"Nurturing the gift of life" ~ since 1989 ~

Meet Our Staff

Sal Benanti

Sal Benanti

Founder

Ever since my early 20’s, I’ve been inspired by the notion of “bringing forth the best potential” in whatever I do … from my own personal and relationship growth, to my professional work with the wonderful clients and staff with whom I work. This has also guided me in sculpting stone, molding clay, building stone walls, basic carpentry, physical fitness, setting up living and work spaces, tending to our gardens & grounds and, of course, raising my two precious daughters and sharing life with my wonderful wife for over 30 years. I love nature, plays, movies, world cultures, healthy foods, good friends, my wife’s cooking, family vacations and when the opportunity arises, I love to wonder.
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Melissa Jones-Austin

Melissa Jones-Austin

Assistant Director

When I first walked into the Center 1998, I thought “I want to be here.” I needed a career change and that was the start of life-changing journey. As the Assistant Director, I love contributing to our goals and maintaining our peaceful environment. I’m blessed to be part of something that offers everyone the opportunity to reach more of their full potential and achieve greater well-being. Over the years, I’ve worked with wonderful and talented co-workers and met so many lovely clients. I love my flexible schedule which supports my active lifestyle of traveling with my husband, skiing, biking, kayaking and hiking. I also enjoy reading, movies and time with my amazing family and friends.

Sheryl Bishop

Sheryl Bishop

Accounts Manager

I’ve been the Accounts Manager of The Center since 2005. Although officially I deal with accounts receivable and payable, I especially enjoy the interaction with our amazing staff and clients. It is truly inspiring to be a part of this very healing environment. Following a 10-year career as a first grade teacher, my husband Phil and I were blessed with 3 daughters. We now joyously program our week to include time with our grandchildren. My passions include communing with nature while biking, hiking, kayaking and volunteering my efforts for environmental conservation. Working at The Center provides a wonderful balance to my life as it does to all who enter its doors.

Kathleen Gillen

Kathleen Gillen

Massage Therapist

I have been a massage therapist at the Center for over thirteen years. My husband Steve and I share our empty nest with 2 four-legged, tail wagging “kids” and have a passion for a healthy, active lifestyle, physical fitness and regular massage. I love the outdoors and spending time at our place in Vermont. In my work, I love the rewards of helping clients release accumulated stress, realign any musculoskeletal dysfunctions and suggesting home exercises and stretches for everyday maintenance. I also get great pleasure in demonstrating that an active lifestyle, physical fitness and self care can and do make “older” equal “better and better”.
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Dagmara Michna

Dagmara Michna

Massage Therapist

A passion for helping others has always been a big part of my life. Knowing that my clients depend on me, motivates me to gain knowledge and further my expertise. That’s why, besides giving my best at the Center, I attended college for Physical Therapy. By combining massage and physical therapy I want to provide treatment for recovery and rejuvenation. Even though work and my precious darling son, Jacob, keep me busy, I find time for family and friends. I love family “get togethers” when I see my sweet little nephew, Oliver. Most Sunday afternoons my husband and I walk in a park. This is our ritual. It helps us to recharge our batteries, catch up on things and simply enjoy each other.
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Chelsea Alban

Chelsea Alban

Massage Therapist

Following a career in marketing, I discovered new meaning, purpose and passion in helping others through the healing work of therapeutic massage. Although excelling at massage has become a central part of my life, my life balance is supported by quality time with my physician husband, my wonderful step-son, and with others in my family including my precious nephew. I also make time for enjoying other family members and friends, fitness activities including yoga and spinning, books from both the N.Y. Times best seller list and ones pertaining to personal and spiritual development. And last but certainly not least, I love traveling to Latin America to visit my husband’s extended family.
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Kristen Huetz

Kristen Huetz

Life Coach

Kristen graduated from Montclair University with a bachelors degree in Psychology, before becoming a nationally certified Master Life Coach through the Behavioral Health and Leadership Dynamics training program. She also completed extensive AMS certification training at the Montessori Center for Teacher Development.

Along with Life Coaching, Kristie’s professional experience has included being a FMLA Counselor and Case Manager for AT&T, a Group Facilitator for women at the Chatham Senior Center and a teacher at the Montessori Children’s Academy.

Kristie’s involvement with the perspectives and practices of Optimum Living began in the early 1990’s when she began working here as a Group Facilitator and Assistant to the Director.

Outside of her professional role as a Master Life Coach, Kristie is a conscientious wife and mother, a lover of nature and music, artistic, creative and a service-minded community volunteer. Before she was
married, Kristie spent many months providing on-site aid to villagers in Ghana.

To email Kristie directly: Kristen@centerforoptimumliving.com

Jorge Barretp

Jorge Barretp

Life Coach

Jorge is a nationally certified Master Life Coach with a degree in Psychology from William Paterson University. For over 25 years, his innate compassion and problem-solving perspective has been empowering others to achieve more of their life’s best potentials.

His effective leadership, communication and mentoring skills have been honed through his experiences in various settings. These include his active service in the Marines, professional work in law enforcement,
achievements in developing innovative programs for teens and school faculties, and in his coaching a wide range of adult men and women dealing with a variety of challenges.

Since 2010, through learning and applying the perspectives and practices of Optimum Living, Jorge has taken his love of life and understanding of human behavior, motivation and potential to the next level. His focus is on helping others to perform and succeed at their own highest level.

In his personal life, Jorge is a devoted husband, committed father, and lover of nature and music. He values being active in his community and social groups, and takes pride in being a loyal friend.

To email Jorge directly: Jorge@centerforoptimumliving.com