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CASA offers options for volunteers

By Dawn Burleigh

dawn.burleigh@orangeleader.com

 

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of the Sabine Neches Region gives voice to abused and neglected children in Hardin, Jasper, Newton, Orange, Sabine and Tyler Counties in Texas. The organization is part of the National CASA Association, a network of more than 900 CASA programs serving children in 49 states and Washington, D.C.

While CASA is continually seeking advocates for the children in need of a voice, the organization understands not all persons are able to be advocates yet seek a way to help.

“We recognize there was a gap between people,” Program Director Kayla Bishop said. “There are many who want to help the organization but are not willing or able to be an advocate for a multitude of reasons.”

Thus CASA Champions began. The volunteer program was launched in May 2016 and based on similar programs in the state.

“We choose the name Champions because we wanted to show the value and importance of volunteers,” Bishop said. “They still help support the program.”

Since September 1, 2015 to July 28, 2016, CASA of the Sabine Neches Region has served 390 children. The number is 120 higher than the number served for the entire 2014/2015 year. CASA is based on a fiscal year from Sept. 1 – Aug. 31.

The organization saves the county between $1,250 – $1,500 per child per year by volunteering to be the voice of the child while going through the court systems.

“Our number one goal is advocacy,” Executive Director Nikki Jones said. “We are the voice of the children.”

Currently, the organization serves six counties and 94 children.

CASA Champions would allow staff and advocates to do more for the children.

“When I first started, in my heart, I could not be an advocate at that time,” Champions Coordinator Cil Dixon said. “I wanted to volunteer in another way. I went through all the training and for two years, I was their Girl Friday.”

Dixon is excited about the new program and said it was her goal from the beginning to have such a program in place. Dixon has volunteered for 10 years with the program, eight as an advocate.

“I saw the need for advocacy,” Dixon said. “So I quit cleaning toilets and filing.”

Dixon said everyone takes turns in the office filing and cleaning the rest rooms.

“It helps unburden them to free them up for advocacy,” Dixon said. “It has come full circle.”

The basic function of a Champion is a volunteer committed to serving CASA of the Sabine Neches Region and its mission. A Champion will utilize his or her skills, abilities, and available time to assist in various tasks. While no time restrictions, the group asks a Champion volunteer to assist at least one hour a month and is required to attend three hours of training prior to being accepted as a Champion.

The second Tuesday of each month, CASA holds an information meeting to answer questions on how to become a CASA representative. The meetings are at 6 p.m. at the CASA office located at 2120 Gloria Drive in Orange. To reserve a seat, call 409-886-2272.

A BBQ fundraiser benefiting CASA of the Sabine Neches Region will be held from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Granger Chevrolet. $5 for a BBQ link/bun, chips, drink and dessert, $8 for a BBQ sandwich, chips, drink and dessert or $10 for a BBQ loaded potato, drink and dessert.