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Lindley Estes is a business writer for The Free Lance-Star and Fredericksburg.com. This blog is on Fredericksburg-area business. Send an e-mail to Lindley Estes.
Serenity Home property for sale, director charged with embezzlement
A building where Serenity Home of Fredericksburg planned to offer residential substance abuse services for men is for sale, and the organization’s former director faces six counts of felony embezzlement.
Former Serenity Home Director Marleen McCary was indicted last month in Fredericksburg Circuit Court on the six embezzlement counts. Her arraignment was Thursday morning, and her next court hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Nov. 8.
The Fredericksburg Police Department started an investigation in May into money missing from Serenity Home accounts, said department spokeswoman Natatia Bledsoe. McCary was the primary suspect and was later indicted and suspended from Serenity Home.
Serenity Home offered local residential substance abuse services for more than 30 years. The nonprofit organization has now lost its license and closed.
In 2010, before McCary started, Serenity Home purchased the 5,147-square-foot building at 316 Bridgewater St. for $537,000. The organization was at the time in rented space at 521 and 523 Sophia St. and planned to move to the Bridgewater Street building. It also ran a halfway house on Charles Street that has now closed as well.
The organization finished about 75 percent of its renovation work on the Bridgewater Street building before running into financial difficulties, said Serenity Home board member and University of Mary Washington economics professor Robert Rycroft.
Last December, Serenity Home received $5,113 toward the renovation from a UMW philanthropy class whose nonprofit grant program is funded through Doris Buffett’s Learning by Giving Foundation. Serenity Home had a bank loan for the Bridgewater Street project.
The Serenity Home board decided to sell the building to try to recoup enough money to cover its financial obligations and have some left over to donate to an area organization with a similar mission, Rycroft said.
The Bridgewater Street building has been listed with Johnson Realty Advisors. The asking price is $545,000, but JRA President Fitz Johnson said all offers will be considered. He said it has new plumbing and HVAC systems.
Serenity Home wasn’t the same after the departure of longtime director Valerie Emerson, said Ron Branscome, executive director of the Rappahannock Area Community Services Board.
Branscome said the RACSB board has talked some about possibilities for continuing the program offered by Serenity Home. He said it would be nice to have the service closer to home, but said the need has been filled adequately since Serenity’s closing by similar programs elsewhere in Virginia — including the Boxwood Recovery Center in Culpeper.