautify and unite the community I love as an active board member of the Garden of Joy, a community garden project in Asbury Park, NJ.

In the course of my activities, I have been an event organizer, treasurer, secretary, board member and newsletter editor. I work as a computer support person at Rutgers University. As a part of that job, I provide web design and maintenance services, as well as general help desk support. As a volunteer I also provide web site design and maintenance assistance to several non-profit projects, including Seer Farms, Inc. I am happy to provide this support and to be making a difference for people and the animals they love.