Join us on #GivingTuesday, December 1st, and let’s rally to provide more than a home to those who need it most. Your generosity can provide life-changing services to Veterans, families, children in foster care, the elderly, and adults with disabilities.
Meet our Team!
Director of Resident and Clinical Services, with VOA for 3 years
Theresa Vidalon is the Director of Resident and Clinical Services on our Veterans Services team and has been with VOA for 3 years. The VOA value Theresa connects with the most is Shared Destiny because she is inspired by her co-workers and clients. “I see their passion and compassion when they interact with our clients. The clients inspire me with their determination and strength. They work hard to achieve their goals and it is wonderful to celebrate each success with them.” Theresa’s favorite client success story is a Veteran she was working with who regained hope. “This veteran who was experiencing homelessness shared he had given up hope on life getting better. He was temporarily living in a VOA-Illinois facility that was located far from his children and had he lost his job due to his experiencing mental health symptoms related to his military service. The Veteran actively participated in our SSVF program. He obtained SNAP benefits, moved into an apartment, enrolled in college classes, and is working to receive his VA benefits and continue his case management. He shared that he is proud of his hard work and grateful for the support from his VOA-Illinois team.” A fun fact about Theresa is that she is an avid gardener! She loves sharing fruits, vegetables, and herbs with her community and connecting with her neighbors!
Meet Kin + Carta!
Corporate partner of VOA for 4 years
Kin + Carta has been involved with VOA Illinois since 2018. “We love to work with VOA Illinois and are continuously impressed by how VOA helps us as a firm to understand the impact of our volunteer and fundraising efforts. In addition to Holiday Wishes, we’ve enjoyed and continuously look forward to participating in VOA’s back-to-school backpack drive, Operation Backpack which allows us to shower some deserving families with love. We also love participating in their annual Hope Walk to raise awareness and funds for the people VOA serves, filling gift baskets for veterans in need, and participating in beautification projects around Hope Manor, a housing development for veterans and their families.” When asked why engaging in volunteer opportunities in your community is important to Kin + Carta and their employees, they said, “It is so important to us at Kin + Carta to engage in volunteer opportunities across the communities we operate within. We believe that business can be a force for good, and as a Certified B Corp, we are committed to using our platform to operate responsibly, make an impact as it relates to diversity and equity and to make a difference in building a better world with the partnership of our communities. It’s motivating and encouraging for our employees to be involved in big impact, with the support of Kin + Carta.”
Volunteer with VOA for 3 years
Katie Mulrenin has been volunteering with VOA Illinois for 3 years. Katie was introduced to the VOA Illinois through Board Member, Calvin Gin and was extremely impressed with how passionate he was about the mission of the organization. After attending a couple of events, she strongly felt that the VOA Illinois was an organization that aligned with her values, and she wanted to further her involvement. Holiday wishes is our holiday drive that provides holiday gifts to the Veteran families we serve, the youth in our foster care program, and the families in our Rapid Rehousing program. “I learned about Holiday Wishes shortly after my father passed away. He was a Veteran and highly active in supporting several children’s’ organizations. He loved Christmas and I thought this would be a wonderful way to honor him. It was my first holiday without him, and I was having a tough time coping but shopping and wrapping presents for these children brought me so much joy. This has now become my favorite holiday tradition and I look forward to participating in it for many years to come. My first job was as Santa’s Helper at Orland Square Mall. It was fun to see all the kids lined up excited to see Santa and share their wish list. It is no wonder that I have loved being part of Holiday Wishes!”
Board Member with VOA for 2 years
Nicholas Cade has been on the VOA Illinois Board for two years. “I was initially drawn to VOA Illinois because of its outstanding work to support struggling veterans in our community. And while that work continues to impress and energize me, I've also come to fully appreciate the breadth of VOA Illinois' services, finding inspiration in the critical support offered to foster care families, the elderly, and disabled adults.” Nicholas is a Veteran himself and the VOA value he connects with the most is teamwork. "As a veteran, I appreciate the importance, and power, of teams that trust each other, collaborate, and are dedicated to their mission. VOA Illinois staff work as just such a team, and their impact is profound.” A fun fact about Nicholas is that he is an avid reader! He reads (or listens) to about two books a month and is always looking for new suggestions! Feel free to leave any recommendations on his social media post!
Service Coordinator, with VOA for 6 months
Katie Rigley is a Service Coordinator is on the Veteran Services team and has been with VOA for 6 months. The VOA value Katie connects with the most is teamwork because she is inspired by her team. “My team members have gone out of their way countless times to assist with anything I've needed and answered every question I've had along the way. My supervisor Tiffani especially inspires me with her leadership and problem-solving skills.” If Katie had to describe VOA in three words it would be collaborative, supportive, and empathetic. Katie’s favorite story she's been a part of is a story of a young Veteran who was determined to find a path to sustain his housing. “This Veteran worked very hard searching for jobs during a global pandemic and scored an amazing position with a great company. I was so proud of his hard work and determination during a trying time and felt so glad his hard work paid off in the end.”
Clinical Support and Service Coordinator, with VOA for 1 year
If Keri had to describe VOA in three words it would be rewarding, innovative, and integrity. Keri’s favorite success story is about a Veteran she was working with who was living with his two kids and partner in a hotel room. “Through empowerment, validation, and motivation, my Veteran was offered a full-time, permanent position with Hines VA! I am so very proud of him and the time and effort he put into making this offer happen.” Keri says, “I am most proud to be a part of an organization that constantly strives to lift their clients and their staff up by always offering encouragement and creating a healthy morale.” Keri’s life motto is, “if you are comfortable in life, you are surviving, not living. Make sure to take the time to live your life, make memories and be kind because tomorrow is never promised.”
Work Incentive Planning & Assistance Project Director, with VOA for 1 year
Michael Pedroza just celebrated his one year anniversary. If Michael had to describe VOA in three words it would be “Veterans Helping Hand”. Michaels favorite success story is assisting a Veteran to access his benefits for 30 years of service. “He had reached full retirement age and was eligible to receive full Social Security benefits along with a 401K to which he paid into for 30 years! Assisting him in obtaining these benefits was an adventure in it itself, but worth the ride as he was finally able to get back into a home of his choosing and regain control of his life!” Michael is inspired by his co-worker Katrina Gordon. “This young lady has been beaten down to the lowest point in life and she didn't quit! Like the Phoenix, she rose from the ashes of her destruction to become the incredibly beautiful person.” A fun fact about Michael is that he loves jumping out of perfectly good airplanes!
High Risk Intervention Specialist, with VOA for 1 year
Anthony Zwaga has been with VOA for one and a half years. If Anthony had to describe VOA Illinois in three words, it would be faith-based, trauma-informed, and community-centered. At work, Anthony is inspired by Acting Clinical Director Theresa Vidalon. “She has the knowledge base, work ethic, and compassion needed to serve our clients to the highest degree.” Anthony’s happy place is “a location in my mind that keeps me positively grounded to the life I have, regardless of the situation/location that I am in.”
Office Assistant, with VOA for 1 year
Elizabeth is part of our team at Balsam Terrace & Spruce Manor which are apartment communities serving low-income seniors and adults with disabilities in Jacksonville, IL. The VOA value Elizabeth connects with the most is integrity. If she had to describe VOA in three words it would be one big family! Recently, Elizabeth sprang into action to help a resident having a mental health crisis and kept the resident safe until emergency personnel arrived. We are grateful for Elizabeth’s dedication to keeping our residents safe. When Elizabeth is not at work being a hero, her favorite place is relaxing in her recliner.
Assistant Property Manager, with VOA for 3 years
Jeri Thomas is the Assistant Property Manager at our Hope Manor I Property and has been with VOA for almost 3 years. Jeri is proud to work at VOA because of the teamwork she feels and the willingness of other team members to help each other out. “My inspiration comes from within but it is definitely a bonus in my motivation to see how cohesive of a team we are here at Hope Manor I and that everyone is willing to help each other out whenever needed with a smile.” During her time at VOA Jeri has grown to have a better understanding and patience with the community that we serve. A fun fact about Jeri is that she is a horror/gore movie buff!
Manager of Veteran Services, with VOA for 2 years
Melanie Christian is the Manager of Veteran Services and has been with VOA for 2 years. If she had to describe VOA in three words it would be impactful, effective and far-reaching. Melanie’s favorite client success story is about one of her first clients at VOA. “He was an 80-year-old veteran who had been homeless for most of his adult life after his mother passed away and her house was condemned. I was able to assist him in obtaining subsidized senior housing. I transported him to his lease signing and when he received his keys from the landlord he began to cry. When I asked him what was wrong, he told me he had never had keys to anything before. He is still doing well and he has referred several of his friends to VOA for services.” If Melanie could be anyone for a week, she would be her cat so that I can just eat and sleep for a week.
Program Manager, with VOA for 2 years
Nestor Zavala is a Program Manager at Hope Manor II. The VOA value Nestor connects with the most is teamwork. If he had to describe VOA in two words it would be trustworthy, innovative, and determined. Nestor’s favorite VOA moment is when a resident spotted a flyer for a female EMT Cohort inside the HMII Learning Center. The resident applied and was accepted into the program. "She was able to use the HMII Learning Center for her and her peers to study in and eventually after several months and several group study sessions, she graduated and was offered a job as an EMT and ambulance driver. I was able to attend her graduation.” Outside of work, Nestor curates an annual art exhibition for veterans and their family members.
Foster Care Case Aide, with VOA for 6 months
Theresa Turnage is a Case Aide on our Faster Care team. The VOA value Theresa connects with the most is teamwork because “It would not be possible to do this job without help from my team.” Theresa is constantly inspired by the work of her Foster Care colleagues. If she had to describe VOA in three words it would be friendly, engaging, and flexible. Something people don’t know about Theresa is that she used to be on a professional bowling team! When Theresa is not at work, her happy place is being at home with her son.
Employment Service Coordinator, with VOA for 2 years
Katrina Gordon is an Employment Service Coordinator and has been employed with VOA for 2 years. However, Katrina has been with VOA since 2016 as a client and now Katrina’s journey with VOA has come full circle as she is serving those that are in the position she was once in. Katrina is inspired by many of her colleagues. “I love that this is a faith-based organization and our CEO is a literal representation of what our mission and values are. With that, she has done a miraculous job at employing those who embody the same and builds teams who are cut from the same cloth.” A fun fact about Katrina is that she was a professional background vocalist for many years and she is a Bible teacher at her church.
Senior Director of Human Resources & Quality Assurance, with VOA for 14 years
Amanda Deichl is the Senior Director of Human Resources & Quality Assurance and has been with VOA for 14 years. The VOA value Amanda connects with the most is integrity. Amanda is inspired by the people we serve who seek assistance and work hard to improve their hardships and our awesome staff who serve them without judgment. “My favorite type of success story is when a service recipient becomes a staff member! This has happened several times over the years; it says a lot about VOA.” Amanda’s happy place is listening to live music and being with people who make her laugh.
Lead Maintenance Technician, with VOA for 5 years
Shawn Lewis is the Lead Maintenance Technician at Hope Manor Joliet and has been with VOA for 5 years. The VOA value Shawn connects with the most is innovation because he is innovative in his work every day. During his time at VOA Shawn has earned several certificates in Apartment Maintenance, HVAC/R, and EPA. Shawn is inspired by his coworkers and residents at Hope Manor Joliet. When not at work, Shawn’s happy place is being around his loved ones and building tables.
Property Manager with VOA for 1 year
Priscilla Redd Brown is the Service Coordinator at PT Bosley, a 51-unit, low-income senior community serving the North County area of St. Louis, MO. Priscilla’s favorite VOA memory was playing “Window Bingo” with the senior residents during COVID. “It was great to see how much joy the game brought the residents and staff during a time with such limited contact.” Priscilla is inspired by her co-workers and resident. Priscilla’s life motto is, “Always try to be kind and when you can't be kind, be kind anyway.”
Veterans Supportive Services Manager with VOA for 2 years
Tiffani Kenna has been with VOA for 2 years. If Tiffani had to describe VOA in three words it would be family, compassion, and creativity. Tiffani is inspired by her supervisor, Cameron. “Cameron has helped me through a lot of sticky situations and always seems to hold his composure. He brings a lot of wisdom to everything he's a part of. Even though he is a part of Senior Leadership he always finds a way to be relatable to the team which allows his staff to feel comfortable with him and come to him when they are in need. I strive to be as great of a leader as he is.” Tiffani has grown both professionally and personally during her time at VOA, “I have learned to be a leader, to have a tougher skin, and to show more compassion to my clients and my team.” Tiffani's happy place is dancing at a music festival with her friends!
Lead Data Specialist with VOA for 4 years
Charlie Schletz is the Lead Data Specialist on the Veteran Services team and has been with VOA for almost four years. The VOA value Douglas connects with the most is discipline. If he had to describe VOA in three words it would be steadfast, compassionate, and seekers. Charlie is inspired by his teammate, Melanie Christian. “Melanie is not someone who praises herself or seeks recognition for her own benefit. She puts her head down and works hard and completes the task in front of her. Her commitment to learning new things is another thing that inspires me. She takes new things seriously and is willing to go out of her way to make sure she will be successful.” Charlie’s happy place is on his covered back porch, during a rainstorm with a good book and his cats.
Service Coordinator, with VOA for 1 year
Denise Matuzak is a Service Coordinator at Marycrest Village, a 57-unit low-income senior community serving the Joliet area. The VOA value Denise connects with the most is integrity. If she had to describe VOA in two words it would be passionate and service-driven. Denise’s favorite VOA moment is when, during COVID, VOA employees from all departments hosted a day of service at Hope Manor II. “I have never seen so many staff and volunteers organize so many household supplies and distribute them to residents in the community. It was a well-run operation and done with love.” Denise is a two-time is a cancer survivor and her happy place is watching a movie with her two children!
Employment Service Coordinator, with VOA for 10 years
Robert Hopper is an Employment Service Coordinator on our Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) team and has been with VOA for 10 years. If Robert had to describe VOA in three words he would say, “present, supportive and committed.” Robert believes that the work that he does has helped him in the development and reinforcement of his belief in harm reduction and seeing the process as important, if not more important, than the outcomes. Robert’s life motto is Wu wei, or Effortless Action and believes happiness comes from within.
Senior Staff Accountant, with VOA for 3 years
Douglas De Jong is the Senior Staff Accountant on the finance team and has been with VOA for almost 3 years. The VOA value Douglas connects with the most is integrity. Douglas is inspired by fellow employee Katrina and her journey from becoming a VOA client to now an employee helping fellow Veterans who are in the position she was once in. Douglas has grown both professionally and personally during his time at VOA. Douglas says, “Overall, this experience has made me much more confident in myself and my abilities and that confidence has extended to my personal life as well, where I've become comfortable simply being myself.” When not at the office, Douglas is happiest when listening to live music!
Assistant Director of Foster Care Services, with VOA for 6 years
Kyla Farquhar is the Assistant Director of Foster Care Services and is about to celebrate her 6th anniversary with VOA. When asked how Kyla has grown during her time here, she says, “I learned how to be trauma-informed and less focused on a person's behaviors, but rather where they stem from. Because of this, I have been able to form relationships not only with clients but with friends and family in a different way, simply because my position requires a high level of empathy and understanding. I enjoy being able to hear someone, offer support, and show love in a new way. Relationships are very important to me, so I would consider this growth to be invaluable.” Kyla enjoys music and has recently started taking piano lessons. Her motto is to remember to do what you love because tomorrow is not promised.
Residential Engagement Specialist, with VOA for 1 year
Milton Butler is a Residential Engagement Specialist at Hope Hall and just celebrated his 1-year anniversary with VOA. Milton is inspired by his supervisor Stephanie Eddington for her dedication to the residents they serve and also her team. If Milton could be anyone for a week, he would be superman so he could save money on gas because he would fly to work and because he loves helping people. When Milton is not at work, his happy place is at home with his kids and family. Fun fact – Milton has recorded 8 hip hop albums!
Maintenance Technician, with VOA for 8 years
Michael Anthony has been with VOA for 8 years! Michael is proud to work at VOA because s because the people at VOA genuinely care about each other personally and work together as a team. If he had to describe VOA in 3 words it would be teamwork, change, and fairness. He is inspired by the residents and loves being able to help them every day. Michael believes he has grown a lot and is moving in a great direction in life since he started working at VOA. Michael’s happy place is going fishing with his daughter and watching the water.
HR Assistant, with VOA for 1 year
Jenny is approaching her 1-year work anniversary with VOA Illinois! If she had to describe VOA in 3 words it would be hope, generosity, and aspiration. Jenny is inspired by the front line, service workers at VOA who are giving their all to help those in need. Jenny has enjoyed being able to be a part of serving so many different populations from veterans to the elderly to youth in foster care. Jenny is inspired by Vera Wang, “she pursued her passion to become a fashion designer at the age of 40. Her story shows that it is never too late to chase your dreams.”
Therapist and Parenting Coach, with VOA for 7 years
Vanessa Baie is the Therapist and Parenting coach on the Foster Care team and has been with VOA for 7 years. The VOA value Vanessa connect with the most is Faith because she believes in the individual strengths and capacity for change in all people. Vanessa’s favorite client success story is that one of her clients is working hard to have their 7 children return home to their care. This client has been successful in working toward their goals and will hopefully be reunited with their family in a few months. Vanessa says, “I have been working with this client for nearly 2 years. It has shown me the power of the therapeutic relationship and reinforced my passion for working in our clinical department.” Vanessa is a cancer survivor and says, “while this was the hardest thing I ever went through, it ignited in me a new zest for life.” Her motto is, you get what you give- so give good!
Outreach Coordinator, with VOA for 1 year
Patrick Daniels has been an Outreach Coordinator with VOA for a year. If he had to describe VOA in three words it would be; community, committed, and spiritual. The VOA value he connects with the most is integrity. Patrick demonstrates integrity in his work daily. His favorite memory was when VOA partnered with Imagine Englewood IF for a Halloween party. “A parent approached me, she stated that her son appreciated the fact that I let him use the DJ equipment to play Michael Jackson. She mentioned that her son is autistic and she had not seen him enjoy himself or engage with people in over 12 months. That story touched my heart. It lets me know that we are having an impact on the community.” His life motto is Grind Hard!
Property Manager, with VOA for 5 years
Yolanda Santiago has been with VOA for 5 years. Yolanda has held multiple roles at the organization and is currently the Property Manager at our Hope Manor I property. The VOA value she connects with the most is teamwork because the people at work who inspire her are her teammates. Her motto in life is “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken”. When Yolanda is not at Hope Manor I, her happy place is at home with her family.
Senior Property Manager, with VOA for 8 years
Elissa Besterwitch has been with VOA for 8.5 years! Elissa is proud to work at VOA because she knows she is working to serve those who are most vulnerable and she is constantly encouraged by the dedication and teamwork of her co-workers. Her goal has always been, “that Balsam Terrace & Spruce Manor would be a happy, safe, engaging place to live, inspiring the people we serve to live their best life”. Her work motto is: being positive in a negative situation is not naive. It's leadership. Elissa’s happy place is traveling with her family because it has left her with some of her most cherished memories.