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OUR Leadership
+ Staff


Danae Laura
executive director

Danae is the Executive Director at Copper Beech Institute. Her work has always been about nourishment: nourishing bodies, minds, and society. Before being named ED, Danae held leadership roles as a social entrepreneur in the natural food and wellness industries and the education field. Prior to joining CBI, she was CEO of Compassionate Commerce, Director of Selfmade, and President of The Abby Fund, among others. For Compassionate Commerce, she developed marketing campaigns for mission-based brands with fair labor practices, and for Selfmade, she marketed wellness practices to people with bodies that are often marginalized and denied access to wellness. 

Danae received her B.A. in Individualized Study with a concentration in Social Justice and Education from New York University where she was a Martin Luther King Jr. Scholar. She continued her education at Lesley University where she earned an M.A. in Mindfulness Studies, studying mindful leadership, neuroscience, social change and communication. Her thesis is titled Healing Racial Injustice with Mindfulness Research, Training, & Practice


Most recently, Danae completed the Core Certificate Leadership Program hosted by the Institute for Nonprofit Practice at Tufts University where she was trained in building community and belonging, adaptive and high-performance leadership, strength-based management and organizational strategy. Meanwhile, a great deal of her leadership training occurred while program manager at the global Indigenous rights nonprofit Cultural Survival where she learned firsthand how to scale vision and incorporate Indigenous values of relationship and land. She has served as a yoga teacher at Cambridge Health Alliance since 2015, and continues to teach. 

To get in touch with Danae, please email us at



Brian is the Director of Community Engagement at Copper Beech Institute. After receiving his Master’s degree in Mindfulness Studies from Lesley University, he has committed to sharing mindfulness and its benefits with the community. A spiritual student with a deep love for practice and expression, he hopes to help others develop their own personal and genuine relationship to mindfulness in a way that rings true for them. Brian can be reached at



Jennifer Frontiero is the Director of Programs at Copper Beech. She is a wholehearted, spirited leader with a natural ability for relationship building and connection. Jennifer studied Psychology, Sociology, and Public Health/Wellness at Southern Connecticut State University, served two terms with AmeriCorps, and has actively pursued her personal interests in service learning, culinary arts, event planning and management throughout her career. 

Jenn completed her Holistic Life Coach Training in 2018 and 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training in 2020. She finds great peace in gardening, cooking, reading, journaling, and being in nature. Jenn can be reached at



Anne Marie Pfeiffer is the Assistant Director of Programs at Copper Beech Institute where she has been an integral part of the team. She holds a Master’s Degree in Mindfulness Studies from Lesley University, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Child Study from the University of Saint Joseph. Her professional background includes teaching English as a Foreign Language and developing educational curriculum for people of all ages.  

In her role at CBI, Anne Marie manages program logistics, supports community outreach efforts, and coordinates with staff and volunteers to ensure the smooth execution of events - bringing a unique perspective that enhances the inclusivity and impact of CBI’s programs. Her unique contributions include her strong organizational skills, attention to detail, and ability to foster positive relationships with facilitators, participants, and the broader community. 


Outside of her professional work, Anne Marie enjoys exploring different cultures, a passion that took root during her years living and working in Spain. 

Anne Marie can be reached at

OUR board

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Kim Sirois Pita
Chairwoman of the Board

After working as a newspaper editor, chamber of commerce marketing manager, and press secretary in the United States Congress, Kim Sirois Pita spent 17 years building The Pita Group, a successful and respected multimillion-dollar marketing agency. In 2013, she founded Pita Peaces, where she develops and launches integrated marketing strategies for startups, nonprofits, and manufacturers. For two years, she served as the interim executive director of New England FIRST, a nonprofit robotics program across six states. A mental health advocate and past board chair of Mental Health Connecticut, Kim founded and launched the Love Your Mental Health brand, along with an art & wellness studio in Old Saybrook and an online Kelly’s Wings Gift Shop, named after her late sister. She currently serves as vice chair of the Board of Directors of Copper Beech Institute, as well as the Marketing Committee chair and member of the Governance and HR committees. She also serves on the board of the Framingham State University Alumni Association. Kim is a board emeritus of the Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA), and past board member of Girl Scouts of Connecticut and Hartford Children’s Theatre. Kim is certified in Mental Health First Aid, life coaching, life purpose coaching & happiness coaching, and earned her Mindfulness Facilitation Certificate at the end of 2022. In 2019, she published her memoir Split Endz: A Tale of 2 Crazy Sisters and is currently working on several book writing and editing projects. The mother of two teenagers and two cats, Kim lives in Old Saybrook, Connecticut.

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VICE Chairwoman of the Board

Jessica Alejandro is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Shamanic Reiki Master Teacher, Sound Healer, and Crystal Dreaming Practitioner. She has more than 20 years of experience working in the social services field. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Temple University in Philadelphia and a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy from Central Connecticut State University. She has worked as a trained and experienced forensic interviewer, crisis clinician, and couple and family therapist. She started her career as a Social Worker at the Department of Children and Families and then moved on to work at the Greater Hartford Children’s Advocacy Center at St. Francis Hospital. Gaining even more experience in the field, she also worked at Wellmore Behavioral Health Emergency Mobile Psychiatric Services as a crisis clinician. Her last traditional “9-5” job was in the corporate world at Beacon Health Options monitoring and approving mental health services for the Medicaid population in Connecticut. Jessica started working in private practice, part-time, 10 years ago at Center for Relationship Healing in Norwich and Dr. Tracey and Associates in Glastonbury. In 2016, she started her own independent private practice in Middlefield and Glastonbury, where she specializes in working with individuals experiencing grief and loss, trauma, depression, anxiety, and life transitions as well as couples in crisis/divorce, pre-marital couples, issues with co-parenting. Always being a spiritual and intuitive person, she fully stepped out of the spiritual closet about six years ago when her life’s work and purpose became crystal clear. She always knew she wanted to help people, that’s why she became a therapist. She did not realize she would also become a way-shower and conduit for others to connect to their higher selves, discover their inner light, truly love themselves, and share love with the world. Helping others see the true answer to healing, LOVE, is her mission and passion.

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N. Chineye Anako, MPH, CHES

N. Chineye (Chi) Anako is a public health practitioner whose work has focused on the intersection of public health and health equity solutions. Her past initiatives include work on food security/life cycle, violence prevention in youth, and cultural and linguistic programs. She is the Regional Director for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for Trinity Health of New England, a five-hospital system across Connecticut and Massachusetts, part of Trinity Health. Under her leadership, she led the Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Initiative, which revised the patient demographic questions to be inclusive of all genders and sexual orientation on all hospital in-take forms and in EPIC system throughout the Regional Health Ministry (RHM). She also oversees the 3+1 Language Services Program, which provides cultural and linguistic care to patients, especially those from marginalized groups.

Chi currently serves on the board of the Connecticut Chapter for the National Association for Health Services Executives (NAHSE) and is also the immediate past president. NAHSE is a healthcare organization that ensures greater participation of minority groups in the healthcare field. She also serves on the boards of the Connecticut Public Health Association (CPHA) and Copper Beech Institute (CBI). Chineye holds a Masters Degree in Public Health with a concentration in Health Promotion from Southern Connecticut State University and a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Cell Biology from the University of Connecticut. She is a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) and an EPIC Summer Scholar at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Chineye is an avid traveler and a native from Nigeria.


Ed Langford

Ed “ Eddie” Langford is a Licensed Professional Counselor who utilizes mindfulness and stress reduction techniques in his practice. He is also a HeartMath® Certified Practitioner. In 2021, Ed completed the inaugural Mindfulness Facilitator Certification Program at the Copper Beech Institute.

Ed believes in using an integrated approach that includes mindfulness, talk therapy, including cognitive based approaches as well a heart-based practices that build compassion and that foster resilience, balance and clarity. Ed has a private practice in Middletown Connecticut and consults with agencies around the state who provide services to the Department of Developmental Disabilities.

Ed started his personal mindfulness practice at the Meditation at the Waterfall Studio in Middletown in 2013 as a way to reduce stress, increase intention and provide clarity during a challenging time in his life. Ed feels it is a privilege to be able to provide support to a community that has helped and supported him over the years.

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Dr. Elizabeth S. Thayer

Dr. Elizabeth S. Thayer is a licensed psychologist at Beacon Behavioral Services LLC, in West Hartford, Connecticut. She is trained in mediation and collaborative divorce and has over 20 years of interdisciplinary experience as a mediator and a mental health collaborative divorce coach. She is a past co-president of the Collaborative Divorce Group of Connecticut, a co-chair of the International Academy of Divorce Professionals (IACP) Trainers Committee, and co-chair of the Access to Collaborative Committee of IACP. She is a trainer in the Connecticut Collaborative Training Group and has trained numerous lawyers, mental health professionals, and financial professionals in Connecticut, across the United States and internationally. Dr. Thayer is also on the Board of the Children’s Law Center in Hartford and Copper Beech Institute in West Hartford. She is also a former Board member of CCND (Connecticut Council for Non-Adversarial Divorce) and the Connecticut Board of Examiners in Psychology. Dr.

Thayer has dedicated her work to help families divorce with respect and self-determination. She has developed a program of inclusion and equality for Collaborative Divorce in Connecticut. This provides the same access for any family, regardless of income to divorce with dignity using an out of the court system. Dr. Thayer believes that all families should have the opportunity to transition through divorce in a way that protects their children and their family in the future. Dr. Thayer co-authored two books both published by New Harbinger “The Co-Parenting Survival Guide” and “Adult Children of Divorce.

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Emily retired recently from a career in education technology at the Capital Region Education Council (CREC) in Hartford, CT. She continues her work at CREC part-time as an Education Specialist, where she designs and leads customized staff development programs for teachers, administrators, psychologists, counselors, behavior specialists, speech therapists, and others on social and emotional learning, mindfulness, and yoga.

Emily is a certified mindfulness facilitator through Mindful Schools, a licensed Yoga 4 Classrooms® trainer and a Registered Yoga Teacher through Yoga Alliance. She holds additional certificates in Trauma-Informed Yoga and Yoga for Diverse Abilities from Childlight Yoga. Emily currently teaches at Journey of Yoga in Simsbury, CT.

For many years, Emily has been a “Big Sister” through Big Brothers Big Sisters of CT, receiving their “Big Sister of the Year” award in 2022. She has also been a volunteer parent educator for Saint Joseph Parenting Center, taught yoga and mindfulness to middle school girls at Grace Academy (a tuition-free independent school in Hartford, CT), and volunteered in an arts-intervention program for students with incarcerated parents (Justice Dance Performance Project). Emily is currently assisting an Afghan refugee family acclimate to their new home in Hartford, CT through Jewish Family Services.

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Regina Long

Regina Long is a Certified Mindfulness, Wellness, and Spiritual Coach who also offers coaching and consultation to organizations looking to strengthen their community, such as DEI (Diversity Equity & Inclusion) and EAP (Employee Assistance Programs). Regina's approach includes conflict resolution, building morale, and helping to heal and strengthen the workplace. Regina sees holistic wellness as a pillar of her work as well, incorporating aromatherapy, mindfulness and meditation, and spiritual counseling when needed. Outside of the workplace, Regina offers private services and group coaching for those seeking support in achieving their greatest authenticity, empowerment, and wholeness.


Copper Beech Institute is searching for new members to join its volunteer Board of Directors for a 3-year renewable term.

We are seeking people whose wisdom and experience would help to guide our healing work throughout the world. We are seeking constituents that represent the community we serve. We would cherish the addition of members who identify as BIPOC, mindfulness practitioners, nonprofit professionals, veterans, survivors of trauma, Hartford residents, and people most impacted by systems of oppression. In particular, we are in need of expertise in: Marketing, Finance, Fundraising, Event Planning, HR, Healthcare and Mental Health, Social Justice and Activism.

To nominate a candidate and for further information, email Kim Pita, Copper Beech Institute Board Chair, at

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