James Henslin, the Founder of Pearl of the Sea Retreat, was born in a rented room in a little town on the bitterly cold Canadian border in Minnesota. His mother hadn’t completed high school, and his father hadn’t even made it beyond the seventh grade.
Jim has been a dedicated worker since childhood. One of his colder memories goes back to age 10 or 11, when he froze his nose while delivering newspapers in his little northern village. He was elated at age 16 when his parents packed up the car and moved to sunny Southern California. During the summer following high school graduation, while working as a laborer on construction projects, Jim took a correspondence course in Greek from the University of California at Berkeley. After graduating from college in Indiana, he was awarded scholarships at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, where he earned his master’s and doctorate in sociology.
After winning a competitive postdoctoral fellowship from the National Institute of Mental Health, Dr. Jim spent a year studying how people adjust to the suicide of a family member. Dr. Jim then joined the faculty at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, where he is Professor Emeritus of Sociology. Dr. Jim stopped teaching, but he never retired. He continues full-time sociological research and publishing.
Dr. Jim is immensely pleased that he was able to be instrumental in founding The Pearl. It is his hope that these efforts, moving from the academic theoretical to the practical, will transform lives by nurturing and restoring hope. He wants this to be an essential part of his legacy.
Anita Henslin, The Pearl’s Associate Founder, has a broad international background. She was born in Riga, the capital city of Latvia, while it was under Soviet control. There she learned Russian and became part of the resistance that led to Latvia becoming a free nation.
After Latvia broke its Soviet oppression, Anita, who had studied classical piano at the Darzina Muzikas Skola in Riga, studied international relations, political science, and leadership not just in Latvia but also in Austria, France, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States. Among her many accomplishments is working with the Latvian Parliament as it was being developed, running as a candidate for the Latvian Parliament, serving as the Director of Foreign Relations of a major Latvian organization, for which she visited many countries and met with world leaders. She also directed the renovations and furnishings of The Pearl, transforming this magnificent Mediterranean style mansion from an abandoned structure into a 4 star professionally rated hotel and bed and breakfast. Anita then became The Pearl’s director, remaining until she and her husband decided to repurpose the property once again, transforming the Pearl into a healing retreat for people who have suffered from trauma and drug dependency.
Anita says, “I love the United States and The Pearl, and transforming our world class luxury bed and breakfast into a healing center is a dream come true. The Pearl’s tranquility—its welcoming palm trees and fountain in our courtyard, the smell of the ocean, the flying pelicans and playing dolphins, our majestic sunsets over the waters—they restore your soul and mind.”
As a lifelong resident of St. Augustine, Amanda has faced her own personal struggles with addiction. Successfully overcoming her addiction gave her a new purpose in life, to help others recover. Not knowing exactly what this would entail, Amanda began her journey at Pearl of The Sea Retreat as a Behavioral Health Technician. From there, she quickly moved into a leadership position within the Pearl's operations. She has been blessed to grow within the Pearl organization, becoming an office manager, where she was able to receive in-depth immersion in the economics of behavioral health. Both clients and staff have benefitted from Amanda's strong work ethic and dedication to providing a safe and healthy environment. As Amanda organizes the work flow of the Pearl's operations, she has taken to heart the adage, "Work smarter, not harder;" She sees her work in rehabilitation as a testimony for clients of the potential for "Life after addiction." Accompanying her passion for work and helping clients is her strong family orientation, enjoying her husband, three children, and a dog. With addiction no longer plaguing her, Amanda is now enjoying life, finding fulfillment in her faith, family, and work.
Nelson A Pichardo, M.D. is a Diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, and a Diplomate of the American Board of Addiction Medicine,
Dr. Pichardo was born in Puerto Rico and raised in between New Jersey and Puerto Rico. He attended the Universidad Tecnologica De Santiago in the Dominican Republic. On a basketball and volleyball scholarship and with the help of his amazing grandmother who raised him. Upon completion of his undergraduate degree and his Doctor of Medicine he went to Bronx-Lebanon Hospital in Bronx, New York affiliated with Mount Sinai School of Medicine to complete his residency in Adult Psychiatry as well as Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. After completing his residency Dr. Pichardo joined the United States Air Force and was the Medical Director of Eglin Air Force Base’s Mental Health Clinic. At Eglin he was responsible for not only treating the Active-Duty servicemen and women but also the dependents on base as well. He has been practicing medicine for 25 years, Double Boarded American Board of Psychiatry & Neurology, American Board of Addiction Medicine with added qualification in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Dr. Pichardo is an Associate Clinical Professor at Florida State University Department of Psychiatry. Among the long list of accomplishments, Dr. Pichardo feels most accomplished with his family of two daughter Angelica 12, Scarlett 4 and Libanessa his wife of over 13 years.
Dr. Pichardo truly believes that “everybody is battling their own issues and that our mission is to help guide them, and that there is always hope no matter how dire a situation may seem. ”Lastly, patience helps us focus, persevere and not lose faith with a dedicated tenacious team and the love of God to have the will to live one more day for so many more lives.