Formerly Bethesda Cares’ Director of Outreach and Special Projects, John is Bethesda Cares’ Executive Director. John has multiple levels of experience in evidence-based programs and policy development, including activities associated with CoC systems, State Interagency Councils, and Federal policy initiatives. John has received multiple awards for his work to end homelessness, including recognition from the highly successful 100,000 HOMES Campaign and U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center in Washington DC. In 2012, John was named recipient of the Dr. Wayne Fenton Memorial Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness for Montgomery County. In recognition of his military service and work to end veterans’s homelessness, John had the distinct honor of being Senator Chris Van Hollen’s guest at President Barack Obama’s 2012 State of the Union Address to Congress.
Maria M. G. R. – Operations Director
Maria has 10+ years of accounting, design and general management experience in the nonprofit and news service sectors. Recognized for demonstrating a natural aptitude for managing the overall operations of a leading organizations, as well as for designing impactful websites and overseeing large teams. Maria has a verifiable history of contributing directly to institutional growth and expansion throughout her career. Professional focal points include team collaboration, leadership, accounting, finance, photography, and graphic design. She attended Universidad Nacional de Quilmes in Buenos Aires Argentina, where she received a B.S. in Social Sciences and Communication.
Deborah Taylor, MSW, LCSW-C – Programs Director
Deborah has worked with individuals and families experiencing homelessness in Montgomery County since 2008, with much of her focus on HOC’s federal programs for Supportive Housing and Montgomery County’s Adult Behavioral Health clinic. In 2010 Deborah earned her MSW from Catholic University of America with a Combined Concentration (Clinical and Social Change) Deborah has experience providing program direction, case management, individual, group, and family counseling as well as advocacy and has served on Montgomery County’s Continuum of Care Coordinated Entry System Leadership Committee. Deborah also serves as Board President of a statewide family services agency in Pennsylvania.
Justin Spees – Development Director
Justin is the Development Director at Bethesda Cares. Previously he ran the development program for the quarterly magazine The American Prospect, where he managed a budget of almost $2 million. Before he entered the nonprofit sector, he worked on numerous political campaigns as a fundraiser, where he developed an aggressive fundraising strategy based on developing strong personal relationships with donors and community members.
Stefani Schaper, MSW – Program Manager, Supportive Housing Services
Stefani has nearly ten years of professional experience providing direct services in the non-profit sector throughout the Greater Washington region. Since graduating with her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from James Madison University, Stefani has worked in homeless services, mental health rehabilitation, and domestic violence victim advocacy. More recently, Stefani has completed her graduate work at the Catholic University of America, and received a master’s degree in Social Work this month. Directly prior to starting with Bethesda Cares, Stefani worked with an agency providing service coordination and resource navigation to homeless individuals and families in the D.C. area. In her role, Stefani worked closely with the District of Columbia’s Continuum of Care, including active collaboration with the DC Coordinated Entry Systems as well as serving as a non-profit member of the Interagency Council on Homelessness Youth Committee, coordinating the committee’s Youth Advisory Board.
Wendy A. – Homeless Prevention Program Manager
Wendy works with clients facing financial crises to assist them with overdue rent or utility bills. In this work, she coordinates with state agencies and other nonprofit groups. Wendy has worked on poverty issues and issues effecting homeless people on the national, state and local levels. She ran a House Committee on Government Operations that initiated groundbreaking hearings and legislation on public housing, homelessness and community development. She has also worked with several governors, advising them on issues facing low-income residents. Wendy authored Working to End Homelessness: A Manual for States. She has also worked with many local programs, including soup kitchens and mobile outreach vans.
Lawrence Blake – Meal Program Supervisor
“Blake” is our Lunch Program/Clothing Closet/Shower Coordinator. He is the face of the lunch program and receiver of the food donations; he coordinates meals and oversees our volunteers. Blake also picks and delivers clothing to the closet and supervises a once a week shower program. To read more about Blake, click here for a profile on his work with us in the New York Times.
Mark Babiak, BSW – Senior Specialist – Critical Time Intervention
Our Critical Time Intervention Specialist, Mark was born and raised in Washington. He attended Montgomery College and was enrolled in the Mental Health Program there; he subsequently transferred to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and received a B.A. from there in 2014, in Social Work and Psychology. Having interned with Bethesda Cares for a year during his studies, Mark has joined staff to work closely with our newly-housed clients, ensuring that this enormously positive, but very challenging transition is a smooth one.
Nick Heynen – Veterans Supportive Housing Specialist
Prior to joining Bethesda Cares, Nick’s career has involved work with adolescent offenders, addiction treatment programs, and support for people with Developmental Disabilities. The theme dominating his career is the need and ability to get and keep all people connected to their communities. Nick completed his degree in Family Studies at the University of Maryland. Nick enjoys spending time at the pool, riding his motorcycle, and obstacle course racing. Nick and his family are long-term residents of Montgomery County.
Lydia Yosef, BSW – Outreach Specialist
Lydia obtained her Bachelor’s in Social Work from University of Maryland – Baltimore County and she has been active in homeless services with experience in homeless systems in the local area. Before coming to Bethesda Cares as an Outreach Specialist, Lydia held a frontline staff role at a Women’s Shelter. She then transitioned into case managing Families and Children in housing programs in DC, before coming back to Montgomery County working as a shelter case manager. In that role, she worked with some of the most vulnerable adults in Montgomery County and helped them attain housing. In her free time, Lydia’s passions include linguistics and Prison Abolition, and she actively works with mutual aid organizations in Southeast DC. Lydia is currently working towards obtaining her Social Work Bachelor License in the state of Maryland.
Lisa Lincoln – Supportive Housing Specialist
Lisa Lincoln brings a variety of human services experiences to Bethesda Cares. Most recently, Lisa founded and coordinated a food pantry for a food insecure population, serving an average of 60 families per week, during the pandemic. Lisa also served as a health and wellness coordinator for an urban nonprofit. Lisa has a master’s degree in Physical Therapy and brings her experience in direct care to human services.
Carlos Ramirez – Street Outreach Specialist
Carlos has assisted and advocated for many victims of domestic violence in Montgomery County as a Legal Advocate for a local nonprofit domestic violence legal clinic. Carlos also has professional experience from working with private law firms and the District Court of Maryland for Montgomery County prior to joining Bethesda Cares. Carlos graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park with a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology and Criminal Justice.
Siomara Bonilla – HIP Service Coordinator
Siomara is a Housing Initiative Program Services Coordinator at Bethesda Cares. A UMD graduate with a Bachelors in Criminology and Criminal Justice, Siomara has been an avid advocate for different populations throughout the community. Siomara began community involvement while in High School through the Gandhi Brigade, a group of students using digital media to advance social justice. Siomara also focused on children and educational issues during early advocacy work activities. In addition, Siomara was an advocate for victims of domestic Violence through the House of Ruth MD throughout Montgomery and Prince George’s County, in addition to work as a Transitioning Youth Coordinator for The Arc of Prince George’s County serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and supporting populations in their desires for more independent life.
Valentina Caro – Community Engagement Coordinator
Valentina Caro is a graduate from the University of Florida. She obtained her Bachelors of Arts in Anthropology. For the last three years she has worked in organizations such as the United Nations Department of Communications and International Relations as an intern and NORC at the University of Chicago as a Research Associate. Her work as research associate has given her the skills to implement digital recruitment campaigns and social media content that targets specific populations at risk. She has conducted several formative research projects that involved focus groups, findings, and dissemination of material. Valentina is excited to join the Bethesda Cares team and looks forward to building a strong digital presence and continuing to develop new partnerships for the organization.
Monica Chio-Martinez – CTI Specialist
Monica is a graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Relations from Trinity Washington University located in Washington, DC. Prior to Bethesda Cares, Monica worked as a Housing Case Manager in the DC Area for 5 years. She has helped clients living on the street with obtaining housing and she assisted with the COVID 19 PEP-V housing emergency program. Monica started her social services journey in June of 2014 working actively with families and pregnant women in the DC area as a family support worker. Since then, Monica has worked in several areas of Social Services ranging from Mental health, substance abuse prevention, HIV/AIDS programs, and with persons experiencing homelessness.
Emily Katseanes – Operations and Data Coordinator
Emily has a BA in journalism from the University of Nevada and a MA in rhetoric and professional communication from New Mexico State University. She has over a decade working with vulnerable populations in higher education and has published research at the intersection of mental health and pop culture.
August Wei – HIP Service Coordinator
August graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a BS in psychology. August has worked in dementia care at residential nursing homes and as an evaluation writer for psychological practices. More recently, August conducted clinical research at the National Institute of Mental Health with a focus on best practices for suicide prevention across medical settings. In addition to his clinical and research experience, August volunteers as a Crisis Text Line counselor and College Bound mentor for under-resourced high schoolers in the DC area.
Kevin Allen – Street Outreach Specialist
Kevin has been in the human service field in different capacities for over 15 years. He has worked with vulnerable populations dealing with issues such as substance abuse and homelessness. He went to school at Southern University, and is returning to Bowie State. Kevin also enjoys volunteering his time to youth sports.
Paloma Arroyo-LeFebre, MSSW: Program Manager – Homeless Street Outreach
Paloma attended The Catholic University of America where she pursued her Bachelor’s in Social Work. Post grad she worked as a case manager for a local D.C. nonprofit aimed at housing local Veterans who experienced homelessness. Paloma later found her passion for policy after working for the U.S. Senate. She decided to pursue her Master’s in Social Work with a focus on policy administration and macro social work at the University of Texas at Austin. Paloma’s capstone project focused on evidence-based practices in decriminalizing homelessness. Paloma returned to the greater D.C. area three years ago and worked in national nonprofit/SuperPac, EMILY’s List, and most recently the National Insitute of Health as a training manager and expert. She volunteers her time with an LA-based platform focused on Latina empowerment fittingly called Powerful Latinas Rising. Within her role, she produces web-based webinars, trainings, and a podcast. In her spare time, Paloma loves kayaking and spending time outdoors with her puppy Azul.
Amelia Kumer – Street Outreach Specialist
Amelia Kumer is a graduate from the University of Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in Government and Politics as well as a minor in Law and Society. Amelia has a passion for community involvement and helping others, a passion Amelia has explored during time as an Outreach Member for the CARE to Stop Violence Team at the University of Maryland and in Thailand during a study abroad and community service trip. In Thailand, Amelia worked with Burmese refugees on the Thai border and helped to teach the students English as well as build self-confidence to encourage their future endeavors.