The Volunteers of America Chesapeake Blog

How Transparency & Faith Led to Recovery

Client Spotlight: John Katalinas, Residential Program Center



Arlington native John Katalinas started drinking and getting high off crack cocaine at the age of 14. Drinking was his drug of choice.

“My drinking led to panhandling, isolation, and sleeping on the streets,” said John. “I had to call my family every once in a while, to let them know I was still alive.”

Now at age 54, he is nine-months clean and has a new, more optimistic view of himself.

“My outlook now is that it’s okay to be me,” John said. “Before, I use to think— ‘I’m 54, I don’t have a car and a house. I don’t have this; I don’t have that.’ What I have learned is that I have me. Having those other things do not make you a person.”

John has been in treatment several times before—at one point, he was sober for five years, but he said he ultimately drowned in his negative emotions. Addiction has plagued his family for generations, including his mother, siblings, and son. Late last year, though, he received care at the Detox and Early Recovery Program within the Volunteers of America’s Residential Program Center (RPC). It was different this time.

“I came to this treatment center on December 16th [2015] and it was more personal and it was the best treatment I ever had,” he recalled. “I learned to look at myself here. I learned that I have a lot of feelings and that’s okay. Before, I was afraid to think about my feelings.”

He calls the Volunteer of America’s RPC staff relaxed, firm, and truly caring.

“They also taught me that all the things that have happened in my life are only experiences. They don’t make me a bad person.”

Since graduating from the program’s Early Recovery Center, John has moved into a recovery house and works at a pizza shop.

“I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life,” he said. “I just started working 30 hours a week and my boss knows I’m in recovery. I’ve never done that before– let people know what is going on with me.”

He says being transparent has helped him talk out his emotions instead of relying on the bottle for comfort.

“I’m learning to vent,” he said. “Letting people know how I am, is the only way people can help me.”

John also carries new spiritual tools to aid his recovery.

“When I came [to the Volunteers of America RPC], I did not believe in God,” he said, adding that another man in recovery at the center introduced him to the word. “Now there is no doubt in my mind that there is a God. I pray every day. I don’t have to get on my hands and knees to do it. I can talk to him any time of the day. And now I know I’m being heard.”

Cyclist Rides Cross-Country to Raise Funding, Awareness for the Formerly Incarcerated


Former Baltimore resident, photographer, and social justice advocate Lindsay Waite has raised $1,026.52 for Volunteers of America, as well as three other organizations that provide resources for ex-offenders to transition back into society. (more…)

VOAC Residential Re-Entry Center Receives $10,000 Grant from PNC Foundation


For the second consecutive year, Volunteers of America Chesapeake has received funding support from the PNC Foundation.

This year, VOAC has received a $10,000 grant to expand the employment program at its Residential Re-Entry Center in Baltimore City. Residential Re-Entry Center

Quick Facts

  • For more than 30 years, the VOAC Residential Re-Entry Center has helped federal ex-offenders successfully transition back into their communities
  • Upwards of 65 percent of residents who complete the program, obtain and maintain employment after they are released
  •  The program assesses, trains, and identifies employment opportunities for each resident

The new grant will allow the Re-Entry Center to work with more ex-offenders individually to determine skill strengths and identify employment opportunities. Learn more about the program.

The PNC foundation actively supports early childhood education, as well as community and economic development. Last year, the foundation awarded the VOAC $10,000 to expand programming at the Pratt House, which provides shelter and supportive services to children and families.

If you would like to make a donation or learn more about how you can support these programs, please call (800) 646-2828 or make a donation online.

Improving Our Cultural Climate Through Prayer

VOAC Launches Triannual Prayer Breakfast Series

Volunteers of America Chesapeake (VOAC) has unveiled the first of a series of Community Prayer Breakfast events scheduled throughout the Mid-Atlantic this year in an effort to instill faith and hope in the community it serves.

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VOAC held the inaugural breakfast at its Residential Re-Entry Center in Baltimore on July 19.

The event is timely as the nation continues to heal following a string of violence involving police officers and citizens. According to Volunteers of America Chesapeake Chaplain Rev. Sandra Gray:

“We know the power of faith in this type of cultural climate, and God has a way of making sure we show up on time. We knew we wanted to launch the series in Baltimore City, which has been challenged in many ways due to violence and media perceptions, and we are happy we did. Everyone was inspired by the outpouring of faith in the room, and I believe no one left the way they came.”

The event attracted more than 35 ministers, spiritual leaders, and heads of faith-based organizations. Attendees prayed in large and small groups over their free breakfast meals.

The VOAC Prayer Breakfast will be held three months out of the year–July, November, and February– in Baltimore, Prince George’s County, Washington D.C., and Northern Virginia.

The next event is scheduled for Friday, October 21, 2016, at 9:30 a.m. at Ark of Safety Church at 9402 Marlboro Pike, Upper Marlboro, MD 20772.

Volunteers of America is a church without walls committed to serving the most vulnerable people in our community. Volunteers of America Chesapeake was one of the national human services organization’s first branches.

“7 Days to Serve” at Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter!

Volunteers of America Chesapeake and the Bailey’s Crossroads Community Shelter want to extend a special Thank You to the participants in Fannie Mae’s 7 Days to Serve program.

On Friday May 1 more than 50 Fannie Mae volunteers joined us at our Bailey’s Crossroads Community shelter in Falls Church, VA. The volunteers, part of Fannie Mae’s “7 Days to Serve” initiative, came out to help our staff accomplish critical tasks in our mission to end homelessness in our region. These tasks included sorting clothing donations, packing more thank 150 toiletry kits, constructing picnic tables, beautifying our grounds and completing a much needed storage shed.

“We couldn’t have done all this without the help of volunteers,” said Facility Coordinator Francis Alquijay. “These projects take a burden off our staff members and allow them to focus more directly on serving our clients and community.”

Check out our Facebook page to see more photos from our service day!

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Loudoun Celebrates the end of Cold Weather Shelter!

Our Loudoun County Homeless Services Center (LCHSC) recently held the annual Cold Weather Finale lunch to celebrate the end of another successful winter shelter season.

WinterShelterFinale1The purpose of LCHSC’s Winter Shelter Program is to provide safe and warm lodging to unsheltered homeless individuals throughout the coldest months of the year. Now in it’s 10th season, LCHSC partners with more than 30 local churches and hundreds of volunteers to ensure that all those in need throughout the county have a place of refuge.

“We’re just thrilled to be able to do this work and to celebrate our successes with our partners,” said Linda Kimble, Volunteer Coordinator at LCHSC. This year the team celebrated moving 25 chronically homeless individuals into permanent housing between October 2014 and April 2015.

“That’s 25 lives saved,” said Program Director Elizabeth Jones. “25 individuals who would otherwise be sleeping in tents in the woods, on street corners and in parking lots. We’ve been able to reach out to them and break down those barriers that previously prevented them from finding and maintaining housing.”


Loudoun County Vice Mary Kelly Burk also attended the finale and remarked at how grateful she is for individuals like Linda, Beth and the team of volunteers who help make Winter Shelter possible. “I’m just overwhelmed with the dedication you all show to our community and those in desperate need.” said Ms. Burk.

You can help support the Loudoun County Homeless Services Center by donating or volunteering today!

Visit to learn more or sign up for a tour!

Testimonial Tuesday: Homeless Services

Oh, the weather outside is frightful …

but here in Chesapeake the warmth of our clients and staff is SO delightful!

Hey Bloggers! We’re in the final week of the 5 Weeks of Giving and its been great sharing our client stories, words of encouragement, motivations and successes with you! Today’s Testimonial comes to us from our Homeless Services Programs … our largest service area.

At Volunteers of America Chesapeake, our specialty is caring for our neighbors most in need. Through a network of emergency shelters, hypothermia prevention programs, drop-in centers, cold-weather shelters, transitional housing programs and affordable housing programs, Volunteers of America Chesapeake not only meets the needs of some of the most vulnerable people in our communities but provides them with the support they need to become self-sufficient. READ MORE

Click HERE to watch today’s Testimonial Tuesday Video!



Blogger Testimonial Question: Many of the homeless individuals we serve are currently employed but unable to cover market rent in our area. Affordable Housing is a huge challenge in homeless prevention and diversion. How are your communities working to help end homelessness?

If you’re looking for a way to help, you can join us in the fight from Baltimore all the way to Virginia Beach. Click HERE to Donate Today (ps … there are tax incentives for end of year giving! check out our website to learn more!)