Denise Smith Baril, MSW, Director of Children and Adolescent Services
Dana Paramore Dunnigan, Treasurer
Denise Smith Baril was born and raised in Bossier City, Louisiana. She has lived in Panama City, Florida since 2001. Denise earned an Applied Science Degree from Gulf Coast State College in Early Childhood Education and Care as well as an Associate Degree of Arts. She earned a Bachelor of Social Work (2018) and a Master of Social Work (2020) from Florida State University. Denise is licensed as a Registered Clinical Social Worker Intern in the State of Florida. Denise began her career teaching preschool at First United Methodist Church in Panama City. She has worked as a paraprofessional at Bay Haven Charter Academy. Most recently, her career has been with Anchorage Children’s home as a Street Outreach Supervisor and then transitioning into a Case Manager for the Transitional Living Program and Maternity Transitional Living Programs. Currently, Denise is in an internship with Angel House Bereavement Center for her Master of Social Work. Denise holds a Notary Public Commission. She is also a certified Red Cross First Aid/CPR/AED instructor. Denise was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa in 2016, Phi Alpha Social Work Honor Society in 2017, Garnet Key Society in 2018 (honor/leadership society FSU-PC) where she earned the Garnet and Gold Scholar in 2018. Denise was awarded the NASW BSW Student of the Year in 2018 and was also awarded the very high honor of being FSU Humanitarian of the Year in 2018 for the College of Social Work in Tallahassee. Denise has been married to Mike Baril for 29 years and their family includes two daughters, Bethany and Chloe, a son-in-law, Chris and a grandson Bradley. Their family also includes 4 dogs – Bo, Coco, Lulu and Handsome and 3 cats- Simon, Spooky and Quinn. In addition to volunteering with Angel House, Denise has been very active for many years helping people without homes find food and resources in the area.
Denise wanted to be a part of Angel House Bereavement Center because “Angel House provides a safe place for people to come share and process through the losses of life. There is no judgment in this organization just acceptance and assistance. There is help for anyone needing help not just those with insurance or money. Everyone experiences loss in life. Hurricane Michael dealt everyone in the area a huge loss and Angel House has been there to help everyone…It is the only non-profit in the area providing such services and I am so thankful for Angel House, the board, the staff, and the volunteers.”
Denise Sowell Montford was born and raised in Panama City, Florida. She graduated from Auburn University with a B.A. in Psychology and a Master’s in Social Work from the University of South Carolina. Denise’s professional experience includes mental health counseling in outpatient, inpatient, and long-term care settings; child welfare and foster care case management; hospital-based social work and other health care settings. Specifically, she spent 18 and a half years in social work, bereavement, education, and training in the hospice setting. Additionally, Denise has been an adjunct instructor in the Social Work Department at Florida State University Panama City for 10 years. For the past 3 years, Denise has been on the Social Work Department faculty at Florida State University Panama City. In 2015, Denise co-founded Angel House Bereavement Center and now serves as its President and Executive Director. She continues to promote the field of Social Work by providing supervision for social work and counseling interns, and clinical supervision for social work and counseling interns who are pursuing their licensure.
Denise is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in Florida and a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) in Alabama. She is also a Certified Trauma Professional (CCTP) through the International Association of Trauma Professionals (IATP). Denise completed the Thanatology Certificate Program at the University of Alabama. She is a member of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and has the Academy of Certified Social Workers (ACSW) credentials through NASW.
Denise has received the following awards:
First Lady of the Year from the Beta Sigma Phi Sorority in 1999
Social Work Educator of the Year from the NASW Emerald Coast Unit in 2014
Social Worker of the Year from the NASW Emerald Coast Unit in 2018
In her personal life, Denise is married to James Montford and they have a teenage daughter, Sadie whose siblings include 5 cats: Dexter, Sylvester, Leo, Tabby, and Mr. Whiskers.
For Denise, Angel House is a mission and dream that is rooted deeply in her heart, “Twenty-five years ago, my siblings and I began our grief journey following the death of our father. We were unprepared for the major impact this loss would have on our family. Through my own grief, I learned how unpredictable grief can be and how everyone grieves in their own way. Because of my own experience, I decided that I wanted to help other families who had experienced the loss of a loved one. The following year, I began working for a hospice as their bereavement specialist. I had a wonderful mentor who taught me much of what I know about grief and loss. I learned the rest of what I know about grief from the many individuals who have allowed me to walk with them in their own grief journey. Throughout my years with hospice, my dream of one day opening a free-standing bereavement center began to develop. This dream was shared by the other co-founders of Angel House and all our dedicated volunteers. It was a dream come true for all of us when Angel House opened its doors in April 2015. In our society, death and grief are often denied and many find it uncomfortable to support others who are grieving.
It is my mission to provide education and support to others who are grieving. Angel House BCI is a quiet and safe place where they can come and share their deepest pain and receive support from our therapists, staff, volunteers, and others who are grieving. It is truly an honor to walk with individuals through their grief journey.”
Janice P. Chavers, Office Manager/Bookkeeper
Where Grieving Hearts Heal
Michael Cassani, Website and Social Media Coordinator
Robbie Fuller, Vice-Chairman and Head of Ways and Means
Janice P. Chavers was born and raised in the Panhandle of Florida. She graduated from Bay High School right here in Panama City. Janice began her career as a secretary with the School Board of Bay and Washington counties. Her family opened a retail furniture store, The Furniture Mart, where she was the bookkeeper. Janice then worked for many years as an Administrative Assistant for a Bereavement Specialist at a local hospice which led to her current position as Office Manager for Angel House Bereavement Center. Janice is married to Gerald M. Chavers, Jr. and their family includes one daughter, Melissa (Missy) C. McCoy and son-in-law, Mark McCoy. Janice is also a proud grandmother to Parker, Carter, and Cooper McCoy. In her spare time, Janice enjoys crafting, camping, fishing, and spending time with her grandsons.
Janice supports and volunteers for Angel House Bereavement Center because “I believe grief and loss counseling is very much needed in our community. The counseling and skills given to our clients truly prepare them to live in a new normal.”
Our Staff & Board of Directors
Dana Paramore Dunnigan was born and grew up in Ozark, Alabama but has lived in Panama City since 1985 so she feels like a native. Dana has had her Real Estate Broker’s license since 1991. She and her husband, Dennis Dunnigan started their own Real Estate firm and ran it for 21 years. Now, Dana and Dennis have scaled back on the company and work for their daughter Ashley at her firm, so that they can better serve their customers and clients. Dana is a Certified Residential Broker and Certified Residential Specialist. She was awarded Broker of the Year among all Bay County Realtors three times in the past 25 years. Dana has been married to her soulmate, friend and business partner Dennis for over 20 years. They even got married during Hurricane Georges! Scaling back on their company has enabled Dana and Dennis to raise their niece, Jade, who lost her father (Dana’s brother) in a very traumatic experience when she was three years old. They are now in the process of officially adopting her! Dana and Dennis also have three other children, Ashley, Michael, and Timothy. In addition to volunteering for Angel House, Dana works with pre-school children at her church, First United Methodist of Panama City.
Dana “I lost my brother, Woody, 12 years ago, and it was very traumatic for our entire family. My mom and I started attending grief counseling shortly after that, and it probably saved both our lives. We worked with the counselor, Christina Coates Cassani, for years, and followed her when she and her co-workers started Angel House. They have been such a life changer for me, my mom, husband, and niece, and I know and have seen firsthand how much they do for others and our community. They truly can help you change your circumstances. They also know firsthand what it’s like to suffer life-changing loss. I am thankful for the opportunity to give back in little ways to this organization and Denise and her team that has done so much for me.”
Bereavement Center Inc.
Robbie Fuller was born and raised in Panama City and St. Andrew Florida. He graduated from Bay High School and went to Sea School three times. Robbie grew up on and around boats in the Gulf of Mexico all his life. He’s been involved with fishing boats, Harbour pilots and Tugboats. Robbie also worked in offshore oil fields. Robbie is a USCG Master Mariner and has four USCG Letters of Commendations for Lifesaving/Vessel, Saving/Search & Rescue, Non-Emergency Search and Towing to Safety. He is married to Susan Fuller who is also a volunteer for Angel House Bereavement Center. They have two sons Bobby and Brandon and three daughters Cristina, Cara and Dina. In addition to his volunteer hours with Angel House Bereavement Center, Robbie enjoys fishing and spending time with his grandkids.
Robbie is devoted to Angel House Bereavement Center for personal reasons. “Angel House is very near and dear to Susan and me due to losing our former spouses. And, also losing my parents and other family members and friends.”
Julie Reynolds, Board Member
Vanessa Pogue Serio, Volunteer and Media Coordinator
Vanessa Pogue Serio was born in Missouri and raised in Panama City. Vanessa has a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City where she graduated Summa Cum Laude with Arts and Sciences Honors. She has a M.A. in Industrial/ Organizational Psychology from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Vanessa spent over 10 years as a Human Resource professional. She began her career as a Human Rights Officer with the State of Missouri investigating complaints of discrimination and sexual harassment. Vanessa then progressed to the Classification and Pay Analyst for 35 Missouri Division of Developmental Disabilities facilities. She was then promoted to Compensation Analyst with responsibility for the State of Missouri Merit System Pay Plan. Vanessa’s career culminated as the Human Resources Director for the Missouri State Retirement System. During her career, she was assigned to the Missouri Governor’s Commission on Management and Productivity charged with streamlining and re-writing state personnel law. After retirement, Vanessa worked for a hospice as the regional media coordinator. Vanessa is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR). She is a 1998 Graduate of Leadership Missouri, Member of Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, Outstanding Student of America 1988-1989, National Dean’s List 1987-1989 and received Bereavement Volunteer of the Year in 2005. She has been married to the love of her life, Scott Serio, for over thirty years.
Vanessa is passionate in her support of Angel House. “I had a very traumatic, difficult time dealing with the unexpected deaths of my mother and father when they died in their 50’s. I eventually learned, I was suffering from complicated grief and PTSD. Unfortunately, I experienced many professionals (doctors and counselors) who were not knowledgeable and trained in the field of grief. As a result, these professionals were harmful to me. After years of suffering, I finally found a professional with specialized knowledge and experience in grief who saved my life. This was Denise Sowell Montford our President and Executive Director. I support Angel House any way I can because I don’t want anyone else to suffer.” Type your paragraph here.
Michael Cassani was born in Honolulu Hawaii and raised in Brockton Massachusetts and South Windsor Connecticut. Michael’s educational background is in Fire Science and he spent his career as a Firefighter, U.S. Air Force, Retired Captain of the Panama City Fire Department. Michael is certified in fire investigations and hazardous materials, technician level. He has also received a Meritorious Service Award from the Panama City Fire Department. Michael is widowed with two daughters Mahala Thogode and Sydney Wallace-Cassani. He also has one granddaughter, Ariana Thogode. Along with being a Board Member, Michael volunteers his talents with Angel House by maintaining our social media presence and as a photographer.
Michael’s connection to Angel House BCI is deeply personal. “My wife, Christina Cassani was a founding member of Angel House. After she passed away, volunteering was one way to help me heal and process grief. Last year, I was honored to be asked to serve on the Board of Directors.”
Denise Sowell Montford, LCSW, President and Executive Director