Leaders of Jeremiah’s Ranch come from all walks of life, yet they all share a common thread. They all are parents of children with special needs in some form or fashion, and care deeply about the future of those kids when they become adults. These children are of all ages, and one by one, they will face the challenges of having reliable, safe, and nurturing care when their parents are no longer able to provide these things. These dedicated and loving parents have partnered on the Jeremiah’s Ranch project to secure their children’s future.
Executive Director, Chairman of the Board, and House Administrator
Linda White has over 25 years of experience in Special Education, both professionally and personally. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Development from Azusa Pacific University. Her professional experiences include a career as an Applied Behavior Analysis therapist. Ms. White is a Licensed Administrator of a group home for adults with developmental disabilities. She was Chairman of the Board of North County Disabled Services, a non-profit that provided recreational opportunities to persons with developmental disabilities, and has worked in several public school districts which included working 6 years as a Sign Language Interpreter for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Ms. White has been a multisensory reading instructor to adults with developmental disabilities and has taught sign language classes to parents who have children that are non-verbal due to a disability. She has training and experience as a parent peer counselor which continues to be a priority in her life. Ms. White was instrumental in starting a Special Olympics program in her community as well. She is one of the founders of Jeremiah’s Ranch College of Adaptive Education and serves on its advisory board.
Ms. White is the parent of four grown sons, two whom are married, and they soon will be grandparents. Ms. White home-schooled her sons, two of whom have disabilities including Down syndrome and Cerebral Palsy. Her interests include time with her family and friends, reading, being active in her church, gardening, cooking and pursuing a healthy lifestyle.
Board Member and Treasurer
Larry White is a member of the Board of Directors for Jeremiah’s Ranch, is Treasurer of the corporation, and is responsible for all of its financial and accounting functions. He held similar positions with North County Disabled Services, Inc., which provided therapeutic recreation and leisure services to adults with developmental disabilities. He is also a past vice chairman and vice president of the advisory board for the North County Chapter of The ARC of San Diego. He served on that board for five years. Mr. White entered the world of Special Education after a 20-year career in commercial banking. His last held position in the commercial banking industry was as a Vice President/Senior Commercial Relationship Manager. Other organizations that Mr. White has been involved in as a volunteer include Rotary International and two different Chambers of Commerce. He acted as Treasurer of the Carlsbad Village Rotary for two years and was a “Rookie of the Year” while a member of the Temecula Valley Rotary. He has also served on several committees with the Carlsbad and Temecula Chambers.
Mr. White has a Professional/Level II Special Education Teaching Credential for students who have moderate/severe disabilities, and he has a BS in Business Administration with a concentration in Management from California State University, Long Beach. In his 9th year as a middle school Special Education teacher for students who have moderate to severe intellectual disabilities, Mr. White became more deeply involved with Special Education as a result of the influence of his son, Evan, who was born with multiple disabilities including Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and hearing loss. Fallbrook is where Larry calls home.
Board Member, Secretary
Kim Bruce was born and raised in Orange County, California. She graduated from Westminster High School and subsequently attended California State University Long Beach. During this time she was lucky enough to find her true calling as a Public Safety Dispatcher. She worked for the Garden Grove Police Department for six years and then lateraled to Anaheim Fire Department where she worked for another fourteen years. She and her husband, Tom, were married in 1998 and in 2000 they moved to the beautiful town of Fallbrook. It is their utopia and they plan on growing old there. In 2003, their son was born with a disability and he is referred to in the medical community as a SWAN: a syndrome without a name. Despite his global developmental delays he has a heart of gold. In 2009, Kim retired from her career completely to concentrate on raising and caring for their son. He is the driving force behind her involvement with Jeremiah’s Ranch. It is her way of securing a safe and loving future for him.
Pauline Williams is a teacher in the Fallbrook Union Elementary School District. Prior to becoming a teacher, she served in the US Navy and moved from her hometown of Detroit to San Diego. Having earned the GI Bill through her military service, she attended Palomar Community College and then San Diego State University where she obtained her BA in Liberal Studies, Multiple Subjects teaching credential, and Specialist Credential in Special Education. While teaching at Potter Jr High, she continued studies at SDSU and obtained her Master’s Degree in Education with a focus on Special Education.
Mrs. Williams has taught Junior High students with moderate to severe disabilities for over twenty years, and has worked closely with their families on Individual Educational Programs. She was recognized as Potter Junior High’s Teacher of the Year and Fallbrook Union Elementary School District’s Teacher of the Year in 2001. She was then selected as San Diego County Teacher of the Year in 2002 and represented all teachers of San Diego County as a speaker and teacher representative at community events.
For many years, Mrs. Williams served on the North County Consortium’s Community Advisory Committee both as a representative from Fallbrook and a member of their Board of Directors. She has also served on the School Board at St. Peter’s Catholic School in Fallbrook. She is a current member of TASH (The Association for Persons with Severe Disabilities), and supports inclusion in school and community settings as well as in recreation and leisure activities and vocational opportunities. Mrs. Williams lives in Fallbrook with her husband and is an active member of St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Community.
Lenila Batali grew up in San Francisco, and after securing a degree in architecture from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, she practiced architecture for 10 years designing upscale residences and developments for large companies like Disneyland. She then pursued designing large housing developments, state parks and private residences. Along with her love for watercolors, it was the images found in anything tropical that inspired her passion to create. Ms. Batali left the technical arts field in 1992 to start a home-based watercolor stationery business.
Having been actively involved in local networking groups, special public events and creating public relations between business owners and the public, connecting people is one of Ms. Batali’s main strengths. She has had many successful experiences with the school system and Regional Center to implement special needs services for her 19 year old child, Tiana. In addition, she has held several public speaking engagements, educating new teachers and parents about special needs students, and how to create a successful atmosphere in the classroom. Ms. Batali firmly believes in educating parents of special needs children about the resources that are available to them.
Ms. Batali lives in Fallbrook with her husband, Brent, and her 2 daughters, Tiana and Serena. One of the primary drivers for building a home-based business was to become more available to her family and to eventually employ Tiana in the family business, Designs by Lenila. Ms. Batali’s business has created award winning art and thousands of custom products for clients around the world. When not working on new designs for clients or networking for Jeremiah’s Ranch, Ms. Batali loves to read, spend time in her garden, scour beaches for ocean treasures, scuba dive, dance hula, and dream about living on an exotic island!
Chairman, Land, Facilities and Equipment Acquisition
Kathy Fortenberry has over 35 years of experience in real estate, real estate investments, construction and residential design. As a Realtor she has focused her attention on a high level of customer service, communication and attention to detail. Ms. Fortenberry is also a licensed general contractor and has been involved in real estate development, land acquisition and investment real estate since 1974. She is a member of the North San Diego County Board of Realtors, a member of Sandicor Multiple Listing Service (MLS), a member of California Association of Realtors (CAR), a member of National Association of Realtors (NAR), a member of the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing, and joined Sea Coast Exclusive Properties in August 2013. She obtained her MBA with a focus on Real Estate development and Real Estate investments.
Ms. Fortenberry lives in Vista, CA with her husband, who has an uncle with special needs. Ms. Fortenberry’s brother and two nephews also have special needs. When not working or spending time with family, she enjoys fishing, camping, hiking and music appreciation.
Chairman, Business Development
Mr. Rubino is the founder and President of Next Stage U, a 501c corporation that he is creating to become a learning and vocational center in Poway for developmentally disabled adults over the age or 21. Prior to creating Next Stage U, he founded a software and technology company in Poway, California. The business grew into a highly successful operation with more than 100 associates. The company had more than 5,000 clients worldwide including 50 of the Fortune 100 and many local, state and federal governments. He sold the company in 2004. Mr. Rubino served as the General Manager of the San Diego Hilton and Resort on Mission Bay. Along the way he managed several additional hotels for Hilton including Cincinnati and Los Angeles. He was also president of the San Diego Hotel Motel Association during his lodging career.
While building and operating his company for the past 25 years, Tony also became involved in his church and his community. He became a member of the First Congregational Church of Ramona, ran for the Ramona School Board and was very active in local youth sports programs. In 1999, he saw a newspaper article about Special Needs young adults wanting to play softball but had no coach. Tony responded and became involved in the Special Needs world ever since, coaching softball, basketball and golf for local Special Olympics’ athletes.
Mr. Rubino was born in Washington D.C. where he attended grade school and high school on a choirboy and acolyte scholarship from the Washington Cathedral. He attended the University of Maryland on a football scholarship and graduated with a BS degree in Business Administration, after which he joined the Hilton Hotels Corporation in a management training program. Tony and his wife of 37 years, Betty, have one grown son and live in Poway.
When Tony learned of Jeremiah’s Ranch and the commitment of the parents in Fallbrook to make it a reality, he made contact with the founders and offered assistance in the business planning, goals and vision for Jeremiah’s Ranch.
Coordinator, College of Adaptive Education
Karen Douglas was born in Minnesota, but spent most of her life in Southern California. She is the mother of two sons and has three grandchildren. She raised her oldest grandson, Alec, who has autism. Karen struggled to get a diagnosis for Alec, but eventually found the right doctor and got him into an appropriate class when he was three. In 2000 she relocated to Sacramento to get Alec in the M.I.N.D. Institute, where his abilities were evaluated and a learning program recommended. When she was offered a job opportunity in San Diego, she looked for an area that had the best educational advantage for Alec. She found Fallbrook, or Fallbrook found her, and they have lived there since 2001. Karen and Alec have been attending Jeremiah’s Ranch Support Group meetings for several years, and Karen recently volunteered to become an instructor at the College of Adaptive Education.
Karen chose a law enforcement career and retired from the California Highway Patrol in 2008, after 30+ years of service. She has a B.S. degree in Business Management, comes from a family of talented artists, and has always been involved in some form of expressive art. After retirement, she discovered the Welburn Gourd Farm, and her adventure in gourd art began. She has taken many gourd classes in both California and Arizona, and is a member of the Misty Washington Gourd and Basket Guild in Encinitas. She has also taken classes to learn the art of making pine needle baskets and has crafted many for family and friends. It was at the Guild that she learned the Kumihimo braiding technique, which she has taught to numerous individuals.
Publicity, Technology, Support Group Chairman
Before leaving full-time employment, Debra Muzikar was an assistant controller, then IT project manager, systems analyst, programmer and web designer for over 15 years. When her youngest child was diagnosed with autism, she quit her job to be a full-time caregiver to her three children. Later she worked part-time for an IT technology company, Rentfrow Inc. In the last 15 years, Debra has been a founding member of a number of Santa Barbara based nonprofits, including the Autism Society of Santa Barbara, The Rhythmic Arts Project, Project Angels Bearing Gifts, and Carpinteria Cares for Youth. She was a founding member of the California Autism Coalition, which advocated for people with developmental disabilities at the State level. Debra was an advisory board member and grant reviewer for the Santa Barbara County Children & Families Commission. She has worked in the housing field at CHANCE, Inc. in Santa Barbara, a nonprofit which serves those with developmental disabilities by helping them find housing and making accommodations for accessibility issues.After she left CHANCE, she became a board member for that organization. In the last decade Debra has written two books on the creative abilities of people on the autism spectrum and has co-founded The Art of Autism nonprofit which empowers people on the autism spectrum and their families through the Arts. Debra had a regular column in the Autism File magazine called Mind’s Eye for over six years.
Debra moved to the beautiful town of Fallbrook in 2014 with her husband Kurt. She is the mom to 3 adult children. Her youngest, Kevin, is on the autism spectrum and resides in El Cajon. In 2018, Debra took over the lead on Jeremiah’s Ranch Support Group from the inspiring Lenila Batali. The newsletters you receive from Jeremiah’s Ranch are sent from Debra.