Abode Staff

Al Bellenchia
Executive Director

Al Bellenchia was appointed Executive Director of the Abode of the Message in July 2016.  He brings to the Abode a progressive record of success in helping organizations grow and evolve. Over the course of his career, Al has designed and implemented development and marketing strategies and plans, particularly those needed to facilitate organizational transitions.

Al has worked on mergers, divestitures, executive changes, reorganizations, legal challenges, and reputation and brand building programs for some of the world’s most recognized and admired enterprises, as well as with numerous small businesses and non-profit institutions.  These include: AT&T, The Carey Institute for Global Good, CDPHP, DuPont, Farm Sanctuary, Gettysburg Flag Works, Kodak, MVP Health Care, UPS, and Yahoo, among others.

In 2009, Al and his family relocated to the NY Capital region, allowing him to focus his passion and expertise on organizations that are essential to the region’s economic, cultural and social vitality. In addition to running his own consulting business, Al became involved in numerous civic and community organizations: For two years, Al served as Chair of the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Counsel and facilitated its business education series. He has served on the Board of Trustees for The Friends of Lindenwald (the U.S. National Park Service home of President Martin Van Buren.)  Al is an active Rotarian, and is currently President of the District 7210 e-Connections Club, which he co-founded.

Al lives in the historic village of Kinderhook, NY, with his wife and two sons and will be happy to tell you all about native son Martin Van Buren, and the origin of the phrase “OK.”


Topaz Ross Kelso
Programs and Marketing Coordinator


Topaz has been around the Abode on and off since the age of three. He is now a resident, and deeply enjoys the day-to-day spiritual benefit offered by the campus.

His professional experience includes marketing and communications, graphic design, wilderness education, and strategy consulting. He has worked for both local and international non-profits. He holds degrees in Philosophy and Law and Society from Oberlin College, and had planned to pursue a doctorate in psychology before realizing he needed to be at the Abode.

Topaz joined the team in October of 2017, and is looking forward to sharing its incalculable value with a wider audience.


Samoon Pal
Mountain Programs Coordinator

SaMoon Pal along with his parents and siblings moved to the United States when he was thirteen and took residence in Philadelphia, PA.  After completion of high school and with the support of a generous scholarship he moved to NYC to attend Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology, a FAA accredited private specialized aviation and engineering collegiate training institute.  He received a B.S in General Management with minors in Air Traffic Control and Organizational Behavior. He then dedicated a year to Landmark Education formally known as EST – Erhard Seminars Training.


From early 2013 through 2016, SaMoon created a startup called ‘Eloan Commercial Services LLC’ in lower Manhattan with a partner and under the direction of a seasoned investor, then participated in the equities market as a trader and real estate investor managing, and after underwent deeply profound healing experiences with the Indigenous tribes of the Amazon known as the Secoyas or ‘Multi Colored’ people. This rite and tribe indirectly led him to explore rural communal living and he is grateful for the Abode providing a lens pivotal in integration of social extremities.


He finds an organic connection to the path of love, harmony, and beauty of Inayati Universal Sufism since Chishti Order emerged from Afghanistan, his homeland, in a town called Chisht, emphasizing on love, tolerance, and openness.  It is a privilege for SaMoon to be a member of the Abode community and a custodian on the Mountain Summit. He is inspired and aspires to explore the arcana of nature to alchemize an inner shrine of in-spirit service and discovery along with other companions on the path.


Evan Young
Kitchen Manager

evanEvan first came to the Abode in 2014 as a member of the Abode Farm crew and has been working as a part of the Kitchen team since 2015. In January 2017, he assumed the role of Abode Kitchen Manager.

Evan comes to us with years of experience working in commercial kitchens, small farm operations, community-based projects, and therapeutic treatment settings for youth. Today, Evan is focused on looking at food as a fulcrum of community and feels called to do work that supports the growth of local, sustainable food systems.

A graduate of Hampshire College class of 2012, Evan’s special interests include studies in depth psychology, dream-work and art. These days he spends much of his free time in the woods with a dog called Shuko.


Evan Thaler-Null
Manager of Ecology

evan1Evan is a new addition to the Abode team, but has been working on this land for the past five years. Evan moved to New Lebanon in 2012 to take over the management of the farmland at The Abode with his partner Sarah Steadman, who grew up down the road from The Abode, the daughter of long-time Sufi parents. As the co-founder and manager of Abode Farm, Evan brings his connection to agriculture, ecology, and community to his new role as Manager of Ecology for The Abode.

Raised with a love for the outdoors, animals, and plants– Evan first began studying botany and herbalism in high-school, following travel and immersion with subsistence farming communities in Latin America. Soon after he began apprenticing on farms throughout the Northeast, and furthered his studies at Hampshire College, where he concentrated in Ecological Agriculture and Experiential Education. Working with the elements and natural systems is an essential part of Evan’s spiritual practice and well-being.

As Manager of Ecology, Evan will be involved in several areas: Agro-ecological educational programming, forestry and natural resource management, and maintenance and grounds. Evan is excited to help steward this beautiful and historic land and create dynamic learning opportunities for others to experience deep connection with nature.


Cherishmarie Church
Guest Services Manager

cherishCherishmarie joined the Abode in June 2016 in the Housekeeping concentration. With a degree in Business Administration, she has over 25 years experience in office settings. She brings her joy of organizing and love of hospitality to the sanctuary of this spiritual community.

With her two daughters now enrolled in the State University at Albany, she spends her free time at the local library where she will be volunteering. She is a voracious reader who also enjoys peaceful walks on the weekend with her husband and their dog. Happily, she stays in close contact with friends, her closest one who has been in her life 30 plus years, is a Shamanic Healer.

Cherishmarie’s sincere wish is to fulfill her job duties with the same kind, positive, helpful attitude she has been welcomed with here at the Abode. She feels blessed to work in an environment of harmony and beauty.


Wahida Young
Guest Services Assistant

Wahida headshotWahida previously served in the role of Volunteer Coordinator at the Abode for a total of eight years after first coming to the Abode on work-exchange in 2001. Recently, she decided to step away from more than 13 years as head of the housekeeping concentration. She drew on years of experience as a French teacher and her own experience as a work-exchange resident to perform her role as the Volunteer Coordinator, striving for fairness while holding a high standard of accountability. She has long been a student of Feng Shui and applied its principles to her housekeeping work.

Wahida is a Suluk Academy graduate and an ordained Cherag in the Inayati Order. She is also a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and taught T’ai chi for 10 years.

Wahida loves the Abode for its land, people, spiritual support and activities and built her house on Chair Factory Road on what was then Abode land.


Larry Brooksbank
Finance Manager

larry-hsLarry began his tenure at the Abode of the Message on January 1, 2016 as Finance Manager. He has worked in the field of accounting for approximately 20 years which includes time as an auditor at Coopers & Lybrand, a pension administrator at Berkshire Life, controller for Oraceutical LLC and as a consultant to GE Plastics.

Larry resides in Pittsfield MA and was the single custodial parent of two children, now adults. He has served his community in the Big Brother Program, as a CYC and Pittsfield Boy’s Club youth basketball coach, and CYC and YMCA soccer coach. Prior to his role in accounting, Larry was a photo technician and has also performed music professionally in the New England area. He is a singer-songwriter who plans to continue to co-create and record his own material.

Larry defines his new role at the Abode as a “good fit.” Spirituality is important to him. He learned meditation at the age of 19 “from a magical man from India” and practiced for several years. As he explains, “life took over and I lost sight of this valuable gift.” Larry returned to the daily practice of meditation 8 years ago and “it has transformed my life.” Additionally, he was initiated into the practice of Kriya Yoga several years ago. He believes that all life is vibratory spirit-energy and that we are here in the physical realm to raise our consciousness levels.


Wajid Steven Jackson
Maintenance Manager

Wajid headshotWajid first met Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan and took initiation in the Inayati Order in 1981 before living at the Abode from 1983-86. He returned in 2007 and resumed his work in maintenance and property management. Wajid held jobs as a union painter and carpenter, worked in construction, and was self-employed as a handyman wherever he found himself in life.

A self-described dedicated follower of the teachings of Hazrat Inayat Khan, Wajid graduated from Suluk Academy in 2009 and is now a IO coordinator in training.

Wajid lives on the Abode campus and feels fulfilled being immersed in a container which holds space for a way of life which he has always felt drawn to. He loves Dances of Universal Peace, sacred heart singing and contra dancing.


Khaldun Mendel
Communications and Outreach Coordinator

khaldun-hsKhaldun came to the Abode in 2011 as a participant in the Khidmat program after developing a deep affection for Sufi teachings and music. In the following years, Khaldun attended classes and gatherings at the Abode before accepting the position of Communications and Outreach Coordinator in the summer of 2016.

Since 2010, Khaldun has moderated and produced social media content for a beloved Sufi musician. After graduating with a degree in Religious Studies from Skidmore College, Khaldun worked professionally in Information Technology in a management capacity, resolving issues and conflicts and mentoring a group of students in work-study. In addition to his experience in media and technology, Khaldun has training in mediation and conflict resolution, and enjoys fostering harmony and collaboration. A graduate of Suluk’s Jabalqa class, Khaldun feels at home in service at the Abode.


Photo: Hilary Benas, Jane Feldman