Our Team

Here is an introduction to the team who will be facilitating events at the Social Living Club…


Christina Lara

Creative Director - South Bay


Christina Lara began a 6 year career at the age of 19 working with seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. A passion for helping others and an interest in the neurology of the brain lead her to the field of special education where she has accumulated over 10 years of experience working with children, teens, and young adults with special needs.


Her educational background includes a concentration in Social Work with a focus in Art Therapy. Christina has extensive training in the Relationship Development Intervention model and the Handle with Care Behavioral Management system. In addition to her work as a private in-home interventionist, Christina has worked as an activities director and social skills consultant in a therapeutic school setting creating social programs which included cooking classes, arts and crafts, and summer camps.


Christina has a natural ability to connect to and build relationships within our special needs community. Her specialty is helping clients and families find solutions to social, emotional, and behavioral challenges. Christina's reputation for success is well known throughout the South Bay and she maintains a high success rate of rehabilitation and improvement among her clients and their families.

    Nicole Dethloff-Lucas

    Program Assistant - South Bay

    I was born and raised in Santa Fe Springs, Ca. I graduated from Cal. State Dominguez Hills with a bachelors in Human Services. I have been working with youth since I was 18 years old. For a total of  20+ years. I have done after school child care for 'Stone Soup' (1994-1998), I was a special ed assistant for L.A.U.S.D. at San Pedro High School (2000-2006) and I was a counselor at a juvenile detention center in Dallas, Ga (2006-2013). I am happily married to my husband Bertran G. Lucas, we love to travel, I enjoy cooking and watching the Dodgers!!!

      Cole Hickok

      Cole Hickok

      Program Assistant - South Bay


      How's it going? My name is Cole Hickok and I live in Redondo Beach. I have been around the special needs community my entire life. I grew up with a little sister who was diagnosed with severe cognitive impairment with characteristics of autism. I currently have been working for the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District for the past 4 years now. I am a Behavioral Interventionist and have worked special needs individuals from kindergarten to 22+. I have worked with a range of individuals from moderate to severe as well as low functioning. I have also been NCI certified for the past 3 years (Non Crisis Intervention). In 2015 I was awarded the Educational Excellence award from the Southwest SELPA. In my free time I enjoy going to the beach, skateboarding and cooking.

        Annette Harney

        Program Assistant - South Bay


        Annette Harney was born in Alabama but grew up in Florida. Annette moved to California 3 years ago to pursue her career. She loves working with others and giving back when she can. Annette has worked with adults with special needs for over 6 years and really enjoys doing it. On her free time she enjoys spending time with her two adult children. One of her favorite hobbies is helping her friends and family with home decorating.

          Keri Ferguson

          Senior Coordinator - Agoura Hills


          I am a mommy to 3 children (Henry, Scarlett, Samuel), a school nurse, and I love animals. Scarlett has Cerebral Palsy and has had a wheelchair since she was 3. As Scarlett is getting older, it is important to find friends, acceptance, and knowledge among the Special Needs community. I need to surround myself with people who "get it" when I can because honestly, being a special needs parent is lonely and isolating. I feel at home at the ranch. I absolutely love being in nature, around animals, and having fun. Hiking, yoga, chickens, and art are some of my favorite parts of the ranch. The BEST part is the special connections I have with ranchers, parents, and staff - it is fulfilling and heartwarming to be a part of such a wonderful community.

            Ashley Adams

            Director of Marketing and Volunteer Coordinator


            I have 5+ years working with teenagers and adults who have special needs, both in a group home setting and individually. I am passionate about helping them succeed in every day life skills, becoming independent individuals, seek out adventures to pursue an outstanding quality of life, and to reach their full potential. Often times there are not enough activities or opportunities for one with intellectual or developmental disabilities to prosper in the community- I love to get creative and prove the world is their oyster. Golden Heart Ranch is a blessing to Southern California and I am honored to be part of the team where there are endless opportunities!


              Jeni Pierce

              Director of Programming - Agoura Hills


              Jeni received her Bachelor of Science in Movement Science from the University of Michigan and her Master of Science in Disability & Human Development from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is a Certified Inclusive Fitness Trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine. Jeni has over 10 years professional experience working with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in fitness, recreation, program development, and social entrepreneurship.

                David Ezra Zagayer

                Program Manager - Agoura Hills


                Hello! I am David Ezra Zagayer! I have over 6 years of experience working with people living with intellectual disabilities. I have studied in Applied Behavioral Analysis and I love what I do! I started with respite care with my brother-in-law and I fell in love with him and his community of friends. My goal at the Ranch is to bring more music and fun to the Ranchers in a safe and exciting environment. Music is one of my passions, I have over ten years of playing drums. Bringing my drum kit to the Ranch for lessons and drum circles brings me such joy. Golden Heart Ranch is a place where the Ranchers and I can grow together, and I can't wait to see what the future holds for us.


                  Marcia Tysseling

                  Program Assistant - Agoura Hills

                  In my early years, I went to work for the city of Maplewood (Minnesota), in a variety of group home situations as well as a camp counselor and program director for young children with special needs. In college, my goal was Deaf Education and Special Education, unfortunately, I never completed my goal, and instead I moved to California where I became an uncertified teacher for challenged children and adults in a private school.


                  I spent the 80s working for Joan Rivers as her daughter's nanny and later as Joan's personal assistant. For 18 years after that, I started and ran my own business / store selling movie props and costumes as collectibles. Such a long stretch from my original goal and passion. However, I feel like I'm back where I belong.


                  I'm so thrilled and honored to be a part of The Golden Heart Ranch. It's so refreshing to be involved in a program that's solely interested in the long-term well-being of these young adults.

                    Sara Jean Davis

                    Program Assistant - Agoura Hills


                    I have recently moved to Seminole Springs (away from the city) and retired from Nestle Corp, Sensory Tasting Lab. Concurrently, I enjoyed many years volunteering at Verdugo Hills Hospital, Now USC!! I have been awarded honors for my volunteerism and service to the community.

                    One half of my family enjoy living at Pt. Dume and the other half still reside up in Silverlake, and I do enjoy the trek on occasion visiting my former home up in Los Feliz! Additionally, I am so happy to meet and enjoy my new "friends and family" at the Golden Heart Ranch and look forward to many happy days on the ranch.

                      Lindsay Beck

                      Program Assistant Agoura Hills


                      I am currently a junior at Loyola Marymount University. I am working towards degrees in both psychology and business administration. I have always had a real passion for children. I have worked and volunteered in various aspects of childcare services since 2015 and have found so much joy in my pursuit of this field. My experiences at Golden Heart Ranch have been invaluable to me. They have shaped what I hope to focus my career on moving forward and I am so excited to continue working at this amazing place with these amazing individuals.

                        Cathy Unruh

                        Program Assistant Agoura Hills


                        Hello! I’m Cathy Unruh. I have been a therapist for over 10 years—specializing in Guided Imagery and Hypnotherapy. I also have a Bachelor of Journalism Degree from the University of Missouri, and am a member of the Screen Actors Guild. I started at Golden Heart Ranch as a volunteer and immediately felt a connection to the awesome staff, the beautiful environment, and of course—the Ranchers! I am constantly inspired by their humor, joy, and creativity. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this heartwarming community. Thank you!