These are the ladies behind the scenes of Tomten. The amazing women who roll up their sleeves day after day and work hard to provide peace, protection and possibility. There would be no farm and no sanctuary without them, their unique talents, their hard work, their passion and their dedication.
Sitting on a nonprofit Board of Directors is not for everyone and here at Tomten, as we race to create a sustainable, responsible rescue and sanctuary that will stand the test of time, there is not much sitting at all. In fact, our Board members not only take a very active part in our day-to-day, they help to anticipate and address the concerns of tomorrow. We could not do all that we do without each person, their unique talents and impactful contributions. Each member not only volunteers both on the ground and off-site; each contributes financially to Tomten as well. They are truly dedicated to helping it become all it can be.
As we continue to grow, their behind-the-scenes efforts have grown too. Their continued passion, commitment and input is endlessly appreciated and Tomten is blessed that they know the inner workings of the organization and animal care. Each has been instrumental in creating this 501(c)(3) and that is not, in any way, shape or form, an easy task. It is their efforts that allow us to continue making the impossible possible becoming the place where every animal's dreams come true and will for years to come. Just look at all we have created in eight short years, how many lives we have saved, the many we care for daily and how many people we have touched. We have changed our own worlds and others' too…humans and animals alike. And THAT is a truly beautiful thing.
Establishing and creating a nonprofit takes time, it takes funds and it takes courage. Laima, Michele, Julia and Lynn are integral parts of Tomten Farm and Sanctuary and while I, Jen, may often be the face and voice of the organization, Tomten is the sum of our combined actions and efforts as together we journey with you.
Please allow me to introduce you to Team Tomten.
Laima Whitty, Vice President and Founding Member
Laima earned her BA in Communication Arts from the University of Illinois at Chicago. After graduating, she worked for a Chicago graphic design company, then for a national publishing company redesigning K-12 educational books and as a freelance graphic designer.
She is an internationally recognized fiber artist, a winner in the UK's Festival of Quilts, an exhibitor in many gallery shows, has been an instructor of several quilting workshops, and volunteers with local senior groups. In fact, in addition to her countless hours of on-farm work, she designs and creates a magnificent handcrafted quilt each Fall that benefits the animals at Tomten. The raffle-ticket proceeds from these one-of-kind Hay Fundraiser masterpieces help Tomten fill a respectable part of its hayloft with hundreds of bales each winter - we cannot imagine providing peace, protection and possibility for our Rescues without her.
Affectionately known as the “Keeper of the Farm”, she has a close relationship with every Rescue here and can tell you the individual needs, preferences and personality of each animal all of which she has know since the start of their journeys. She has been known to use her garage as a quarantine area for goats and sheep and has been spotted driving around town with a goat, sheep, or calf in the back of her SUV during one of her many rescue missions.
Laima especially loves experiencing the community lifestyle of the animals, their friendships, reactions, acceptance of new rescues and, best of all, being accepted into their world! She believes that there is so much to learn from them, and that they are teaching us all the time.
When I asked her about why she loves Tomten, she said, "I didn’t know very much about rescues and sanctuaries when I started; it was my daughter, the animals, and hard outdoor work that drew me in. Over the years it has surprised me how much I have learned not only from Jenifer but from our animals; their kindness, gentleness, and curiosity has helped me be a better person and a better advocate for those in our care. The animals and Tomten have become my second family. Together we worry, we laugh, we learn, we work hard, and we mourn. I am extremely proud to be on the Tomten Board working with an amazing group of women!"
Michele Devereaux, Treasurer
Michele earned her BA in Economics from Denison University. After graduation she lived in Connecticut, Arizona and Washington before moving to Boston in 1997. She has been the Director of Operations for Lincoln Peak Capital since 2011 and she is no stranger to “do-gooding”
Michele met Jenifer in 2006 when she took her newly rescued dog, Georgie, for some much needed training. Georgie learned more than just the basics however. He did so well in fact, that he became part of the "Healing Pups" team at Boston Medical Center. In her spare time, she enjoys adventures traveling the world and taking amazing photos of the animals who share the earth beside us and you will note several of the photos on this site are her captures.
After attending the first Tomten Farm open house in 2014, Michele became a regular volunteer and in 2015 joined the Board where she has been an invaluable contributor every day since. An expert at the ins-and-outs of Tomten, she makes sure every penny of every contribution is recorded, every expense is accounted for and helps to keep our budget in line. Not to mention she keeps us on track ensuring that we meet every state requirement, keep up on all filings and step into the future of Tomten leading with our hearts AND our heads. While much of her efforts are invisible to the general public, she is an integral part of team and we would be lost without her many contributions.
Here is why Michele loves Tomten: "I started volunteering at Tomten because I love being around the animals and being a part of providing them peace, protection and possibility. I became a board member because in addition to the positive effect Tomten has on the Rescues, it has had a positive, life changing effect on me. I feel a real connection with the Rescues and they have become friends not food. They have given me a new appreciation and respect for all animals. What keeps me coming back to Tomten is the opportunity to see other people make their own connections with the Rescues."
Julia Lerch, Secretary
Julia earned an MBA in Finance and Accounting from Rochester Institute of Technology and has had a full, fast-paced career working at companies such as Citicorp and Xerox. Although she calls the city of Boston home, her passion for nature and animals and commitment to the Tomten Rescues has fueled her enthusiasm for driving almost 3 hours one way, for several years, to volunteer at Tomten Farm.
When not volunteering she and her spirited Yorkshire Terrier, Gracie, enjoy frequent walks along the beach and waterfront area of Boston. In her spare time, Julia enjoys gardening, dining out, anything to do with a beach and adventure travel with a goal of traveling to interesting places where she enjoys everything having to do with nature -her most recent adventures took place in Australia and Bali.
Officially, Julia may be the Tomten Secretary but she wears many hats.
She is the deliverer of thanks to all our supporters and not only does she make sure our gratitude is fully expressed, but she also drafts our meeting minutes, is the keeper of Beatrice's Bunkhouse (the Board members and volunteers' home away from home when they are here at the farm) and my go-to-gal when it comes to emailing donors, creating Virtual Tours, preparing for our in-person educational walking Tomten Tours, sending Tuesdays with Tomten and more. When it comes to reaching out to you, she is my unflappable, much appreciated right hand.
Her favorite thing about being a part of Tomten Farm and Sanctuary is “being able to be still with the animals, observing their behavior and interaction with each other, and also watching the mountains and changing landscape of the farm, and how the animals adapt to it.
Seeing the miracle of vulnerable and scared animals warm up to humans is a unique joy that I’ve found at Tomten. Who would have thought cleaning a donkey’s ears or getting the tangles out of a horse’s mane would get me hooked on rescuing!
I am thankful for Beatrice, Perci, and all the Tomten animals for letting me see you in peace and teaching me that taking care of vulnerable beings makes me less vulnerable and better able to help others who come from different places.
I once heard, 'Feel your fear and do it anyway!' That’s what gave me the courage and passion to become a Board member in 2019!"
Lynn DeMerchant, Board Member
Lynn earned her BS in Child Development from Plattsburgh State SUNY and her MS in Special Education from University of Connecticut. She began volunteering for Tomten after retiring from her 40 year career in early childhood development and special education.
She was the owner and lead educator at The Farm Nursery School, a preschool focused on learning with respect and experiencing the joy of caring for animals and each other.
She worked for the State of RI as a child welfare advocate and infant mental health specialist and served on the boards of Prevent Child Abuse RI and the RI Association of Infant Mental Health. Phew! She is no stranger to making a difference, being more, doing more and giving more to lives in need.
She has been a cherished Board Member since January 2021 and has been an asset to the Rescues and Tomten since day one.
She dives right into whatever needs to be done, keeps our veterinary and Rescue records in tiptop shape and she excels at helping new rescues feel at ease.
Our "donkey whisperer" and regular on-farm volunteer, she is always ready to do more and be more for lives in need and we look forward to having her be a cherished member of our team for years to come.
Here is what she says about why she enjoys her days at Tomten Farm and Sanctuary: “I love Tomten because when I’m there I am reminded of all the beauty in life, the peace in the hearts of animals when treated with respect and kindness. Because we can laugh together as hard as we work and because of so many moments like today when I was leaving, and Dobbin wanted to see me. I walked over and after he welcomed me, as I was scratching his cheek, he closed his eyes and wiggled his lip.”
Jenifer Vickery, Founder
Jenifer earned an AS in Equine Science from Cazenovia College, a BA in English from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and has graduate work in journalism at Boston University.
A lifetime animal lover and passionate horsewoman, she has been a professional groom, barn manager and instructor and has had a horse on the track and successfully (and at times not so successfully) competed in high school, college and eventually, as an adult, on the A circuit.
Her education includes thousands of lesson, clinic and seminar hours (with multiple species) as well as a three decade career helping dogs and their owners develop enjoyable, lifelong partnerships.
She started the pawsitive dog training center in Boston, Ma in 1998 after an in-depth dog training internship of multiple years and is proud to have just entered year 25 and be one of Boston's Best Trainers. A tireless advocate and educator, she has donated hundreds of training hours to dogs in need, as well as having spent two terms on the board of a former New England equine rescue.
One day, in 2013 when her instructor suggested that she consider selling each of her much loved horses to get one “good” one, she realized that was the final push she needed.
It was time to take a different path where the animals were loved and cherished for who they were and not just for the ribbons they brought home.
It was time to do more and give back to those lives who have given each of us so much joy, the animals who selflessly offer all that they have.
While she loved learning and competing, the desire to raise awareness, promote change and make a difference burned in her soul and so, in honor of Sturgeon Moon, Sassie, her thoroughbred, Dancer (seen here at finals, in his last horse show just months before founding Tomten), and the many horses she has been privileged to love, she traded ribbons for rescues.
January 1, 2014, she announced to the world the beginning of Tomten Farm and Sanctuary a place where every animal can find their dreams come true.
Of course, this is just a tiny sampling of what these amazing women are about and what the Board actually does. Each member enjoys the camaraderie between themselves and all the animals. They stay in regular communication with one another and share all the tasks necessary to be sure we get it all done. Every minute they are here with me on this journey, I, Jenifer, am grateful for it is together we embrace the Rescues of Tomten and believe in this mission and vision and all that together we can be. Little by little, slowly but surely, life by life, we make the impossible possible.