Meet the team comprised of the unique individuals representing both expertise and compassion needed to get give and grow VolunPEER™!
Cherie Castellano, MA, CSW, LPC, AAETS is a national expert in the field of peer support after twenty five years of experience as the creator of the “Reciprocal Peer Support Model” recognized as a national best practice by the American Psychiatric Association (2019) and Department of Defense Center of Excellence (2011.) Today Cherie is the founder of “VolunPEER” a non-profit organization designed to get, give and grow peer support for survivors of disaster, trauma, and medical illness. As the Rutgers University Behavioral Healthcare National Center for Peer Support director, Cherie has developed, led and sustained over twenty peer support programs for a variety of specialty populations. Cherie’s Peer programs include Cop 2 Cop, Vet 2 Vet, Mom 2 Mom, Care2caregivers, Vets4warriors, Worker 2 Worker, Teacher2Teacher, Eye2Eye, NJ Fire EMS Lifeline, Nurse 2 Nurse and many more. Cherie leads The National Center for Peer Support staffed by 150 peers and clinicians providing services on a state and national level yielding millions dollars of funding annually. Cherie is a voluntary faculty member of the Rutgers Department of Psychiatry where she has honed her clinical skills as an expert in peer support and crisis and trauma informed psychological services.
Ms. Castellano has been recognized internationally as an expert in the field of peer support, behavioral healthcare and crisis intervention. Her experience as a lecturer has included international forums such as Australia and Europe as well as prestigious national forums such as the FBI National Academy. As a member of the 9/11 New York Emergency Services Delegation for the Port Authority Police Departmentshe traveled to Ireland, Belfast and England to share “9/11 Lessons Learned”.
Cherie co-authored two books “Psychological Counterterrorism and World War IV” with Dr. George Everly receiving national attention and “Law Enforcement Families; The Ultimate Back-Up” with Dr. Jim Reese. Cherie has authored several book chapters and over 100 articles in the field of peer support, law enforcement and military crisis intervention.
Various awards include Governors Proclamations, NJ Governors Excellence Award, N.J. Attorney General Recognition Award, International Critical Incident Stress Foundation World Congress Award, Commerce Bank New Jersey Hometown Hero, Unico Woman of the Year, and the New Jersey Interfaith Coalition for the Disabled Lay Person Award for her faith based activity. Ms. Castellano was selected “People Who Made A Difference in 2005” Star Ledger. 2009 the Italian American Police Society of New Jersey “Woman of the Year” and she received the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Civilian Commendation Medal. Cherie testified to the Department of Defense Military Suicide Prevention Task Force to present the RPS model, and her programs were identified as a “Best Practice” in peer support by the Department of Defense Center of Excellence. Governor’s Council on Mental HealthStigma Ambassador Award. In 2011 Cherie received the “Woman of the Year” Award by the National Police Defense League, also the “2012 New Jersey Health Care Hero” award by NJ Biz / Individual Education Award for founding and directing peer helplines and pioneering efforts in the field of Reciprocal Peer Support. In 2012 “Humanitarian of the Year” Lieberman award from The HealthCare Foundation of New Jersey” for her efforts with the “Mom 2 Mom” program. New Jersey Department of Children & Families Commissioner’s Partnership award for her leadership to serve NJ’s children.
As a Principal Investigator in a research grant Cherie has partnered with the University of North Carolina’s “Global Peers for Progress Institute” leadership team to establish a program evaluation project for the RPS model which established the model as an evidence based practice in 2017.
In 2018 the American Psychiatric Association awarded Cherie the Silver Award for Innovative Practices acknowledging the Reciprocal Peer Support Model as a national Best Practice.
In 2021 Cherie was selected as a Senior Research Fellow at the Duke Global Health Institute focused on clergy peer support.
Currently Cherie serves on President Biden’s “National Consortium for Law Enforcement Wellness” legislated to inform peer support and psychological support for law enforcement officers throughout the USA.
In 2023 Cherie joined the ICISF team and co created a new model entitled “Peer Paracounseling” with Dr. George Everly as an innovation in crisis peer support. On a personal note, Cherie has devoted her career to the development of the Reciprocal Peer support model and “rescuing rescuers” and law enforcement families inspired by her marriage to Mark, a Lieutenant with the Morris County Prosecutors’ Office, has two (2) sons Louis John and Domenick, and believes her role as a police wife and special mother are her greatest achievements.
LJ Castellano is the secretary/ board member at VolunPEER and a graduate of Duke University, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology & Certificate from the Fuqua School of Business in Marketing Management Sciences LJ is currently attending Montclair State University pursuing a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Clinical Mental Health Counseling to pursue his career in psychological services in private practice and in communities with youth in need. Lj has worked at Duke Global Health Institute as a Research Assistant where he designed & implemented an IRB approved Resiliency COVID-19 study to conduct interviews, data analysis, trends & themes utilizing Dr. Seligman’s Positive psychology model to determine traits correlated to overcoming trauma & the impact of the pandemic on mental health. LJ has had leadership experience at the Duke Leadership Development Program, LEAD at the Fuqua School of Business where he worked as a Lead Counselor LJ has competed as an elite athlete since middle school, competed nationally as captain of the Delbarton Wrestling team with over 100 wins and state medals then in college where he was a Division One wrestler at Duke University and a scholar athlete. In addition to competing across the nation. LJ volunteered at the University Hospital Trauma Unit Peer project focused on the psychological impact of trauma on level one trauma patients & co-led focus groups. Lj also was a Rutgers University Behavioral Healthcare Peer Support Volunteer counselor to design and implement a peer support program for wrestlers to overcome behavioral healthcare challenges called “Wrestler 2 Wrestler”LJ also volunteered at Rites of Passage and Counseled disadvantaged youth in the Essex/Morris County area. Finally Lj worked at the Arc of Essex County as a Respite Counselor to offer counseling support & skills of daily living for disabled youth. In a mind body connection LJ is a certified personal trainer, black belt in MMA and speaks Spanish fluently. LJ is motivated to use his resilience at VolunPEER to offer his career expertise in counseling and survival skills as an elite athlete to serve those in need.
Marsha Atkind served as Executive Director and CEO of The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey from December 2008 until her retirement at the end of June, 2021, An independent foundation, HFNJ is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of vulnerable, underserved populations in both Greater Newark and the Jewish community of MetroWest, NJ, elevating the quality of community healthcare, reducing disparities in access, and promoting the infusion of compassion and humanism into our healthcare system.
Ms. Atkind spent most of her career as a professional volunteer, culminating with a three-year term (2002-2005) as national President of the National Council of Jewish Women, an organization of 90,000 members and supporters with over 100 affiliates across the United States. She served on the Board of Governors of Tel Aviv University, the boards of HIPPY, USA, Essex County CASA, and the New Jersey Jewish News (President), and the Advisory Boards of the NCJW Research Institute for Innovation in Education at The Hebrew University and the NCJW Women & Gender Studies Program at Tel Aviv University.
In 2005 Ms. Atkind was recruited for a staff position at the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater MetroWest, NJ (“JCF”), where she became founding Director of the Jewish Women’s Foundation of NJ and Manager of Philanthropic Initiatives, responsible in the latter role for soliciting major endowment gifts. It was from that position that she was recruited for her role at The Healthcare Foundation.
Ms. Atkind currently serves on the boards of JCF and Family Connections and is a member of the Advisory Council to the President of Caldwell University. She recently stepped down from a position on the board of NJPAC. Atkind has extensive experience as a speaker and board trainer on such topics as volunteer involvement, developing effective teams, and public speaking. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, attended Columbia Law School, and is the recipient of the Star of Essex County Award (2019), the Alpha Epsilon Phi Susan Rudd Cohen Award for Outstanding Communal Service (2003) and NCJW’s Hannah G. Solomon Award (1999).
When asked why she wants to join the board of VolunPEER, Marsha replied that she understands the importance of the work the agency will do and is passionate about helping it to succeed. With Cherie Castellano at the helm, Marsha feels that the agency will accomplish great things.
Randi E. Jeddis has been a licensed clinical social worker for over three decades. She has a diverse clinical background having worked in mental health centers, hospitals, and schools. During the last two decades Ms. Jeddis has concentrated on her private practice and works with clients who represent varied cultural backgrounds with a variety of mental health issues and concerns. Her goal is to meet each client, family, or couple where they are, and partner with them as they explore, discover, and employ techniques to both stabilize and improve their mental health while coping with life’s challenges.
In 2009 Ms. Jeddis was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer. Upon treatment completion in 2010 she entered the volunteer arena to support others navigating “the cancer world.” In 2011 Ms. Jeddis co-founded WINGS Cancer Support Inc. (Women in Nurturing Giving Strength) with Lynn Ferrer, RN, and several other women who themselves were cancer thrivers. The mission of WINGS as a non-profit charity is to provide a positive environment for women affected by cancer before, during and after treatment as a way to alleviate stress and anxiety, through the healing arts. WINGS was able to continually support women with cancer through the recent pandemic while temporarily shifting to “virtual mode.” Ms. Jeddis remains on the board of WINGS and is the current treasurer.
In 2012 Ms. Jeddis was asked to be a volunteer psychosocial facilitator for Casting for Recovery’s (CfR) Northern New Jersey program, which is part of a larger national non-profit organization founded in 1996, in Manchester Vermont. Nationally, CfR conducts 40+ retreats a year throughout the USA and has served a total of 10,000 women since its inception in 1996. Founded on the principle that outdoor retreats, connection with others and “leaving it all behind for a weekend” is powerful medicine for women who have experienced cancer. The program serves women of all ages from differing cultural backgrounds.
Additionally in 2015 Ms. Jeddis accepted the role as co-program coordinator of the New Jersey program, which currently has two teams of professionals running retreat programs in NJ. On a national level Ms. Jeddis conducts vetting interviews and assists in training/onboarding of mental health staff to each state’s CfR program. In March 2023 she was a featured speaker at the CfR National Volunteer Symposium. Her presentation was focused on inclusion, diversity, and bias.
When asked why she wants to join the board of VolunPeer, she replied it is a brilliant idea, concept, and program. With an increase in personal isolation, post-pandemic life, increased global anxiety and a shortage of support, we are experiencing a time in which we must mobilize and help those in our community who are in need. The VolunPeer mission, as deigned and led by Cherie Castellano, is going to be a game changer in supporting those whom we will be able to serve, guide and assist.
Kelly has spent most of her life working and volunteering in the field of education and most particularly Catholic Education. Her dedication to Catholic Schools stems from a strong foundation in the Archdiocese of Newark’s Catholic school system from Notre Dame Grammar to Mount Saint Dominic Academy in Caldwell- where you can very often still find her today.
Upon graduation from the Mount Kelly moved onto Providence College where she received a BA degree in English and Theatre. Her graduate work was completed at Montclair State College where she earned an MA in Theatre and subsequently a second MA in Education from Seton Hall University. She credits her education and involvement in all of these Catholic institutions with giving her the deep desire to commit her time and energy to serve her communities as well as the community at large.
In 1993 Kelly began a long association with Trinity Academy when she began the Trinity Academy Drama Club, that she continued to manage until June of 2020 after enjoying 27 productions.
Kelly has served on the Mount Saint Dominic Academy Board of Trustees since 2006 and is currently the Vice Chair. She has always been an active alum where she currently produces and directs all of the main stage productions. She has been involved in their Hall of Fame since its inception and was inducted as a Hall of Fame member in 2005. She served as chairperson of the Capital Campaign which saw the completion of the Mount’s new Performing Arts Center. She currently sits on the Development Committee.
In 2020 Kelly and 4 other Mount women spearheaded the founding of the first ever DEI Committee at MSDA. This committee was responsible for bringing to light the inequities of the past and their effect on the school’s future. The committee continues to be a work in progress in empowering our community to remove barriers of social justice and inequality and engage the voices of our young women to promote equality and compassion for all.
Along with serving on the Providence College Leadership Council and Providential Society, Kelly’s most recent community of Women of Irish Heritage has provided a great opportunity to stay in touch with the NJ Irish community – a heritage of which she is deeply proud. She was honored in 2014 by the Division #9 Hiberians and in 2021 by The Friends of Brian Boru Inc. - two esteemed Irish organizations in Essex County.
After suffering the loss of her entire home to a fire in 2011, these communities all played an integral part in healing and helping Kelly and her family back on their feet. It created in her a strong need to pay it forward which is why Volunpeer struck such a chord. She looks forward to seeing the mission of the organization come to life.
Dr. Genevieve Kumapley is the Founder and the Executive Director of MyGOAL, a 501 C(3) non-profit autism organization established in 2008 in the South Brunswick, NJ that helps families with limited economic resources access therapies, programs and information about autism spectrum disorder in various countries including the United States.
Dr. Kumapley received her Doctor of Pharmacy Degree with Honors from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Kumapley is a Board Certified Oncology Pharmacist and leads as a Clinical Pharmacy Manager and Pharmacy Residency Program Director at Holy Name Medical Center ; she also holds an Adjunct Clinical Professor appointment with Rutgers University Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy. She uses her leadership skills to inspire and educate the community. She is committed to serving her community through her roles on several boards.
Dr. Kumapley is a John Maxwell Certified Speaker, Coach and Trainer.She has received awards for her leadership ; She is a co- author of 2 books, “7 Principles to Developing and Maintaining Your Passion, a book anthology, Network to Increase your Net Worth and her chapter is titled, No Passion, No Gain. She has been featured in several TV and Radio Networks including Ghana TV, NBC, ABC News .
When asked why I was interested in serving on the VolunPEER Board, I prayed about how can I be a partner in advancing the work of bringing wholeness to people. The answer came in seeing that my life mission aligns with this mission and I am committed to be a part of the movement.
Karen McCormick has worked as a Paralegal for the firm of Mandelbaum & Mandelbaum in Livingston, NJ for 23 years. She was also a full-time working Mom for many years – involved in all of her children’s activities including homeroom mom, PTA, coaching, etc. Her most important role was being a caring, involved mother to her 2 children – Michael Jr. and Meaghan.
In 2009 Karen lost her son Michael, at the age of 19, in a car accident. This tragedy prompted her, along with her husband Michael Sr., to start the Michael T. McCormick, Jr. Memorial Foundation. Since then, the Foundation has given over $500,000.00 in scholarships to Seton Hall Prep School, West Orange High School and other area schools. The foundation is also responsible for perpetual scholarships at Seton Hall Prep and Rutgers School of Dental Medicine, as well as donating a new scoreboard to the West Orange, NJ PAL baseball field.
The drive to accomplish this in 14 years has made Karen a fundraising authority. She has successfully done several major fundraisers as well as many smaller ones. The fruits of this labor have resulted in the scholarships described above. She will bring her insight and wisdom to assist the group in their efforts.
When asked why she wants to join the board of VolunPEER, Karen replied that she knew right away that this was a very special charitable organization. Knowing Cherie Castellano for the better part of 40 years she understands the knowledge, power and focus that Cherie brings to everything she works on and truly believes in. Within this very worthwhile organization, Karen hopes to assist Cherie in accomplishing her goals and beyond.
Vivian Pagoulatos has worked in the private sector of the healthcare industry and professional education as well as with patient advocacy groups and non-profit organizations in the NY metro area. Her experience provides a seasoned and diverse perspective to the nonprofits with which she has worked.
Vivian Pagoulatos is a graduate of Rutgers University College of Pharmacy with an RPh degree. She earned an MBA degree in Marketing from Fairleigh Dickinson University. She began her career as a chief pharmacist in the retail sector before transitioning to the pharmaceutical industry where she worked in sales, market research, marketing and medical affairs for Schering-Plough, Knoll Pharmaceuticals and Pharmacia. She has held senior account supervisory roles in medical education and medical communication/advertising with clients such as Novartis, Sanofi-Aventis, Roche, Merck, and Genentech, ending as a senior vice president at Saatchi Healthcare.
Her expertise includes the integration of promotional strategy, medical education and medical affairs, advertising, and managed markets. She has built and led cross functional teams in a variety of therapeutic categories (Rx, OTC, and specialty pharma). Her interest in philanthropy began while working with patient advocacy groups such as CancerCare, Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, Dravet Syndrome Foundation, and NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) among others.
Currently, Vivian Pagoulatos works as a consultant for several organizations writing medical education modules and clinical needs assessments for educational grant proposals. She also develops advanced clinical training programs for medical affairs teams.
Vivian has provided pro bono assistance to pharmacy education organizations such as the NJPhA in communications, grant writing/CE and planning for their Annual Meeting. She has been an adjunct professor in the Rutgers College of Pharmacy Extern program. She was most recently on the Advisory Board for the new school of pharmacy at Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Vivian currently serves on several boards of local non-profit organizations. She sits on the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of the Bernards Township Library where she serves as Treasurer and heads the Finance Committee and the Land & Buildings Committee (Capital Improvements). She recently developed the Strategic Plan and is currently overseeing the library’s Marketing Plan.
Vivian Pagoulatos is heavily involved in local philanthropy, having chaired numerous fundraising projects for The Ladies Philoptochos Society since 2001. She is a current Board member and past president of the Roseland chapter and a delegate to the national and state conventions. She has worked with individuals and families in need through her position on the Social Services Committee, most recently providing an immigrant family from war-torn Ukraine and Armenia with a fresh start. She has worked with organizations like FOCUS in providing children with backpacks and addressing food insufficiency through the Community FoodBank of America. She introduced award winning projects in environmental awareness (Earth Day) and in literacy, partnering with The Loukoumi Foundation to donate books to local families and autism schools like the REED Academy. She developed outreach and awareness programs in autism, ovarian/breast cancer, and women’s health as well as chairing numerous fundraisers and succeeding in obtaining grants for local nonprofits such as Dravet Syndrome Foundation. She has worked with Cherie Castellano and Mom 2 Moms since its early days in Newark/Essex County. Most recently Philoptochos hosted a VolunPEER program (January 2023).
Vivian Pagoulatos is pleased to join the Board of VolunPEER. Impressed with the passion and drive of Ms. Castellano in starting many other nonprofits, Vivian believes in the mission of VolunPEER and is excited to work with the Board to build and grow this organization as it serves those in need.
Nina R. Tenten is a graduate from John Jay College of Criminal Justice with an M.A. in Criminal Justice and a B.A. in Criminology along with graduate and undergraduate level certificates. From 2011 to 2017, Nina was involved with the Long Hill Township’s Police Explorer program and held the position of Chief for 2 years. Since the age of eleven years old, a metaphorical flame has ignited inside of her leading to her journey of pursuing a life of service.
Nina is currently employed with the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office and aspires to help lessen the impact of the criminal justice system on victims and their families.
Eileen Thompson has dedicated her life to serving her community and making a positive impact on the world around her. She enjoys volunteering and helping others.
Eileen began her career as a Project Manager and Computer Programmer for Prudential Insurance, where she worked for 14 years. During this time, she developed a reputation as a skilled and dedicated professional who always put her clients first. After leaving Prudential, Eileen became a market research consultant to the residential development industry, where she quickly established herself as a respected and trusted consultant.
But it is Eileen’s volunteer work that truly sets her apart. She is an active member of Our Lady of Mercy Church in Whippany, where she has served as a Parish Council member, Eucharistic Minister, and CCD teacher. She is deeply committed to her faith and believes in the importance of giving back to her community.
As a wife of a retired police officer and EMS officer and the mother of an Army Special Forces veteran, Eileen understands the sacrifices that those who serve our country and communities make. She supports many foundations and groups, including The Gary Sinise Foundation, Tunnels 2 Towers, and the All Secure Foundation.
Eileen also volunteers her time to assist with the care of neighbors and friends, some of whom are disabled. She has served with Homeless Solutions and the 2 Kids Foundations, working to help those who are less fortunate. Eileen has a soft spot for animals and donates to several local shelters and charities.
Despite her many commitments, Eileen remains devoted to her family. She is the mother of two grown sons and has been a resident of Whippany for over 30 years, where she lives with her husband Scott and her rescue dog, Cooper.
Eileen feels that she brings a unique set of skills to the board of VolunPEER. She is looking forward to help VolunPEER become a success and is excited to work with Cherie Castellano.