Held October 7, 2021

2 Keynotes

4 Workshops

2 Storytellers

Our 2021 Presenters


Recovery: An On-Growing Experience

Brien Stewart discusses his approach and attitude towards recovery, gratitude and life that keeps him on the path of recovery through both positive and challenging times.

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Presented by Brien Stewart, Registered Peer Recovery Specialist, Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board

Photo of Brien StewartABOUT BRIEN STEWART

Brien Stewart was born into an unstable environment, and at the age of seven, spent several years in the foster care system before meeting his adoptive family at age ten. Beginning therapy at the age of nine and learning how to talk out loud and express feelings and emotions, he took his first steps towards his recovery journey. As a teenager, he began self-medicating with alcohol and other substances to combat depression, anxiety, and trauma, which led to substance use challenges, lasting until the age of 38. Years of abstinence, but not true sobriety or recovery led to a unique and fear-filled bottom, resulting in Brien seeking support and true recovery. In the eighth year in his program of recovery, he began a new career as a Peer Recovery Specialist. He has been working for the past four years for Fairfax County in Emergency Services. Brien is a father of two adult children, and recently became a grandfather. He is also a musician and has been active in the local music scene for the past 35 years. He recently published a book, Aim To Reach, about his journey in music and recovery through poetry and stories of his life. Brien is still active in recovery, service, and artistic expression, and believes in growing forward.


The Strong Survive,
The Resilient Thrive!

A personal story of five keys that help Thrivers flourish and find fulfillment during rough seasons.

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Presented by Leslie Ann Wertz Founder, The Victory PRS

Photo of Leslie Ann WertzABOUT LESLIE ANN WERTZ

Leslie Ann Wertz is a native Philadelphian with 22+ years recovery from SUD. She relocated in 1999 and received her BSW from Bowie State University. Leslie is a SSA SOAR Representative, certification-eligible PRS, newly trained in WRAP Seminar I and a state lead with The Recovery Advocacy Project. In May of this year, Ms. Wertz received the Quality of Life Award at Volunteer Fairfax’s 29th Annual Ceremony for her volunteerism in 2020 amid the challenges presented by COVID-19. Leslie is extremely passionate about servicing the recovery community and the value of the peer-to-peer model; in August of 2020 she founded The Victory PRS, a recovery-oriented nonprofit in hopes of transitioning to working with our vulnerable neighbors full time.


Each workshop is 20 minutes long and will be presented twice. Conference attendees will get to attend two workshops.


Striving & Thriving Begins with Your Thinking!

Learn how Striving and Thriving requires you to put forth efforts you never thought you would to achieve goals you never thought you could! Walk away knowing that no matter how difficult your life has been, you will be able to find the purpose that guides you, a mission to drive you, new visons to inspire you and the ability to achieve them all! It all begins with what you Think!

Presented by Marja Lee Freeman, PRS;The Employment Lady, Laurie Mitchell Empowerment & Career Center


International speaker, trainer, author, and Peer Recovery Specialist empowering others to find their destiny. As a respected employment consultant, veteran trainer Marja Lee Freeman takes great pride in helping others find greater fulfillment and success in their careers.

Also known as “The Employment Lady,” she previously served as Board President for the Laurie Mitchell Empowerment and Career Center and serves as an Empowerment and Job Coach for over 25 years. As Peer Recovery Specialist she supports participants to thrive and achieve personal goals in their lives. She has delivered at conferences for organizations including government agencies, nonprofit organizations, women’s groups, community outreach programs and companies around the world. She draws from a vast well of knowledge from of her military experience in personnel management and employee training. She has produced and facilitated thousands of seminar programs including handling office politics, communicating with confidence, building your leadership development skills and mastering your work environment. Marja combines real-world experience with solutions that can mean the difference between stress management and strategies for success!



Celebrate Yourself Through Dance Movement

This uplifting dance movement class will focus on strengthening self-belief, celebrating life and honoring emotions as they arise. No dance experience is necessary, come ready to embrace and appreciate who you are.

Presented by Martha Krabill Magny, Adaptive Dance & Movement Instructor

 Photo of Martha Krabill MagnyABOUT MARTHA KRABILL MAGNY

Instructor Martha Krabill is the Owner & Artistic Director of 5678 Dance, LLC. Martha began teaching dance in 2002 and has choreographed for numerous organizations including PBS Kids, The Discovery Channel and Award Winning Dance Studios across the United States. In 2005, Martha began teaching as an adaptive dance and movement instructor for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She has spent the past 16 years teaching for organizations in the Northern Virginia area and now teaches virtually across the US.  Martha believes in the healing power of movement and music and creates a safe space for individuals to express their emotions and feelings through movement. When she isn’t teaching, Martha enjoys spending time with her Husband, Daughter and fun-loving pit-bull Ram Dass.



Making Friends Online During COVID

Making friends is hard enough as an adult. Add to the mix a worldwide pandemic and self-isolation and it’s even more difficult. Monika shares the five stages of friendship, offers resources to help you find friends digitally, and challenges you to a game of Virtual Hot Potato to find commonality with others (a key step in making new friends) quickly. Be ready to laugh.

Presented by Monika Taylor, Director of Outreach and Development for Recovery Program Solutions of Virginia (RPSV).

Photo of Monika TaylorABOUT MONIKA TAYLOR

Monika Taylor is the Director of Outreach and Development for Recovery Program Solutions of Virginia (RPSV). In her role, she manages a team of staff and volunteers to increase awareness and resources for those RPSV serves with mental health, substance use, and homelessness issues across Northern Virginia.
Before RPSV, Monika managed Strategic Support for Nonprofits, a consulting firm she founded to support small to medium-size nonprofits and for-profit businesses from Chicago eastward. Over the last nine years, she has managed a vast variety of projects and initiatives in the areas of communications, marketing, media relations, branding, web design and content management, virtual and in-person events, fundraising development, grant writing, video production, blogging, public appearances, development trainings, and nonprofit management consulting. She is a long-time resident of the City of Falls Church where she lives with Bob, and their cat, Lucy.



Supportive Yoga and Mindfulness For All

Kara will lead this accessible session in a trauma-informed, sustainable, and compassionate way. In this session she will focus on relieving tension and stress through the neck, shoulders, and back body. She will lead exploration of nervous system regulation through mindfulness techniques and mindful breathing. Participate on a mat or in a chair.

Presented by Kara Simon, Owner, E-RYT 200 (Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher), Certified Usui Shiki Ryoko Reiki II Practitioner, Emotional Freedom Technique Facilitator

Photo of Kara SimonABOUT KARA SIMON
Kara has been practicing holistic wellness ever since falling in love with yoga in 2014. She is a registered yoga instructor through Yoga Alliance, and seizes any opportunity she can to share the benefits and joy it has brought her. After searching to increase her mindfulness and improve her wellness, Kara found Reiki. Reiki is the art of channeling healing energy. She found Reiki to be extremely beneficial for the mind, body, and spirit, and received her Reiki II Certification in 2017 so that others could also receive the nurturing Reiki provides. In 2018, Kara began practicing Emotional Freedom Technique (Tapping), and studied to become a group and individual EFT facilitator. She founded Loving Heart Holistic Wellness in 2016.  Kara believes in compassion and sustainability, and provides classes and services that are trauma informed, and accessible to all. She is passionate about promoting resilience, nourishment, and enrichment for your Mind, Body, and Spirit.


The Roads We’ve Traveled,
The Miles Yet to Go

Providing a then-and-now perspective of recovery in Virginia. How we have progressed and how far we still need to go.

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Presented by Mary McQuown, Peer Recovery Specialist Liaison, Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services

 Photo of Mary McQuownABOUT MARY McQUOWN

Mary has a strong spirituality that sees her through both good times and bad. She is part of a supportive and inclusive faith community. Through her church, Mary provides peer support from a Christian perspective. She strives for justice and peace among all people and to respect the dignity of every human being. She began her foray into the recovery movement through advocacy at the local and state level. This was at a time when the concept of behavioral health recovery in formal systems of care was virtually non-existent. “I am proud of the fact that I completed my Master of Arts in Management even in the midst of experiencing ongoing symptoms,” Mary said.  She enjoys her job supporting and building the peer workforce in Virginia. She uses cross stitch/needlepoint to relax and clear her mind at the end of a long day. She has an 11-year old calico cat named Patches.


Into the Future

We are in this tremendous, intense moment. What might be in store for us? What lies ahead? How do we dream of a beautiful future while still mindfully present in the brightness of the now?

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Presented by Michael T. Lane, Director, Office of Individual and Family Affairs for the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board

Photo of Michael T. LaneABOUT MICHAEL LANE
Michael Lane has decades of personal experience dealing with what many call “mental illness,” drawing strength and wisdom from the process of overcoming. Every day he works to maintain his own recovery and wellness.
Michael has worked in the behavioral health field for more than 10 years as an advocate, trainer, manager, designer of programs, and peer specialist. Currently, he is the Director of Individual and Family Affairs for the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board. Michael is a Nationally Certified Peer Specialist, and has a Master’s Degree in Education.