Music Makes Life Better

Music Makes Life Better for the UMFS Leland House

leland house

On a given day, there are 1-8 kids living in a small white house off Leland Road in Centreville. They range from ages 12-17 and come from different backgrounds, situations, families, and communities throughout Fairfax County. Some struggle with mental illnesses, others face emotional issues that create behavioral problems. Some come from the community, recommended by a teacher, counselor, or parent, while others are stepping down from a hospitalization program. The Leland House is the only thing they have in common: they have all come here to get better. With wake up calls around 7am, the kids clean their rooms and make their beds before breakfast at 7:45am. Their individual rooms will be locked the rest of the day, forcing them to engage and interact with staff and other residents. Breakfast also means morning goal group, during which they each choose one of three personal goals to focus on for the day. During the school year, classes start at 8:30am. Two Fairfax County Public School teachers lead students in their four main courses so they will not fall behind before return to their community and school. With students ranging from 7th to 12th grade in one classroom, this can be a daunting task for teachers. Residents break for lunch from 12-12:30pm and return to class until 1:30pm. When the school day is done there is an hour and a half break for relaxation and individual counseling sessions. Residents can read, play music, retreat to the isolated courtyard outside, play one of the video games, or otherwise engage with other residents and staff.

Psychotherapy group sessions begin at 3pm, followed by down time before dinner. This time sometimes includes family therapy sessions, where residents meet with parents and counselors together to address the issues that brought them here. When the staff prepares dinner at 6pm residents are encouraged to help out. Sometimes dinner is brought by volunteers and gives everyone the night off. Dinner is followed by 60 minutes of required quiet time for reflection or meditation. Phone calls are made to friends and family before everyone returns to their rooms at 9:30pm.

At any given time and on any day of the week a new resident may be taken in and begin their 45 day stay at Leland. Assistant Director Kate Kellum tells us this changes the dynamics quite a bit. “It’s always changing, just one person leaving or one new intake can change the way everyone interacts.” New residents arrive after a screening through Woodburn Emergency Services determines the Leland House is an appropriate step up or down into care. With nine youth counselors, 10-12 relief staff, three therapists, two intensive care coordinators, a full time nurse and a weekly psychiatrist, the Leland House provides intensive care to help stabilize adolescents, addressing the issues they face, and prepares them with coping skills for a successful return to the community. It is a voluntary program and expects a high level of family involvement in recovery. “We believe change happens within the context of relationships,” Kate says, and the Leland House works to make those relationships positive and to focus on developing the current strengths of its residents. The Leland House is part of the UMFS organization and is just one of the ways in which UMFS strives to serve children. “If there’s a need,” Kate adds, “we want to be one of the first to find an answer.”

After our first Music Makes Life Better concert, which raised nearly $1500 for the Leland House, Jammin’ Java employees brought a Labor Day dinner to give the staff a night off. The only resident there at the time, a 13 year old girl, told us she doesn’t mind being by herself. “I like it quiet,” she told us, “and we got to go see Guardians of the Galaxy yesterday. It’s hard to do that when there are a lot of us.” Her supervisors told us outings like that are made possible by donations like those raised through Music Makes Life Better. Staff member Charisse Quarl explained, “We don’t have a budget for that kind of thing, but it’s important for them to be able to do fun things, normal things, like that. So thank you.” The resident, a shy 13-year-old, was in her second week at the Leland House and had stepped down from hospitalization. She told us she played guitar and named some of the bands she liked, lighting up when owner Daniel Brindley mentioned past performances by All Time Low and the Downtown Fiction at Jammin’ Java. Before we said goodbye she challenged us to a game of Just Dance – which turned into five or six. The game had been donated by a resident who graduated the program in the weeks prior.

The Leland House welcomes volunteers of all kinds. A group of women who call themselves Brian’s Brigade bring dinner every month in memory of a staff member who passed away. A local youth group cleaned out and reorganized the outside shed. Members of the community have come out to teach music lessons, lead yoga classes, garden, plan holiday parties, donate games or movies, or to bring a meal and visit with the kids. Whatever your interests are, there is a way for you to give back at the Leland House. To get involved, contact volunteer coordinator Angie Williams at or at 804-238-1039.

Join us in our mission, Music Makes Life Better, as we connect those looking to serve with great ways to do so. Check out our upcoming show:

Monday, October 20th – Music Makes Life Better for Guitars Not Guns feat. South Rail + Camille Thornton