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Our Staff

John Mendez – Executive Director

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 – 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.

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 – Critical Time Intervention Specialist

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.

Summer Duwaik – Office Assistant  

Summer is a recent graduate from the University of Denver, where she earned a master’s degree in Social Work with a concentration in mental health. Summer has experience in providing services for people experiencing homelessness and low-income clients of all ages exposed to trauma, grief/loss, immigration/acculturation, and refugee status. She is currently studying for her Licensed Graduate of Social Work.

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.

Gabriel Santos – Outreach Specialist 

Gabriel Santos has spent his career in service to vulnerable populations by utilizing his clinical background and education. This includes five years as a volunteer in Africa, pursuing social justice, identifying and meeting the needs of the poor through service, education and advocacy in remotes areas of Namibia. Later he worked for three years as a Behavioral Specialist for low-income and foster care clients suffering from psychiatric illness in New York State and also with vulnerable homeless populations in Montgomery County, MD. Gabriel has a Bachelor Degree in Psychology, a Bachelor Degree in Intellectual Disability and a Master Degree in Social Psychiatry.

Stefani Schaper – HIP Service Coordinator

Stefani is the HIP Service Coordinator with Bethesda Cares. Stefani has over 5 years of professional experience providing direct services in the non-profit sector throughout the DMV area. 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. 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. 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.

Claire Cohen – HIP Service Coordinator

Claire is a HIP Service Coordinator at Bethesda Cares. Claire has over 4 years of experience in the non-profit sector and has extensive professional experience connecting people with reproductive healthcare services. She started out interning at an immigration NGO in 2015 and later provided direct service work in D.C., where she collaborated with low-income individuals who were experiencing financial and interpersonal crises as they navigated complex healthcare systems. Claire recently completed her MSW at Boston University, during which time she provided case management services at an anti-poverty non-profit and worked in an outpatient setting through the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health with clients experiencing housing instability and co-occurring mental health conditions. Originally from the DMV area, Claire is passionate about advocating for local residents and ensuring equitable resource distribution.

Christopher Rudmann– Outreach Specialist

After graduating from Carnegie Mellon University, Chris moved to Montgomery County in 2018 to join a laboratory at the National Institutes of Health studying chronic graft versus host disease (cGVHD). While there, he began volunteering with the Bethesda Cares meal program, clothing closet, and street outreach team. Chris holds a B.S. in Biological Sciences and Psychology and is passionate about the biopsychosocial determinants of human health and disease. Chris has 3.5 years of experience as an EMT and enjoys training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at Yamasaki Academy in Rockville, MD.

Lydia Yosef– 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.

Cornelius Kuteesa – Outreach Specialist

Cornelius brings additional talents from his work experience and knowledge of mental health services/behavioral health programs in Montgomery county, and more than four years of working for DMH-funded community-based mental health programs in the Boston, Massachusetts area. Cornelius earned his Master’s Degree in Sustainability and International Development from Brandeis University, Heller School for Social Policy and Management. While in graduate school, he worked with the Disability Rights Fund (DRF/DRAF) in Boston, MA where he supported the African Regional Director in empowering grassroots CSOs to advocate for policy reforms in their various countries to make them inclusive of all people, especially for persons with disabilities. He also worked for a UN agency in New York and UN labor organization in D.C. where he interned as a policy analyst.

Elizabeth Snape – Saturday Lunch Volunteer Coordinator

Eager to talk with those wanting to volunteer at Bethesda Cares, Elizabeth, a volunteer herself, coordinates our Saturday lunch programs. A dedicated member of our team, she also regularly volunteers in our main office.