Board of Directors & Staff
Our Board of Directors
- Mark Gannon, Esq. – Board Chair
- LuRae Ahrendt, RN, CRRN, CCM, CLCP – Vice Board Chair
- Kathryn Waybright – Secretary
- Catherine Mickle, CPA – Treasurer
- Debbie Berens, PhD, CRC, CCM, CLCP
- Jennifer Broom, MPH, RN
- David Burke, MD
- Ron Seel, PhD
- Humberto Izquierdo, Esq.
- Dick Brookfield
- Robert Glass, Esq.
- Wanda Staebell
- Lorie Hutcheson
- Jim Long, Esq.
- Ex-officio: Cindi Johnson, MA, CBIST – Executive Director, Side by Side Brain Injury Clubhouse
Alexis Torres, MA is our Development Director. She has previously worked with local nonprofits like Southface Energy Institute and the Georgia Conservancy. At Side by Side, she looks for opportunities to partner with those in the community who want to make a positive contribution in the lives of people with brain injuries and their families.
Amirah Pittman, BSA joined as a knowledgeable volunteer after completing a year-long research project at Georgetown University School of Medicine, on the Cognitive Rehabilitation of Traumatic Brain Injury. She earned a Biological Science degree from UGA and now works full time as a Work Unit Coordinator.
Bill Francis, MA, LMSW, CBIS joined the staff after completion of a Masters in Social Work at the University of Georgia. He brings the experience of having worked 3 years at an in-patient neurobehavioral center as both a neurobehavioral counselor and a case manager. Bill brings a wealth of experience working with persons of various backgrounds, particularly marginalized populations.
Cindi Johnson, MA, CBIST is our founder and Executive Director. Cindi has worked with people disabled by brain injury as a cognitive rehabilitation therapist, administrator and author since 1986.
Greta Ann Hurst, BA has been our Office Manager since 2004. Her extensive background in administrative support and her 16+ years of caring for her brother who had a brain injury make her a great resource for members, staff, and families.
Jason Hughes BS, MSHSA has worked in the Human Services field for over ten years. Jason comes to the Clubhouse from the Shepherd Center, which he began in 2010. At Shepherd, Jason worked with military patients who acquired brain injuries.
Judy Wissing, MS, CRC, CBIS is our Vocational Specialist. She assists Clubhouse members in our work preparation program including job development activities and volunteer placements. She has worked in brain injury rehabilitation and taught psychology coursework at the college level before coming to Side by Side.
Ken Foster, BA, BSW joined the staff after completing a social work internship at Side by Side. He brings a wealth of professional support experience such as a foster care case manager, corrections officer, teacher, and military service member. He brings such patience, competence, and compassion to his work that we asked him to change career plans and join Side by Side full time.
Melissa Holmes, BS, CBIS joined us as a volunteer and intern during college. After earning a degree in Psychology & Human Services, she joined our full time staff and brings a fresh energy and healthy perspective as a Work Unit Coordinator in the Kitchen Unit.
Natalie King, MSOT, OTR/L joined Side by Side after completion of her Masters of Science in Occupational Therapy degree from Brenau University. As an Occupational Therapist, Natalie enjoys working with members for Life Skills Training and increasing their independence with instrumental activities of daily living.
Teresa Little, MS, CBIS is our Program Director who also provides life skills training and service coordination for Clubhouse members. Teresa’s educational background is in psychology and she began working in brain injury rehabilitation in 1995.
Viviana Finol, MPA joined Side by Side after completion of her Master’s Degree in Public Administration. As a Quality Assurance Coordinator, Viviana develops and monitors policies and procedures, assists with accreditation process, and coordinates activities in accordance with current CARF standards.
Rob Pegel, R.L.S.
I feel very good about being a member of this Clubhouse. It gives me something to look forward to every Tuesday and Thursday. One beautiful thing about the Clubhouse is the dedication and compassion of staff who understand the challenges members go through every day of their lives.
Today has been a particularly good day for me because after feeling down earlier, I had the chance to speak with Neil about my situation. He was not only supportive of my situation, but also very encouraging.
I have also learned a lot by interacting with fellow survivors of brain injury by discussing some of our daily challenges with them. It is helpful to know that I am not alone in my journey to get better.
George, not alone in recovery
My name is Myron and I’m currently a new member here at Side by Side Clubhouse. I have only been here for two weeks but the experience has been monumental in my life. Side by Side is deeply involved in the community and have numerous events and tasks that allow for their members to take part in. Upon the first few days, I learned about the Lawyers/Doctors basketball game, the Game Night, the tasks of the different departments that are presently here, and the value of working together. Each day is an opportunity for me to learn something new and the members here are outstanding. My views on the effects of TBI injuries have changed since the days I was in the hospital recovering. My thoughts in the past were that my injury would prevent me from doing a lot of things in life that I enjoyed before injury. This program is great, because it’s showing me that being productive and remaining positive is definitely possible. Also, separating me from others or choosing to do things on my own is not the best method to take. I’m now more receptive of doing things in teams and working with others.
For my Blog today I am choosing to discuss my love of the Side by Side Clubhouse which I’ve been a member of for the last 10 years. Oh and today was noteworthy in the fact that my driver Carson returned from his vacation in New Smyrna Beach, Fla’. He told me that he’d had a great vacation but there was a lot of sea weed. OK I’ll get back to my love of my House o’ Clubage. It’s the folks here that I truly enjoy being around, such as Rob and Emma for example and their outgoing niceness.
Clubhouse Love–(thanks, Frank, we love you too!)
Hello everybody out there, my name is Javon and I attend the Side by Side Brain Injury Clubhouse. I got my brain injury a little over 2 years ago and coming to Side by Side has helped me. Since I have started coming here it helps me to be surrounded by other people with traumatic brain injuries and not being judged by what I can and can’t do.
I learn something new every day. I absolutely love coming to the clubhouse. Looking forward to coming here is wonderful for me. I prepare the night before for the next day. For me, I wake up early, prepare myself, and I’m all the way ready when my transportation comes. Once I get here I get to socialize, calm down from dealing with all the automobile traffic, and be on time for my meeting in the Business Unit. While I’m here, I get to learn new things. My transferrable business skills are utilized. I get to help others in the Business Unit. It doesn’t cost anything to be friendly to others. I am being tested on my patience. I need for people to be tolerant with me, and I need to be tolerant with others. The clubhouse helps to teach me the patience that I absolutely need.
Learning Preparation & Patience at the Clubhouse
Today for my Blog I will take a cue from my close friend Mrs. Virginia and go into some of the things I love about my house o’ clubbage these things would be… 1st: staff members who are a nice bunch of people who always remember that it’s a Side by Side Clubhouse and they don’t have to come down on us whenever we slack off for just a second they realize that from time to time we might need to take a breather for just a second.
2nd: Fellow members. Just a bunch of great friends & people like myself (cognitively impaired people like myself who aren’t quite ready to return to the work force yet quite often we need to work together to get what we want to complete completed.
3rd: My main man & driver Mr. Carson. Carson has been my best friend since my injury. I hope that he feels as stongly ‘bout this kid. he must think a great deal of me in that he allows me to listen to whatever I want to on the radio on our long journeys down from North Ga.
Some things I love about the Clubhouse
Hi, I’m Chris, and I am on the search to find my voice. My voice seemed to disappear at the time of my initial injury, some 2 ½ years ago, and I have been on a continuous search to find it ever since. My voice is very important to me, and having people, many of whom I am close to, not be able to understand me when I’m speaking is very frustrating. This issue came about right after my accident, when I woke up in the hospital, and realized that I was speaking at a much faster rate. I was hard to understand, and had no idea why. This was very confusing, and also frustrating.
When I moved down to Atlanta, in the winter of 2012, and began to attend the Side By Side Clubhouse after therapy at Shepherd Pathways, I noticed my voice beginning to improve. Noticing this achievement then gave me the confidence in order to begin socializing once again. Actually speaking began to strengthen the muscles in my mouth, which was what I needed in order to be understood once again. Over time, the confidence in my voice returned. Now, there are times in which I begin to speak way too quickly once again. It is at these times that I have to work toward a slower rate of speaking, focusing on the enunciation of certain words and phrases.
A Search to Find My Voice
Today I am going to try and share the Clubhouse’s excitement about our fundraising hoops battle on March 16 2013 less than a week after my Birthday. If you’re wondering what you should get me let it be known I will gladly accept cash and donations to my Side by Side Clubhouse to fund the day to day operations of my favorite place in the world where I enjoy working in the business unit a couple of days a week. While I’m in my Blog I feel it necessary to remember my good friend Mike McCord who was the first man that I spoke to at Emory after awaking from my coma and then I followed him up here to Side by Side. My man Mike and I got along so well because like me he was a Dawg fan but now he works in the private rehab world with individuals who are sure of returning to the work force. Sitting here talking about him is only making me miss him that much more. Frank F.
Fundraising Hoops Battle and Frank’s Shout Out to Mike McCord
Well, my drivers evaluation out to Side By Side, from Spring Creek House, is less than 24 hours away! I’ve been preparing for this since the winter of 2012, and I feel that all of the hard work will definitely pay off! I’ve been plotting the route out on my phone, driving out here every night this week with my father, and writing down the route, on paper, every day this! I feel like this “homework” will benefit me greatly! I am very proud of myself for doing all of the “legwork”, needed in order to drive, independently, outside my allowed radius of 3 miles. I am also very thankful of my father for putting his life, in Northern VA on hold, to come down here and help me with this! It is very re-assuring to know that he is there to support me in my endeavors! Tomorrow’s result could turn out to be a huge accomplishment for me! We’ll see how it goes.. Shep
Inch by Inch, Mile by Mile- The Long Road to Recovery
Side by Side Clubhouse has been an invaluable resource for our research on usability and accessibility of wireless technology by people recovering from brain injury. The staff and members have provided critical feedback and insights on existing technologies and proposed new solutions. The data and insights we gather at Side by Side Clubhouse is used to inform designers and developers of wireless technology about the needs and wants of people living with the effects of brain injury.
John Morris, Ph.D. Research Scientist Wireless Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) Shepherd Center
John Morris, Research Scientist, thanks members for critical feedback and insight