BOARD OF DIRECTORS
The board of Pet Partners of Central Arkansas meets monthly with meetings for the General Membership every other month. The General Membership Meetings are dinner meetings at local restaurants. They include a short business meeting and an Educational program. This provides an opportunity to network with other Pet Partners and to assist new teams in getting started.
Mary Armstrong, President
Provides leadership and support to Board and all Members.
As Group Administrator, Mary oversees all aspects of the group and provides leadership for the group coordinators and members. Mary has been a Pet Partners® team since 2011 with her English Springer Spaniel, Hobie. She says “The work we do with Pet Partners® and Pet Partners of Central Arkansas brings me personal fulfillment and brings Hobie pure joy. He gets so excited when he sees the vest he wears to visit and dances until he is in the car.” This team visits at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Our House Homeless Shelter, and many independent events. Mary and Hobie became a HOPE Crisis Response Team in 2015. I look forward to helping Pet Partners of Central Arkansas become an even more important part of our community. In her other life, Mary was an educator in the public schools for 35 years before retiring to care for aging parents and devoting more time to work with Pet Partners of Central Arkansas and Pet Partners®.
Georgann Freasier, Facilities Director
Serves as the contact person for facilities with existing animal assisted intervention programs and those requesting program development. Teaches Pet Partner Handler Workshops.
Georgann began as a Pet Partners Handler in 1996. And is now also Instructor and Evaluator. Labrador Retriever Yeti is her seventh therapy dog and current Pet Partner. In addition to Pet Partners visits, Yeti is “co-therapist” in Georgann’s Social Work Private Practice and “assistant instructor” at UALR Graduate School of Social Work when Georgann teaches the elective “Animal Assisted Therapy in Social Work Practice”. Yeti loves to dock dive. She says, “The human-animal bond is such an important force in our society that it is an honor to practice and share about it in so many ways.”
Georgann and her husband Ben, also a Pet Partners member, live with Edge and their other two dogs, Terrier “Benji” mix, Hank and Cardigan Corgi, retired Pet Partner therapy dog, Scout. They have a “blended” family of six grown children and nine grandchildren so life is “busy” but fun.
Larry Bencick, Treasurer
Manages all financial matters for the group, as requested by the Advisory Council.
Larry and his Blue Tick Healer, and best friend, Clyde (Australian Cattle Dog) are life-long residents of Little Rock. Larry found Clyde on the streets back in 2008. Clyde is about seven years old. Larry works as a capital budget analyst for Verizon Wireless and Clyde’s occupation is guarding the home front and keeping an eye on things in general. In addition to supervising Larry, Clyde watches over an elderly cat Larry has and a rabbit Larry somehow inherited from his daughters. Larry’s daughters are teenagers living in VA – one is set to enter college this fall and the other is a junior in high school.
I love the Pet Partners of Central Arkansas’ mission and the joy this program provides to people. I can only imagine myself in others’ shoes to truly understand the happiness it must bring people in need of a visit from a four legged friend. Clyde and I have made a few visits, and in doing so, determined our best fit is places with a one or two on one resident to pet ratio. He has a sense for people in need of some picking up. I know he’s always there to do that for me. Call me strange, but Clyde has so many qualities we seek in people, not just a pet: devotion, loyalty, obedience and empathy to name just a few.”
Ben Freasier, Secretary
Maintains corporate records and all minutes of both General Meetings and Board Meetings. Facilitates and responds to Memorials given to Pet Partners of Central Arkansas.
Ben is retired from the Transportation Industry and lives in Little Rock, Arkansas with his wife Georgann and is “owned by” three dogs (Hank, Edge and Scout). Ben is a Pet Partners member and visits with his standard poodle Edge and enjoys Agility with (Cardigan Corgi) Scout. Hank (All American) maintains control of all. In June 2014, Ben became a certified Team Leader for HOPE AACR (Animal Assisted Crises Response) a group that responds to crises situations and disasters and offers Hope and Encouragement through Animal Assisted interaction. In addition to activities with his dogs, Ben enjoys activities with his six grown children and nine grandchildren.
Amy Greenway, Evaluation Director
Manages all aspects of Pet Partners Evaluations. Maintains list of member registration expiration dates.
As Evaluation Coordinator, Amy is responsible for all aspects of planning and executing the Pet Partners Evaluations. This includes initial contact with “hopeful” new teams; the schedule for Evaluation Day; and recruitment and training of the many volunteers required for each evaluation.
Amy has been a registered handler with Pet Partners since 2009 with her long coat Chihuahua Tyler, Currently, they visit Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Pinnacle Pointe Behavioral Center, Towbin VA Healthcare Center, and Woodland Hills Assisted Living Facility. Amy is a licensed Pet Partners Instructor and Evaluator and enjoys meeting and mentoring new Pet Partners teams. In addition to her work with Pet Partners of Central Arkansas, Amy is the Arkansas State Coordinator for HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response, which she and Tyler joined in June 2014, and serves as Secretary for Arkansas Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (ARVOAD). She enjoys helping as a social media moderator for ABLEPaws and HOPE AACR.
TJ Knight, Volunteer Director
Recruits new members and coordinates their orientation with the Facilities Coordinator. She recruits volunteers for events and communicates with the general membership as needed.
TJ lives in Beebe with her husband and their fur babies. TJ’s Pet Partner is a border collie named Bella. They visit regularly at AR Children’s Hospital and UAMS. Their favorite visit is simply every visit! Pet therapy began as a hobby but has become a way of life. It is very addicting. When statements are made from parents such as, “That’s the first time my child has smiled in days” or “That’s only the second time I have heard my child chuckle,” it’s that moment you realize your job was successful. A dollar figure can’t be placed on that kind of success. Medicine comes in all forms — sometimes on 4 paws with fur.
Nancy Rowan, Public Relations Director
Organizes and oversees community fundraising, service events, and group social events
Nancy states, “This position covers a wide variety of areas, of which one is fundraising.” She loves to find an event that is fun for all and raises money at the same time. She see it as a win/win. Nancy also oversees “Pawtales” where we share our experiences with Pet Therapy visits, so we can all learn from one another, and “PetTips” where we share useful information that each team may someday need.
Although having grown up in Massachusetts, being part of an Air Force Family gave way to living in 9 states, Jacksonville, Arkansas has been home since 1995. Besides her two Vizsla fur babies/Pet Partners Kobi and Sadie Mae, Nancy has two grown sons and two beautiful granddaughters.
Vanessa Crossfield, Education Director
Vanessa has been a Pet Partners registered handler since 2016 with Boom Shocka Locka, a Borderdoodle. Boom was only 1 year old when the team passed the evaluation. In addition to visiting, they enjoy playing fetch, mind games, performing tricks and participating in Agility for fun. Vanessa says watching him connect with clients no matter the age or situation has made her realize how important this work is to people in need of comfort. “I thought my job during visits was to direct every moment when in reality my job is much simpler. I drive the car, hold the leash, introduce Boom to the client and let him do the rest.” Every time we park the car before a visit I tell him the same thing. “Let’s go make someone’s day a little better.”
Vanessa lives in North Little Rock with her husband Jimmy, Boom Shocka Locka and Maximus Kalel (lab mix rescue). They have two grown children, Bradley and Emily. The house becomes loud and busy when they visit. Emily brings Timber Tyrell (lab mix) and Bradley brings Colt Rakeem (German short haired pointer). In July 2016, Vanessa and Boom became a HOPE Animal Assisted Crisis Response team.