Josephine grew up in New Jersey where she graduated from Ramapo College with a degree in Environmental Science and a minor in Biology. She has held management roles in the Environmental and Nuclear industries and worked as an educator at the Virginia Aquarium.
Josephine has always held a strong connection with the natural world through her volunteer work at various zoos, wildlife refuges, and wildlife rehabilitation centers. In 2016 she and her husband purchased the small farm which would soon become known as Cooper Ridge. She believes in the importance and strength of the human-animal bond and understands firsthand that animals can heal in a way that no human can. She is a Certified Animal Assisted Therapy Professional and looks forward to helping children experience the healing power of animals.
Born and raised in Augusta, GA, Justin’s career has taken him from the coasts of GA and SC to the Washington DC area and back home to Augusta. He is a graduate of Georgia Southern University where he earned a degree in Construction Management with a minor in Business Administration. Justin is accomplished in the planning and execution of construction projects in the residential, commercial, and nuclear industry for NASA and the Savannah River Site where he currently is a Project Construction Manager.
In addition, he has served on the board of Coastal Empire Christian Camp and held multiple leadership roles in churches and social organizations.
Justin has a passion for the outdoors and working with his hands. He enjoys learning and implementing farming methods to increase the health of both the land and animals at Cooper Ridge. He hopes that in the same way the animals heal the land they will also help in healing children.
Dee grew up in both Minnesota and Indiana, attending college in Cincinnati where she earned a Civil Engineering degree followed by a degree in Environmental Management. Her work brought her to the Savannah River Site in Aiken, SC, where she met Josephine. The two often discussed the dreams they shared of owning a farm that would help children.
Dee has been a longtime advocate for children and considers herself blessed to be involved in an organization that will provide therapeutic experiences and support to children and their families.
Dee lives with her dog, Sissy, in a rural farming community in Indiana, near her daughter, son-in- law and grandchildren. She works for the State of Indiana.
Don, a native of Michigan was transplanted to Georgia with a job transfer in 1978. After graduation from High School he attended Western Michigan University graduating in June of 1972 with a major in Accounting and minor’s in General Business and History.
He married in 1974 to Debbie, now a wife of 46 years. They have 4 married children and 5 grandchildren. Recently retired, Don’s professional career of 48 years had been in senior leadership positions in finance. With 32 years in a wide array of products and services with 4 different manufacturing companies, finishing his career with 16 years in the hospitality industry.
Don also serves as an Elder and Chairman of Finance and Administration at Christway Christian Church in Martinez, Georgia. Having worked with youth groups of all ages in various church activities and summer camps, Don looks forward to seeing the impact that animal therapy can have on our young people.
Nicoletta graduated from Bloomsburg University with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration majoring in accounting and economics. She currently works as the Chief Financial Officer of a non-profit organization in Hunterdon County, NJ.
In addition to accounting, Nicoletta has always had a passion for health & wellness. She is a Certified Fitness Trainer from the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), as well as being a Specialist in Corporate Wellness. She is also a coalition leader in a community-wide initiative with 60 other organizations to bring health and wellness to all communities in her home state. Nicoletta’s belief is in order for a person to be healthy, they must be healthy in body, mind and spirit.
She and her dog Bubba are a Certified Therapy Dog team in NJ, visiting schools, libraries, hospices, etc. providing affection, comfort and support to those in need of a kind heart and loving touch. Nicoletta enjoys hiking, biking, being outdoors and spending time with family and friends. She looks forward to sharing her expertise in non-profit accounting allocations and reporting to enhance the operations of Cooper Ridge.
Joann Denemark is a Florida native. She was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. She has earned a Bachelor of Education in Varying Exceptionalities and her Master of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders. She has been a practicing speech-language pathologist (SLP) for 21 years specializing in early intervention, pediatric & adult speech-language disorders, and augmentative & alternative communication, serving the special needs community. She moved to Augusta, GA in 2019 with her family. She is happily married to her high school sweetheart David, and they have two teenage children. She is currently employed by Augusta University within the College of Allied Health Sciences as an assistant professor developing a new Master of Health Science in Speech-Language Pathology graduate program commencing in the fall of 2025. Her experience as a special education teacher, SLP employment in a variety of clinical settings, and passion for the profession has prepared her to develop an innovative graduate program providing new SLP graduate students with experiential learning opportunities unique to any other program. She is currently pursuing her educational doctorate degree at Augusta University. Her interests include yoga, pickleball, improving her golf game, and traveling.
Meghan was raised by animal lovers and became one herself. Her love for animals, science, and the practice of medicine led her to pursue an undergraduate education in pre-veterinary medicine, which she then traded in her junior year for occupational therapy.
Following graduation from occupational therapy school in 2010, she worked in pediatrics, then hands, and now teaches in Augusta University's Occupational Therapy department. Her clinical practice is in treatment of hands, wrist, and elbows. Meghan's research interests are in the effects of trauma on healing from orthopedic upper extremity injuries, as well as the development of interprofessional education programs. In AU's program, her primary teaching responsibilities are kinesiology, foundations of the profession, and the program's exit course.
Outside of work, Meghan is raising three young children and caring for the family's puppy, Birdie, and her daughter's guinea pig, Cupcake. As a family, we love time outside, pretending and games, and being together. Meghan is excited to help connect Cooper Ridge Farm to her social network in Augusta and to her students and department at AU.
Michaelann graduated from Purdue University in Indiana with a Bachelor of Arts in Special Education in 2001. Since then she has taught special education in several different capacities including elementary, middle school and high school. She has worked with students with severe behavioral needs, children with severe and profound physical and mental disabilities and students with mild disabilities and learning disabilities.
Michaelann has great love for all students and genuinely enjoys helping all grow in their abilities. She relishes the joy of celebrating all student successes, no matter how small. She is currently working in a self-contained special education elementary class in Lexington, SC.
In her personal life she is married to her husband Lynn. They have three wonderful children and a cute dog.
Vanessa Murphy is a native of Virginia, but now calls Augusta her home. She is currently employed at Blue Ridge Elementary in Columbia County. This is her twenty-sixth year as a special education teacher. She is currently a Kindergarten-fifth grade Interrelated Special Education teacher in Evans, Georgia. She was chosen as the 2022-2023 Teacher of the Year for Blue Ridge Elementary School. She received her Bachelor of Science in Special Education from Augusta State University in June 1996. In May 2020, she was the first educator in the area to receive a Master of Science degree in Reading Intervention, Math Intervention, and Behavior Intervention from Winthrop University. Her research proposal was chosen by a team of professors and published in a peer review journal in January 2019. In May 2021, she received her Education Specialist Degree in Advanced Educational Studies from Augusta University. To further enhance her special education knowledge, she received a Dyslexia Endorsement from the Central Savannah River Area-Regional Educational Service Agency (CSRA-RESA) in May 2021. She was one of seventeen educators chosen in the CSRA to participate in the first Dyslexia cohort. She is married to her supportive husband, John. She has two stepchildren, and two children of her own. Her interests include running, exercising, and spending time with her family and friends
Penny is a Registered and Licensed Occupational Therapist as well as a lover of animals. She was born and raised in Augusta, Georgia and graduated from the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) with a Master’s of Health Sciences (MHS).
Penny has a passion for the rehabilitation of children in all aspects of physical and emotional development; and is excited about bringing a therapeutic background approach with Farm Animals to the CSRA. She has over 12 years of experience with therapy and hopes to bring that knowledge and experience to enhance the programs at Cooper Ridge.
Cooper Ridge Farm
P.O. Box 622, Appling, GA 30802
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