Staff Member Spotlight
John Vandergiessen – Operations
Please help me in congratulating the recipient of this month’s employee spotlight award: John Vandergiessen.
John, originally from the state of Washington, joined our HCBTS team in August of 2016. Before this, John was a client with us for a total of 9 months. John says, “It was here that I had the opportunity to learn about fellowship and sobriety. I gained knowledge and insight on the tools to recovery.”
His case manager was Eric V when he was a client. After completing HCBTS program, he made a point to keep in touch with Eric and call him every week. Eric told John to stay sober for a year and then he could come to us for an interview. John worked as a support staff for 3 months at Recovery Coast before getting promoted to a position at the detox property.
He currently works as a shift lead at Flagstaff but just recently got promoted to our new Client Advocate! He will be helping with activities for the guys. His new position entails him checking in with all the guys in young men’s program. John will be doing book studies at the detox house and getting to know the men on a more personal level. John will also implement new activities, such as taking a group of guys hiking every Saturday. He is excited to be able to meet guys from day one and then continue to see their transformation.
Outside of work, John enjoys being outdoors. His latest goal is to hike Yosemite. John used to hike a lot in Washington and has more recently gotten back into hiking the last few months in California. John enjoys hiking so much, he takes men from his fellowship with him and even does step work while out on hikes.
John is truly a huge asset to our HCBTS team. He brings such a sense of kindness and understanding that one has to be born with. John knows what it means to be in gratitude at all times. People like him make our clients feel more at ease and like they have a chance at staying sober. Thank you for everything you do, John. You are one of a kind.
Mark Delao – Director of Transportation Services
Mark Delao is Hotel California by the Sea’s Director of Transportation Services. Mark has worked with Hotel California since its inception, and has helped to direct all of our client transportation needs on a continuous basis since his arrival. Mark’s attention to detail, ability to adapt to ever changing schedules, his punctual nature, and his zeal for life make him an indispensable asset to Hotel California.
But getting to this point in his life was not an easy task, as Mark has one of the most fantastic and amazing stories you would ever hope to hear. Growing up Mark was born and raised in Orange County, California. He was born into what most would consider a normal family and lived the life of a normal young man until the age of 19, when he started to dabble in drugs and alcohol. As Mark started using, drugs quickly took control of his life as he developed a severe addiction to crack-cocaine. Over the course of the next 25+ years Mark’s addiction drove his life to the lowest point possible for a drug addict. Having burnt nearly every bridge on a relationship standpoint with his family and friends after 15 failed treatment attempts, Mark made a decision to give up on trying to get sober as “sobriety never seemed to stick for me”. With no hope that treatment would ever work for him and no desire to try again, Mark took to the streets beginning to call them his new home. He started to live his life homeless in the streets of the greater Santa Monica area, on an abandoned sofa in an alley next to a 7-Eleven and a liquor store. His only function during this time being to seek, use, and abuse drugs. As Mark states “At this point I had completely given up. I lived life to solely get the drugs I needed everyday to get by, and that was it. I panhandled to scrounge up money so I could by alcohol and crack-cocaine, that’s all I did. It was miserable. I used to remember thinking the best thing I could have hoped for at that time was to die, I used to think that was the best thing that could have happened to me – but I was wrong”.
Mark lived his life like this seeking drugs, in the same alley, on the same sofa, with the same routine everyday for over 4 years. And as he recollects after all that time, 4 years of doing the same thing over and over that in one day seemingly by ‘divine intervention·. his life started to change. “I remember I was sitting in front of the 7-Eleven at 6:15 in the morning one day, drinking a fourty ounce of beer. I was bloody, my clothes had blood all over them because I was beat up by a group of gang members that night. I remember sitting, thinking, and praying – cursing God but also at the same time asking for some sort of direction.” It was then when an intake coordinator at the Clare Foundation in Los Angeles saw him in this state of disarray. “I remember she had talked to me before, she knew who I was, where I was from and she came up to me and said ‘Man you’re in bad shape. If you’re ready to take your life back, if you’re ready to stop living like this show up here tomorrow morning at 7 AM.'”. She handed Mark her business card and the address to the Clare Foundation. Mark had no intent of showing up the next day but somehow, someway when Mark woke up the very next morning he looked at the card in his pocket, and had no desire to go to the liquor store. “I don’t know how that happened, because everyday when I would wake up it was like an emergency that I needed to go to the liquor store, I needed to get high. But this day I didn’t have that feeling. I told myself I was going to get on that bus, and I was going to make it to this place. And I did. I don’t really remember getting on the bus or taking it to the Clare Foundation, but I remember walking in and that same lady was there. she said ‘You made it. We’re going to help you today, you never have to use again’ “. Since that date Mark has remained abstinent from all forms of drugs and alcohol – today he has over 6 1/2 years of sobriety.
Thank you for being a continuous inspiration for all of here both clients and staff We love you Mark!
Kolby Falco – Alumni Coordinator
Kolby Falco is Hotel California by the Sea’s newest Alumni Coordinator. However Kolby is not new to the company, she has been with us for the past year doing Support Staff at the Pool House. She is extremely excited to make the Alumni Program something big and amazing and she stated “getting this new position has been her proudest moment at Hotel California.”
Kolby is originally from Spokane, Washington and she came out to California three and a half years ago to get help with her drug and alcohol addiction. She began drinking and using at the early age of 13 and by the time she was 20 years old her drinking and using led her to being kicked out of her house, dropping out of school, getting arrested, and she suddenly realized that her life was absolutely wasting away before her eyes. On December 19th of 2012, Kolby said enough was enough and decided she wanted a change so she came down to Orange County to get help in treatment and she has been sober ever since
Kolby is very active in the Alcoholics Anonymous community; she has a sponsor. Whenever Kolby leads meetings her favorite topic is the “unexpected gifts of sobriety”. So we asked, what is the most gratifying part of her life today living in recovery? She stated the most gratifying part of her life today is actually being able to be a part of her own life. The simple things like showing up to work, sponsoring women, and being a role model means the world to her.
Ironically before she even got sober Kolby wanted to work in treatment. With her experience of being so young getting sober she’s been able to help other young women because she has been in their shoes and is a testament to the fact that sobriety is possible if you follow suggestions. After working at another facility, she heard about Hotel California by the Sea from friends who worked here and never looked back. The three words she used to describe Hotel California are awesome, fun, and caring. She loves how Hotel California truly cares about their clients from the moment they walk in the door, and also how much they care about their employees.
What many don’t know about Kolby is she grew up with 2 older brothers and she was always a tomboy, so outside of her program she loves to be active and hike. She also enjoys going to concerts, and to dog meet ups with her adorable French bulldog puppy named Bane! She is currently going to school for Human Services and Social Work and her ultimate goal is to work with non-profits so she can continue to help others.
We are so lucky to have an enthusiastic and passionate women like Kolby at HCBTS –
Thank you for all that you do!
Jecel Maniscalco – Marketing & Business Development
Hotel California by the Sea’s Staff Member Spotlight this week is focused on our Marketing & Business Development specialist Jecel Maniscalco. Jecel is a key component to Hotel California by the Sea’s administrative team, however, this is a position that Jecel has grown into after starting an entry position at our outpatient facility. Beginning her career with Hotel California by the Sea, Jecel started as assistant to our Outpatient Manager, helping to fill several rolls on a clinical level while also acting as a property technician in our transitional assisted living homes. After months of hard work not going unseen, Jecel was promoted within the company to her current role now in Marketing and Business Development. Jecel has quickly taken to the interworkings of marketing and developing a treatment facility, a role that she is familiar with having working in marketing capacities throughout the mortgage, and electronics industries for over 12 year prior to coming to Hotel California. As stated by Hotel California by the Sea’s Vice President, Brian Burke, “Jecel is someone that I’d say is a real go-getter. She is a tremendously hard worker, anything I ask her to accomplish gets done quickly and correctly. She has really come into her own here on the Marketing and Administration team and we are glad to have her!”
Jecel was born and raised in the Philippines, and did not have the opportunity to move to America until she was 18 years old. Being adopted at the age of 5, Jecel grew up on the Clark U.S. Airforce Base on Luzon Island in the Philippines. Jecel’s step-father was an adamant teacher, pushing her to always take advantage of opportunities in front of her while helping to coach her athletics. Throughout her younger years, and with the training of her father behind her, Jecel developed into quite the track and field star although that is not where her true passion lied. Jecel jokes “Growing up my step-father was always pushing me to excel in cross country or track and field, but that’s not really what I wanted to do! My heart has always been set on tennis, but he didn’t quite view that as a real sport. So everyday after I was finished training with my step-father I would run and go find a racquet somewhere to sneak off and hit around with my friends!” What most people don’t know about Jecel is that today she is quite the tennis player. Playing nearly everyday after work, and competing in several local tennis competitions Jecel’s reputation for being a very formidable tennis player is well known to those in the tennis world. She currently holds the title to the Women’s Singles Championship at her local tennis club.
Once Jecel had the opportunity to move to American she took full advantage of it. “Moving to America was so culturally different than living in the Philippines. Here you could make you own money, you had chances all around you to work, and to make something for yourself. So that’s what I did. When I first came here I had 4 jobs, I worked almost all the time so I could afford to buy a car and a place to live. In American if you work hard, never look back, and take advantage of opportunities in your life you can really do whatever it is you want” Jecel is a true testament to that statement.
Although Jecel is not in the program of Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous, being enveloped within the treatment world has truly opened her up, and taught her a lot about the realities of substance abuse. She now has the understanding, capability, and developed connection to help those who themselves are not in the program to better understand and be able to support individuals struggling in the disease of addiction. “What I’ve learned while being a part of the Hotel California family is that not everyone has the knowledge we have an addiction. I can help spread that knowledge I’ve learned to family members or loved ones I speak to on a daily basis. I have the ability to help them better understand, and know how to support their loved ones. You can’t really describe how that feels.” – Jecel is an amazing woman, and an amazing part of HCBTS! We thank you for all you do!
Michelle Young – Clinical Technician
Michelle Young is a Clinical Technician at the Sandy’s Place Program, but since her arrival she has proven to be a lot more to the Sandy’s Place residences. Along with the responsibilities she holds as Clinical Technician, Michelle has also showed that she is an efficient Operations Manager, IT Technician, and Auto Mechanic! When asked about Michelle, Sandy Taylor – Executive Director of Sandy’s Place stated “Michelle is a forward thinker and gets things done before I have a chance to ask her to do them. She is nurturing, smart, and always ready for a challenge. A real team player, she gets along well with both staff/clients and she’s always in early stays late – couldn’t ask for a better employee. We are blessed to have such a dedicated employee at Sandy’s Place.”
Before coming to Hotel California by the Sea at Sandy’s Place, Michelle worked for over 20 years in the printing industry. During her career as a Printer her relationship with alcohol grew with each passing year, and near the end of her tenure she struggled heavily with alcohol often times drinking before, during, and after work. This repeated pattern ran its course as Michelle was let go from her position after over 20 years, an exit that was directly linked to her alcohol consumption. Over the period of the next year and a half she witnessed herself spiraling downward rapidly, having to be hospitalized multiple times for her alcoholism and overdoses related to her use of mind altering substances. Finally, after a hospitalization from an overdose, which occurred while in a blackout, Michelle decided to seek help. She ended up going to a 28-Day drug and alcohol treatment program in Los Angeles, and never looked back.
After her discharge from treatment Michelle dived in head first to the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, and became heavily involved in the local recovery community. Engaging herself fully in a program of recovery Michelle was able to develop a foundation of support for her sobriety. Michelle took to action in placing the principles of AA into her daily life, and began to watch it shift dramatically for the better in a short period of time. Today, working in a Clinical role for HCBTS Michelle has the ability to practice the principles she adopted into her life, and lead by example to women in our program on a daily basis. She states “I love to be able to practice what got me to this point in my sobriety in my place of work, and to help women who come from very similar situations that I myself was once in. Hotel California has a open, welcoming sense to it where you feel trust on all levels. I am blessed to be able to work here.”
Michelle. we are blessed to have staff members like you that make the HCBTS experience what it is! Thank you!
Bryan Bixler – Program Director
Hotel California by the Sea’s monthly Leadership Spotlight is focused on none other than our very own Program Director Bryan Bixler. Bryan serves Hotel California by the Sea as Program Director and Nutritional Advisor, but his duties go far beyond what his titles might suggest. As stated by Hotel California’s President Kevin Mello, “Bryan is the salve that binds our team together on all levels. He is the calm influence that advocates on behalf our clients, and the balance that helps ensure the synergy, communication, and collaboration of our clinical and administrative teams. Bryan is an integral part of our Leadership Team who has been with us since the beginning, frankly I don’t know what we’d do without him!”
Bryan’s natural ability to lead, develop, support, and educate both client’s and staff members of Hotel California by the Sea quickly becomes evident to any and all who come into contact with him. However, what is not exclusively known is the battle with addiction that Bryan faced himself for over 15 years before coming to work in the field of addiction treatment.
Bryan graduated magna cum laude from the University of California at San Diego majoring in biology, and was recruited to the prestigious master’s program at the Institute of Ecology at the University of Georgia. After graduating at the top of his class, Bryan led a career as a scientist traveling the world studying various types of animal life until he developed a life threatening eating disorder in his late twenties. Bryan’s struggle with anorexia is one of the most amazing, terrifying, and powerful stories of hope, strength coupled with persistence that one could ever hear.
During the depths of his fight with his eating disorder Bryan gained national headlines as he was featured in news articles through the Los Angeles Times and was also a guest on the widely known Dr. Oz Show. At this point in his battle with anorexia Bryan’s weight has dropped to almost 70 lbs., and he was engaged in an ongoing lawsuit with his insurance company who repeatedly denied him coverage to seek addiction treatment citing that he did not meet ‘medical necessity’ for care. Coverage was continually denied through lawsuits despite testimony of 6 medical doctors who stated if he did not seek help, death was almost certain.
With a bit of intervention. and his story gaining national recognition Bryan was asked to appear on the Dr. Oz television show. where they dove in depth into his battle with anorexia and how it had seemingly consumed his life. Ultimately Bryan was given the opportunity to seek treatment, and took full advantage of this chance to alter the course of his life. After successfully guiding his way through his treatment program. Bryan was back to full healthy form and appeared on the Dr. Oz show 3 more times to help spread awareness, educate, and advocate for those struggling with addiction. Bryan has since dedicated his life to addiction treatment in hopes that by spreading his experience, his story, that he may instill in others a sense of hope, even when the prospect of recovery seems hopeless.
Bryan is a true inspiration. and leader at Hotel California by the Sea – we are privileged to have him!