The Volunteers of America Chesapeake Blog

From Homeless to School-bound: A Client’s Story

Mental Illness Awareness Week Spotlight: Cesan Mack


Within two years, Cesan Mack, 28, went from being homeless in Baltimore to being employed and school-bound 

While homeless on the streets of Baltimore, Cesan Mack, 28, learned about a residential behavioral health program. It changed his life.

Two years later, Cesan now has a job at a home improvement store and he’s preparing to go back to school.

He lives with 30 other residents in Volunteer of America Chesapeake’s Baltimore Behavioral Health Program.

“It’s good to be around my peers. That way if I ever need any help, I can talk to someone that’s kind of close to me that understands what I’m going through,” he explains.

The 28-year-old North Carolina native came to Baltimore three years ago to get closer to family.

“But I was experiencing symptoms of my mental illness and I was out of control,” he recollects. “I couldn’t manage my money or do simple tasks correctly so I ended up getting thrown out of my apartment and everything went downhill.”

Cesan says he didn’t know what to expect from the VOAC program, which helps chronically mental-ill adults learn independence, symptom management through medication, and job skills. However, program director Mona Magruder encouraged him to give it a try, and according to Cesan, he’s “been doing pretty good” ever since.

His next goal is start an electrician training program.

Mental illness he says, should be on everyone’s radar.

“More people need to know about mental illness and how to deal with it,” he said. “There’s not a lot of information out there, and it’s good to start dabbling into the mental health field…The more people that know about it, the more help people like me can get.”


Coming soon: Ceasn’s video interview!






Finally Thriving: A Client’s Mental Illness Battle

Mental Illness Awareness Week Spotlight: Daniel Eaddy, Baltimore


Daniel Eaddy, 31, is working toward a job and permanent housing after battling schizophrenia 

Daniel Eaddy, 31, says his childhood was sometimes frightening.

He heard voices. He didn’t know why, and he didn’t know how to stop them.

At age 19, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

“It was kind of scary growing up and not knowing where help could come from,” explains Daniel.

Even after his diagnosis, Daniel says he struggled to take control of his life and wound up with a criminal record.

It was not until three years ago that the Baltimore-native learned that there were facilities which could provide a safe haven for him to live, manage his mental illness, and pursue his professional goals.

He decided to join Volunteers of America Chesapeake’s Baltimore Behavioral Health Program following a referral from the state.


Daniel pictured with our other client spotlight this week: Cesan Mack

“I knew it would be a challenge but I knew I could get through it if I had the right people in my corner helping me out,” he says.

The stability has helped Daniel set goals. He earned his fork lift certification last May, and now he’s on the hunt for a job and an apartment.

Program leaders say it’s rare for a resident to accomplish so much in just three years.

Daniel credits program staff with offering him stability.

“They made me feel independent and it makes me feel like I can go out in the world and do good on my own,” says Daniel. “You have to look inside yourself and see what you want and if you’re ready for help. [If so], there are programs out here that can help you.”


Daniel’s video interview is coming soon!

The 24-hour Baltimore Behavioral Health residential program houses 31 participants and works intimately with each one to teach independence, symptom management through medication, and job skills.



VOAC Teams up with Foundation, Loudoun County Officials to Expand Transportation Services for the Homeless and Working Class

Private Foundation pledges $50,000 and staff to the Volunteers of America Chesapeake to transport homeless, help improve Loudoun transportation infrastructure


LEESBURG, VA. 10/3/2016—Volunteers of America Chesapeake (VOAC) and a local private foundation have announced a partnership to promote self-sufficiency and improve the quality of life for the homeless and working populations in Loudoun County that have struggled to maintain jobs without reliable transportation.

With assistance from Sterling Foundation Management, the local private foundation has awarded the VOAC operated–Loudon Homeless Services Center a $50,000 grant to expand the center’s transportation support for the homeless—allowing staff to shuttle homeless clients and/or identify current transportation routes for clients to commute to jobs, appointments, employment training, and educational programs. The local foundation’s owners wish to remain anonymous.

Additionally, leaders of the newly-minted initiative, called the Hope’s Chariot Transportation Program, will partner with various private and public transportation agencies in Loudoun County to strategize much needed transportation infrastructure upgrades county-wide.

Russell K. Snyder, President and CEO at Volunteers of America Chesapeake said:

“The goal of our homeless shelter is to help eradicate all barriers to securing and maintaining permanent housing, and this grant allows us to extend services to the entire Loudoun community.

“Everyone should have the opportunity to maintain a decent job and keep their medical appointments whether they own a car or not, and we are excited to work with government officials to make sure all Loudoun residents have the resources to provide for themselves and their families.”

Jim Lintott, Sterling Foundation Management’s Chairman, added,

“Our client understands how important transportation is in changing lives.  The Hope’s Chariot Transportation Program was designed to give hope and to assist Loudoun citizens working to achieve self- sustainment and fulfillment by providing them transportation to employment, health, and quality of life opportunities.

The Loudoun Homeless Center services more than 400 people each year, and from April 1 to July 1, it fulfilled 134 transportation requests due in large part to the Hope’s Chariot Transportation Program. The center also provided 14 gas cards and 46 bus passes.

In its first year, the Hope’s Chariot Transportation Program aims to:

  1. increase the employment of shelter residents by 5%
  2. increase permanent housing placements from 20% to 25%
  3. decrease the length of shelter stays by 5%



Harvesting Hope for the Homeless, Veterans, Intellectually Disabled

50761 save the date

On Thursday, October 27, 2016, Volunteers of America Chesapeake will host its 7th Annual Harvest for Hope Breakfast.

100% of the proceeds from the fundraising event benefit our five homeless, veterans, and intellectual disabilities programs in Northern Virginia:

During last year’s Harvest for Hope event, we raised more than $160,000, which helped our network of programs provide emergency shelter & supportive services to more than 1,800 homeless individuals and families, including veterans.

With your support, we hope to exceed last year’s goal in order to better support and empower the most vulnerable people in Northern Virginia.

RSVP for Harvest for Hope

In addition to a full breakfast, Harvest for Hope attendees enjoy a musical selection and hear first-hand testimonies from homeless and veteran clients who have thrived through our programs.

Thursday, October 27, 2016 
8:00 AM – 9:00 AM 
Sheraton Pentagon City Hotel
900 S. Orme Street
Arlington, VA 22204

All donations are 100% tax-deductible.

Learn more here!

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.