This June we are incredibly happy to feature the exceptionally talented C. Michael Walls. Without him Patrons for Peace would not exist. A lawyer, journalist, musician, and all-around Renaissance man, he began by offering his services to incorporate PPP in 2004. That is when the organization was born.
Starting with his editing skills as a journalist he has proofread every piece of material we have ever sent out and published. He has assisted with grant writing as we apply to get funding for homeless individuals. Michael has even helped with fundraisers playing music as he can play percussion instruments, guitar, saxophone, bass, and the harmonica.
Perhaps the most impactful assistance that has come from Michael has been his assistance with clients as a criminal defense lawyer. He has donated so much pro bono work over the years assisting our clients with a myriad of issues such as DWIs, theft, assaults and MVA troubles. Some of our client’s experience substance use disorders and are consumers of supportive mental health services that need his assistance to help get their life back on track. Michael has always been available to answer a question Patrons for Peace Project may have, reviewing a letter from the courts, advising a client what their rights are, at times representing and other times directing how to get a public defender.
Michael helped to guide us through a particularly heartbreaking case involving a mother and disabled son who were being threatened by their landlord. He advised us on how to proceed to protect this mother and son. We had to help the mother take out a restraining order against the landlord. He walked us through the court procedure, so we were able to accompany her in the courtroom. This is one example of the behind-the-scenes legal assistance he provides 24/7 for Patrons for Peace Project. We are so very thankful for all the many unique areas of expertise that Michael brings to the table to assist our clients and our organization. His multifaceted talents truly enrich the organization!
Over the past ten years, Patrons for Peace Project and Vernessa Scurry, MA, have worked together coordinating care for consumers accessing mental health services. Ms. Scurry has been the Executive Director of Safe Journey House for the past five years and has assisted us with care we are trying to access for our clients. Prior to that, we worked with her at QCI Behavioral Health for five years. We appreciate Ms. Scurry for all that she does to advocate for each client. As Executive Director of Safe Journey House she is responsible for the operation of four separate locations throughout the local region. Yet she has always been extremely accessible and works hard to accommodate the intake and treatment needs of each of our clients.
Patrons for Peace Project has been extremely fortunate to be able to refer clients to Safe Journey House for psychiatric stabilization. These short term therapeutic residential facilities in Hyattsville, Ellicott city, Gaithersburg and Waldorf have helped to prevent many of our clients from being hospitalized. We are incredibly grateful for Ms. Scurry’s active role in this agency. She oversees the crisis counselors and mental health professionals in each house and helps to guide them as they deliver compassionate evidence-based care. She is also directly and indirectly involved in client care by managing all the many situations that arise within the organization.
We have called Ms. Scurry when we have had clients in hospitals and on park benches, and she immediately starts to work to help us find a bed. She is steadfast and calm – working to quickly find a solution to assist the client in need. She continually reaches out to our agency letting us know when beds are available. Once the client is admitted to Safe Journey House and stabilized, a safe discharge plan is developed. It is during this time that some clients will be referred to a Residential Rehabilitation Program (RRP). This lengthy detailed-oriented application process is overseen by Ms. Scurry. Patrons for Peace Project thanks her for her behind the scenes work because the RRP applications are always done correctly and in a manner that prevents any unnecessary delay for the clients.
Ms. Scurry’s passion for helping people has always been obvious to Patrons for Peace Project for the following reasons. She always goes the extra mile to do what is possible within her power and scope of practice to advocate for the client. She is extremely resourceful, possessing a wealth of knowledge of the “system,” understanding exactly where a referral source may be. Since clients can come from referring hospitals, other agencies and possibly the street, her excellent communication/interpersonal relationship skills are top-notch. She collaborates with every agency, keeping the clients’ needs first. Like a well-oiled machine, she is constantly multitasking, putting pieces of a puzzle together to ultimately benefit a client. We are incredibly grateful to Ms. Scurry. Because of her unique skill set and zealous advocacy, many lives have been saved!
Patrons for Peace Project has been extremely fortunate to have found Juda Gabaie a tax lawyer who has helped us to help clients over the years. Financial debt secondary to tax evasion, gambling and garnishment causing financial ruin and then homelessness carries an extraordinary amount of shame, guilt and anger at oneself and the “system”. We have seen hopelessness and despair in such depths in a couple of clients that suicide was being considered as an option. Fortunately for all involved, Juda’s services were enlisted, and a solution was mapped out to restore financial stability.
Juda listens compassionately, reading between the lines while witnessing the depth of despair and hopelessness with which each client had been living day in and day out. One man we took to him had been living out of a van for years. He had such fear and self-loathing that he trembled and sobbed as he sat in his office. Juda was very empathetic as he provided a strategic path of hope to straighten out his man’s finances. Juda was also able to provide information to help that had not been known or factored into the situation.
Many people are very secretive about financial struggles so by the time they become homeless their monetary problems have usually been festering for a long time. Juda gathers all the information he needs and is very quick in finding exactly what steps are needed to help the client. This is especially important once the client is ready to accept help so they can move forward with their life. We are so grateful for the professional and detail-oriented assessment and help with each client’s financial problems that Juda has provided to our clients.
Patrons for Peace Project, Inc. has been extremely fortunate to partner with Barbara White, MSN, CNRP, a nurse practitioner whose office lies in Historic Old Town Laurel. She has saved the day for many of our clients in some incredibly unique and difficult situations so many times. Her skill set is so wide and all-encompassing that describing what she does is not possible in this monthly feature. She is the primary caregiver for many of our clients in addition to helping with one-time medical and/or psychiatric needs and treatments. Her office is tucked away down C Street near Riverfront Park and – although small – it provides mighty big acts of healing. One can often see NP students working in the office as Barbara imparts her wealth of knowledge and experience upon them and they learn what it takes to be the best at holistic, client-centered care.
Barbara’s welcoming office manager Dawn greets and helps everyone to feel loved and treasured when they come into the waiting room. We once took a client to her who had recently been released from incarceration for many years. He needed to get psychiatric medication for his clinical depression. The wait period for this client to get into outpatient mobile psychiatric care was going to be a few weeks. Therefore, we needed to get an antidepressant to help him through the wait time bridging care while waiting for wrap around services. I will never forget when he walked into the office, Dawn greeted him, took him to a seat and helped him with needed paperwork. Dawn then handed him a holiday card. He looked astonished and said, “What is this?” She explained it was a holiday card prepared in advance for him. A tear ran down his face and he later told us he had not received any cards in years.
What we love about Barbara is her holistic approach to wellness. As such, she is concerned with the entire person when she treats them. People feel relaxed, restored, and safe to share what is on their minds when they come in for their appointments. One client told us they are so comfortable in Barbara’s office that they feel like they are in their second home.
Barbara White’s educational background is remarkably diverse. In addition to her advanced practice nursing degrees, she has a master’s degree in Spiritual and Pastoral Care from Loyola College. Her eclectic background and treatment approach enable her to have eyes open to tailor unique modalities of care to achieve maximum wellness for each client. She is now a registered provider with the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission. One size does not fit all in Barbara’s office.
She is acutely aware of the disparities of our healthcare system that directly impact minorities. She knows that racial and economic factors cause minorities to be disproportionately burdened by chronic illness and substandard medical care. She pays special attention to this fact in the care that she gives her clients. She spends extra time with clients when necessary, makes sure her fees are affordable, accepts Medicaid, and partners with community programs that uplift clients even when it means more work for her and her office.
Barbara’s view of each client is not through a monocular lens looking at one illness, one symptom or one problem but instead taking on a panoramic view. Patrons for Peace Project is so grateful.