“Anything you need to know about mental health – the knowledge is here.”

SJ_PhotoWoodley House is fortunate to have dedicated employees who are passionate about our mission to help people with mental illness live full and healthy lives with dignity. In this blog, I would like to introduce you to our office manager, Stellvonne Jackson.

Stellvonne has been at Woodley House for six years. She started out as our medical biller and clinical filer, and her role at Woodley House has grown over time. She currently manages our operations, insurance, billing, board correspondence, audit support, and acts as my assistant.

“I love finding a solution for problems, and I love finding new ways that we could possibly come up with more money so we can do what we do bigger.”

Stellvonne spends most of her time following the money. At Woodley House, this means making sure that the providers we bill pay us. Often times, information gets lost and systems don’t talk well with each other. So Stellvonne spends a lot of her time documenting and re-documenting our work. She is applying what she is learning studying for her Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership to create processes and systems to more efficiently collect accounts receivables.

Stellvonne’s commitment to fiscal integrity is critical because on average, Woodley House is reimbursed only 73 cents for every dollar of care we provide. In order to maintain our highest standards of care, Woodley House must raise over $250,000 annually from private donors.

Because Stellvonne’s job has changed so much since she started here, she is constantly learning new things, which is one of her favorite things about her job.

“We’re a small company, so you’ll be given tasks that you’ve never seen before and you have to catch on quickly. You just have to figure it out.”

Working at Woodley House has helped Stellvonne personally as well. In 2012, she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and experienced severe depression after a near-death experience. She was able to learn a lot about her diagnoses by listening and learning from the staff and consumers.

“Anything you need to know about mental health – the knowledge is here,” she says.

What keeps Stellvonne at Woodley House is our commitment to consumers.

“Woodley House truly stands behind respect and dignity for consumers. Our consumers are great people, and you hear that everywhere at Woodley House, throughout all of the staff. In a lot of places, people will work for a paycheck, but I feel that the people here really work because they care about the consumers. I think that’s a really big deal. You can send your family here and know that they’re going to be taken care of. My son is a special needs person, so I look at, ‘Is this a place I would send my son if I needed to?’ and I say ‘Yes.’”

We hope you will join us in thanking Stellvonne for her dedication to making Woodley House a pathway to recovery for hundreds of Washington, DC area residents each year.


Charity Yoga Classes for Woodley House in April

Love yoga? Never tried it, but curious? DC’s Tranquil Space yoga studio, located in Dupont Circle, is hosting several all-levels charity classes during in April, and all proceeds benefit Woodley House. Pay what you can ($5 suggested donation), get your OMM on and help Woodley House!

Grab your mat and come on down to the studio, which is located at 1632 17th Street NW, just south of the corner of 17th and R. The April charity classes benefitting Woodley House are:

  • Wednesday, April 9 4:30 to 5:30 pm
  • Sunday, April 13, 330-4:30 pm
  • Wednesday, April 16 4:30 to 5:30 pm
  • Wednesday, April 23 4:30 to 5:30 pm
  • Wednesday, April 30 4:30 to 5:30 pm

Tranquil Space, we thank you for your support of Woodley House this month! Please spread the word about this fun opportunity to de-stress, stretch, and support Woodley House.

Woodley House survives ‘snow days’!


martinsnow According to those emerging daffodil tips in our gardens, spring will be here soon (we hope) but before we totally leave the ice, snow and sleet behind, we want to share with you how mental health residential programs like Woodley House manage on those’ snow emergency days’ when everyone is urged to stay home.   Washington has had more than our share this year, forcing many to juggle plans, reschedule meetings and work from home because it was just too dangerous to travel around the city. But for the staff at Crossing Place, Valenti House and Holly House – our crisis, transitional and longer-term group homes – staying home wasn’t an option.  Our residents, men and women working to recover from mental illness, needed to be safe, fed and properly cared for, so while most of us remained in our warm, comfortable homes, Woodley House staff either prepared to spend the night or risk the icy roads to get to work.  Everyone, both staff and residents, pitched in to make it through the many snow emergencies  … shoveling snow and de-icing steps … and we are so proud and gratified by their wonderfully positive spirit. As executive director Gary Frye remarked: “Together we form a society that elevates to care for our least fortunate.  This was certainly an ‘elevating’ winter, but we must say, we are all looking forward to spring!

Woodley House Food Pantry Sees Uptake in Calls

When we opened our food pantry in November 2011, we didn’t know what to expect, as it was a new venture for Woodley House. We knew the residents of our supported independent living apartment program would welcome it, as they were the impetus for our starting it in the first place. They told us how difficult it was sometimes to just put food on the table at the end of the month, forcing some to have to decide between medication and food.

Although our life skills trainers work with each resident concerning the importance of planning and budgeting, even the best planners sometimes come up short at the end of the month. Our food pantry is a wonderful safety net when things get tight.

It is open every Tuesday from 1 pm to 2:45 pm and is located at Valenti House on Connecticut Avenue, NW. It is open to all DC residents.

When we first opened dour doors, most of the people who came to the food pantry were from our Woodley House apartment program, with just a few from the community. However, over the past six months, that has changed dramatically and with recent cuts to the Food Stamp Program, we predict we may see many more DC neighbors in need. In fact, in the past 3 months, the number of community participants has more than doubled!

There has also been an uptick in calls to our administrative office asking about the food pantry. One young woman called and said she had seen our food pantry sign and wanted to know if she could possibly come by, even if it wasn’t on our regularly scheduled Tuesday, “because I’m just so hungry.”

We are happy that we were there for her and for so many who need just a little extra help.

Woodley House Benefit Raises $171,000 to Help DC Residents with Mental Illness

Board president Isabel Jasinowski with her husband Jerry and Ray Du Bois

Board president Isabel Jasinowski with her husband Jerry and Ray Du Bois

See pictures from our event here!

Woodley House’s annual movie benefit is essential to our ability to serve as a pathway to recovery for thousands of Washington, DC area residents by offering safe, secure housing options and a comprehensive range of services and support. Each year, approximately 300 people with mental illness avoid hospitalization because of Woodley House.

I want to take a moment to thank everyone who attended our movie benefit last month, which raised $171,000 to support Woodley House’s work. More than 400 hundred people attended the event, which featured a reception at Pulpo and an advance screening of the heart-warming movie, “Saving Mr. Banks,” at the Uptown Theater.

Disney Pictures was very generous in providing their hit film Saving Mr. Banks to Woodley House for this event and The Coca Cola Company provided the soft drinks for which we are very grateful. And of course, we want to especially thank Teva Pharmaceuticals and our other corporate sponsors, Clyde’s Restaurant Group, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, Johnston, Lemon Asset Management, The Lemon Foundation and John Marshall Bank for their generous sponsorships as part of our Host Committee.

On average, Woodley House is reimbursed only 73 cents for every dollar of care we provide, and in order to maintain our highest standards of care, we must raise over $250,000 annually from private donors. Our movie benefit supplies critical resources to meet our mission.

We are continually grateful to Mary Margaret Valenti, Founding Chair of our movie benefit, for her unique insight and invaluable help in making this event possible. And special thanks go to our benefit committee and the team at Lansdale Associates who helped make the benefit such a success.

Special Gifts

Woodley House has operated a Supported In dependent Living program for consumers with persistent mental illness and who are homeless since 1983. The program is funded by charitable support, consumers payment of fees, and funds from Washington D.C. department of Mental Health. This month we learned that the Department of Behavioral Health (formerly mental health) will be supporting another vendors program as opposed to Woodley Houses Supported Independent Living. This is difficult news for the consumers in our present apartments and program.

Woodley House staff worked hard to find alternative funding. We were successful in finding a way to help fund the present program, but it required a significant investment in time and effort from our consumers. I felt the hard news should come from me so the Residential Director, the Clinical Director, the lead supported independent living counselor and myself met with each of the 32 consumers who had lost a third of their funding. I explained to each consumer what had happened and that funds from the Department of Behavioral Health would be available to them but through a vendor other than Woodley House. I also explained if they would commit to working with our staff under a new contract with greater expectations from them we could preserve the program where  they were now enrolled. I expected some consumers would opt to take the path of least resistance and follow the funding. linking up with another agency and leaving Woodley House. Instead I heard 32 stories of the advances each consumer had made and the gratitude they felt toward the Woodley House staff and program. Every consumer signed a new contract and committed to the new work load. Every comment was full of hope. Every man and every women was determined to make this work.

In this time of year when we give gifts to friends and loved ones; this was the special gift our consumers gave to me.


17th Annual Movie Benefit — December 11, 2013!

We are delighted to announce that our 17th Annual Woodley House Movie Benefit will present Walt Disney Pictures’ Washington, DC premiere of Saving Mr. Banks, starring Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks! This is the true, behind-the-scenes story of Walt Disney’s 20 year campaign to win the movie rights to the children’s classic book, ‘Mary Poppins’. The curmudgeonly author, P.L. Travers, (Emma Thompson) was extremely reluctant to let the Hollywood machine get its hands on her beloved magical nanny. Against the very persistent efforts of Walt Disney (Tom Hanks), she finally relents and thus begins the real struggle of wills to see it through! This film has received rave ‘pre-reviews’ and also stars Colin Farrell, Bradley Whitford and Paul Giamatti.

The Movie Benefit is Woodley House’s one major fundraiser of the year and all funds raised go directly to our programs to help local residents with mental health problems reclaim their lives and reach their personal goals for greater independence. This event was started in 1996 by Mary Margaret and Jack Valenti who introduced the first Woodley House Movie Benefit with a special advance screening of Titanic.It was so well received that it has become an annual tradition for the past 17 years.

Acclaimed journalist Jim Lehrer will be this year’s Master of Ceremonies and he will present the Woodley House Donald A. Brown ‘Rose Award’ to Catherine P. May, MD for her leadership in the DC mental health community and dedication to ensuring quality mental healthcare for DC residents.

This annual event is the perfect way to begin the holiday season for hundreds of Washingtonians who look forward to ‘dinner and a movie’ for Woodley House each year! For further information about the event and to purchase tickets, either click on the Movie Benefit Slide on our home page or click the link below … but save Wednesday, December 11, 2013 for a wonderful event to support a great cause! If you have any questions, please contact Linda Meixner at Woodley House, 202-506-3102, or lmeixner@woodleyhouse.org.

Respite Care

Woodley House has begun a new service at the Valenti House location. Since its inception Valenti House has provided residential services to consumers suffering from long term and persistent mental illness. These services have been for lengths of time determined by the consumers need and progress toward independance. For the last 10 months the agency has offerred an additional service: Respite Care.

Respite Care is for brief stays for consumers who have stable housing but for various reasons need a short stay in a safe comfortable facility. Consumers staying with family may have emergency situations which take their care givers away from the city for short periods of time. Respite Care allows the consumer the choice of staying in Valenti House rather than traveling with their care giver. Consumers using respite care are afforded all the priveledges of longer term residents but for short finite periods. We encourage potential residents to visit in advance and acquaint staff with medical and psychiatric needs.

We are excited to offer this new service and see it as a further step toward consumers enjoying the benefits of living in the community.


Gary W. Frye

Executive Director

May is Mental Health Awareness Month!

Along with bringing us Mother’s Day, the Kentucky Derby and Memorial Day, May is also Mental Health Awareness Month. Woodley House has been a leader in mental health recovery in Washington, DC for over 50 years with our range of community-based mental health housing and Life Skills Training support services.  According to NAMI, one in four adults in America experiences a mental health disorder in any given year, but we rarely discuss it.  Mental Health Services is an important subject that we should embrace, not shy away from! We know that mental illness is NOT a one-size-fits-all disease, so Woodley House works with each of our residents to achieve their own personal goals. We are committed to empowering our residents .. on an individual basis .. to achieve the most productive, independent living possible for themselves.  

Mental illness is a complicated disease and while great strides have been made in its treatment, recovery is still difficult to define. Someone who is blind rarely ‘recovers’ his or her sight, but can learn coping mechanisms and techniques to live a full, healthy and independent life in the community.  So with mental health disorders … people can learn to understand their illness and integrate their own coping mechanisms to live productive, independent lives with family and friends. So in this month of Mental Health Awareness, we can explore new research on the intricacies of the brain,  the incredible new efforts on brain-mapping and the fact that organizations like Woodley House remain a trusted community resource dedicated to helping people, one life at a time.

16th Annual Movie Benefit Presented ‘Les Miserables’!

On December 12th, nearly 500 joined Woodley House for our 16th Annual Movie Benefit and a grand time was had by all!  This year we presented a very special advance screening of Universal Pictures’ Les Miserables which attracted many Washingtonians, as well as fans from as far away as Australia! We were honored to present our esteemed Donald A. Brown Rose Award to noted author (‘An Unquiet Mind”), educator and mental health advocate, Kay Redfield Jamison, PhD for her strong leadership in mental health recovery and longtime support of Woodley House.

The evening began with a buffet reception at Pulpo, a new restaurant across the street from the Uptown Theater where the movie was screened.  NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell was our master of ceremonies and presented the Rose Award to Dr. Jamison. All proceeds from the event went to fund Woodley House’s programs for the mentally ill. For a write up and photos from Washington Life, go to:


And for more photos, go to: