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Our Board & Advisors

CFD Board of Directors


Laurie Schwartz, MA, Co-Founder and Chair
Laurie Schwartz is a co-founder of Circle of Friends for the Dying. She is one of the early leaders of the hospice movement in the United States. In 1979, she co-founded and directed what is now Hudson Valley Hospice and was recognized in 1995 by Hudson Valley Hospice and ARCS as a dynamic visionary and social activist. She has trained hundreds of people in the arena of dying, death, and bereavement through Hudson Valley Hospice’s volunteer trainings and through Securelanding programs. Laurie co-founded Community Possibilities in 1984 (which assisted community leaders in forming their desire into vision and then into action) and the Woodstock Jewish Congregation in 1986. She has served on numerous Boards of Directors, held positions of administration, and worked as a trainer/facilitator. In 2018, Laurie was again honored by Hudson Valley Hospice for her commitment and service to the community.


Nathan Brenowitz, Treasurer
Nathan Brenowitz has been part of CFD since its inception, serving on the Capital Campaign Committee and various events committees, and has been a constant supporter of the mission. A graduate of Pace University with a BBA in Finance, he was the District Manager of the Northwestern Mutual Financial Network for over 25 years where he dealt with balance sheets, profit and loss statements, and budgets.  He was also licensed to work with mutual funds, annuities, and (Charitable) life insurance. Nathan served as president of the Woodstock Jewish Congregation and was on that organization’s Finance Committee. He is currently on the Family of Woodstock Board of Directors. Most importantly, he says, “I’m a musician and a baseball player!”


Dr. Randall Rissman, MD, Co-Chair
Randy Rissman is a family medicine doctor in Woodstock, New York, and is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the area, including HealthAlliance Hospital-Broadway Campus and HealthAlliance Hospital-Mary’s Avenue Campus. He received his medical degree from University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and has been in practice for more than 20 years. Randy assists with the Education and Awareness Committee.


Laurie Slavin,  Secretary
Laurie has worked for many years as an attorney specializing in newborn adoptions. She founded and headed two adoption agencies, one in South Florida and one in Upstate New York, and continues to work on behalf of children and families. For the past five years, Laurie served as Treasurer on the Board
of Directors of the Woodstock Jewish Congregation and as Treasurer of the Hudson Valley Sudbury School Board of Trustees. She looks forward to supporting the compelling mission of Circle of Friends.


Barbara Sarah, LCSW, Co-Founder and Board Member
Barbara Sarah, co-founder of Circle of Friends for the Dying, is the founder of the Oncology Support Program at HealthAlliance Hospital in Kingston, New York. Following a breast cancer diagnosis in 1992, she left a 20-year career as a school social worker on Long Island and chose to dedicate herself to work in oncology. She is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the NY State Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers and the NY State Governor’s Award for Innovation in Breast Cancer Education. Barbara’s work in the Hudson Valley has taught her the importance of creating a home for the dying. For 25 years she has been an instructor of Morita and Naikan therapies, Buddhist-based strategies for mental wellness. She was instrumental in bringing Death Cafés to Westchester County, where she organized conversations in that community about the end of life.


Gary Heckelman

Gary serves as the Building Renovation Manager for Jim & Lisa’s Circle Home. He is also a real estate agent with a real passion to work with non-profit organizations to build caring and inclusive communities. While living in his native New York City, Gary worked for many years as a director of a program for homeless, chronically mentally ill adults. He relocated to the Hudson Valley 25 years ago with his wife Naomi to raise their two children. Gary became active in Habitat for Humanity’s flood relief effort following tropical storm Irene that devastated several Catskill areas. He served on the Board of Habitat until undertaking the development and operation of a new Habitat Center and ReStore in Kingston. Gary previously co-created Inquiring Minds Bookstore, an independent bookstore in Saugerties and New Paltz, NY, that continues to serve as a literary mainstay in our greater community. He is a lifelong artist who has enjoyed sculpting, painting, and printmaking.


Caren Martineau, Founder of Bevival
Caren Martineau is an innovator and mapper of cultural zeitgeists. Over the course of her long career as an award-winning creative director, she developed brand solutions for global corporations, design firms, celebrity products and entrepreneurial ventures. She volunteered and served on the Boards of several non-profits, then took a leap of faith to become a vocal advocate for social change. Caren was motivated by the emotional and financial cost of not preparing for the end of life. She introduced the term death literacy into America’s lexicon and launched, a dynamic source of education for an aging society confronting their mortality. As a gathering place and online platform, Bevival develops content, programming, and community events designed to help change our relationship with mortality, long before time of need.


Advisory Council

Carol B. Armitage, Consultant
Jimmy Buff, Radio Kingston
Rev. Lynda Elaine Carré, Wellspring Passages of Hudson Valley
Joshua Koplovitz, JD, Wapner Koplovitz & Futerfas
Joel Mandelbaum, MD, Hurley Avenue Family Medicine
Maggie Carpenter, MD Nightingale Medical
Vicki Stent, Coldwell Banker Village Green Realty
Ann Hutton, Editorial Consultant
Amanda Yanzek, LCSW, Nuvance Center for Healthy Aging

Honorary Board

Jennifer Gohlke Khan, JD
JoAnna (Scari) Scaramuzzo, former CFD Vice Chair
Stephen Wilder, former CFD Board Chair
Elise Lark, Co-Founder, former Home Director, former CFD Board Chair