Meet the Board
President: Monika Soria Caruso
Monika joined the Board in the summer of 2013, and served as Vice President until assuming her current role. She discovered the Refuge at an animal law symposium. A vegan since junior high school, she has spent over half her life advocating for animals through shelter work, outreach, policy change and mentorship.
As a Midwest native who swore she’d never leave Chicago, a small acreage in Saxapahaw was all it took to change her mind. She and her family left downtown Chicago in 2008 and traded up for a small subsistence farm and several pet rescue hens. Outside of debating the merits of ‘breakfast’ brownies with her vegan daughter, Monika’s interests include animal law and policy change, freelance recipe development, textile crafts, and marathon coaching.
Vice President: Cara Smelter
Cara joined the Board in the fall of 2015. She has been a vegetarian since 2001 and went vegan in 2013. You will often find Cara at protests advocating for farm animals, volunteering at the Refuge, or at vegan outreach events. In addition to her work with the Refuge, Cara is a researcher of late nineteenth century African American history.
Cara resides in the beautiful City of Oaks with her partner Phillip and their beloved cat companion, Tinker. Cara loves filling her days chilling with Phillip and Tinker, painting and drawing, frequenting independent theaters, and listening to her favorite podcast, Uhh Yeah Dude.
Treasurer: Laura Turbert
Laura joined the Board in January 2018. Laura and her husband (fellow board member, Dan Turbert) moved to North Carolina in July 2015 with their daughter, Gracie (now 5), and since then have added two new members to the family, their dog, Barbi, and Gracie’s new baby brother, Sander. Laura went vegan in 2013 and is excited to be raising two vegan kids. She loves introducing family and friends to the Refuge and its loving residents and volunteers. Laura was honored to be the emcee for the Refuge’s Annual Benefit for the Animals in 2016 and is already getting her pen ready to bid on silent auction items at the Benefit this year. Laura enjoys spending time with her family and friends (especially other vegan moms), and working as an attorney.
Secretary: Tessa Burmania
Tessa joined the Board in Fall 2014 and currently serves as the board secretary.
She found the Refuge during the barn raising campaign. A vegan for ethical reasons, she was excited to have the opportunity to help animals and educate others on the benefits of veganism so close to home.
Tessa enjoys cooking, entertaining in her home and vegetable gardening.
Jennifer joined the Board in the fall of 2013 and currently serves as Treasurer. She first learned about Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge at a vegan bake sale in early 2013 where she met other Board members and realized that her background in finance could help support the growth of this non-profit organization. She became vegan shortly after this and loves living cruelty free.
Having spent a career in corporate finance and always feeling she missed her true calling to work with animals, Jennifer has found a home with Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge. When not working on the Refuge and planning outreach events, Jennifer can be found cooking up new vegan recipes with her two kids and playing with her menagerie of rescued animals: four dogs and three cats. She also loves traveling, taking her kids on adventures, skiing, scuba diving and camping.
Dan and his wife, Laura, and their daughter, Gracie, recently moved to North Carolina from Connecticut. Dan is excited to help the Refuge in his areas of expertise with leveraging databases and CRMs to help manage the needs of the organization.
Dan stumbled across veganism three years ago after the birth of his daughter. His questions concerning the health benefits of a plant-based diet led to research regarding animal agriculture, opening his heart, and an awareness to the unjust cruelties animals endure for our food choices. After their move to NC, he sought out organizations he could help out and couldn’t be happier to volunteer and serve with Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge.
Dylan joined the Board in May 2017. He’s been vegan for 4 years and was vegetarian for a few years before that. Shortly after discovering the Refuge, Dylan began volunteering and loves being able to have such a direct impact on animals’ lives. Outside of his work with the Refuge, he is pursuing a PhD in mathematics.
Dylan lives in Carrboro with his two cats Gerd and Mushroom. He loves growing plants, befriending animals, reading books, and learning about anything.
Suzanne joined the Board in June 2017. They went vegetarian in 2007 and became vegan in 2015, the same week they moved to North Carolina. Suzanne volunteered at a monthly work day in 2016 and quickly fell in love with the residents and the sense of peace they felt while at the Refuge. After that, they regularly volunteered at work days and as a sanctuary projects volunteer.
Suzanne lives in Chapel Hill with their two cats, Butterball and Cashew. They are an active member of the local vegan community and also work with Vegans for Peace and Triangle Vegfest. In their free time, Suzanne enjoys creating art, playing board games, and doing science outreach.
Jim, a transplant to North Carolina from back west, moved here in 2004 to be closer to his now wife, Carrie. They have been married for more than 12 years and have three boys Oliver, Finn and Jett. They have two adopted dogs, Clementine and Ruby Red and one adopted chicken Princess Leia. Jim became vegan in 2017 after years of trying vegetarianism and dairy-free living. Thanks in part to a wife that set the example and a shared love of all animals. Our favorite family saying is “We don’t eat our friends.”
Professionally, Jim owns and operates a small creative agency located in downtown, Raleigh. He enjoys woodworking, building, painting and drawing, playing with his boys and animals, being outdoors and cooking with his wife.