22nd annual conference inspires to exceed the vision

Last week, staff and volunteers joined together at the 22nd Annual Indiana GAL/CASA Conference for training and discussions centered around this year’s theme - Exceed the Vision. #exceedthevision18

The conference featured a director’s reception at the Allen County Courthouse as well as training topics such as:

  • What Judges Need from CASA

  • Helping Older Youth See The Vision for their Future

  • Seeing Trauma Clearly 

  • No Such Thing as a Bad Kid

  • The Importance Engaging with the Children You Serve

A large group of staff and volunteers attended from Northeastern Indiana CASA. Our staff, along with Executive Director Kristi Bachman, attended a special session on Friday. Events such as this provides ongoing training and support for our staff and volunteers. New volunteers attend a special training to equip them for their CASA role. This happens twice a year and our Fall training is taking place soon! Fill out an online application to join us!

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Training event brings together volunteers and area judges

Recently, Northeastern Indiana Casa staff and volunteers gathered for a specialized training at the Kendallville Library. Topics covered during the day centered around what to do and what not to do as a CASA. The day featured a panel discussion which included area judges and a discussion on working a case study. 

The event was facilitated by Jackie Boyle who volunteers as a CASA, serving for more than a year in Noble County. (Read more about Jackie's volunteer story here)

Training is an important part of preparing a volunteer to be better equipped for their role. Community members who are interested in getting involved with Northeastern Indiana CASA should not feel as if previous experience is needed. Fall Training is happening soon and those who want to join as a volunteer should complete an application soon! 

 Northeastern Indiana Casa Executive Director Kristi Bachman speaks to the group of volunteers gathered for a recent training.

Northeastern Indiana Casa Executive Director Kristi Bachman speaks to the group of volunteers gathered for a recent training.

 Volunteers came together for a recent training program to help learn more about the role they hold within the nonprofit organization.

Volunteers came together for a recent training program to help learn more about the role they hold within the nonprofit organization.

 Training events breed conversation, support and continual learning for our volunteers.

Training events breed conversation, support and continual learning for our volunteers.

 Pictured from Left to right is Noble County Circuit Court Judge Steve Hagen, Steuben Circuit Court Judge Allen Wheat, Whitley County Circuit Court Judge Matt Rentschler, and DeKalb Superior Court II Judge Monte Brown.

Pictured from Left to right is Noble County Circuit Court Judge Steve Hagen, Steuben Circuit Court Judge Allen Wheat, Whitley County Circuit Court Judge Matt Rentschler, and DeKalb Superior Court II Judge Monte Brown.

Golf outing rallies 16 teams, raises $7K

 Northeastern Indiana CASA Executive Director Kristi Bachman (pictured left) is pictured with Auburn Moose Family Center leaders who raised $7,000 for the nonprofit with a recent golf outing.

Northeastern Indiana CASA Executive Director Kristi Bachman (pictured left) is pictured with Auburn Moose Family Center leaders who raised $7,000 for the nonprofit with a recent golf outing.

Auburn Moose Family Center hosted a golf outing July 22nd at Garrett Country Club to benefit Northeastern Indiana CASA. Sixteen teams participated in the event and at the end of the day, $7,000 was raised for the nonprofit.

 Stan Surfus tees up a shot at the golf outing hosted to benefit Northeastern Indiana CASA.

Stan Surfus tees up a shot at the golf outing hosted to benefit Northeastern Indiana CASA.

"As Director of a program that relies heavily on volunteerism, I am extremely aware of the significance of people who give of their time to help others," said Kristi Bachman, Executive Director for Northeastern Indiana CASA, a nonprofit advocating for children in Steuben, Lagrange, Dekalb, Noble and Whitley counties. 

"Your community is blessed to have so many generous people I have had the privilege to get to know at the Auburn Family Moose Center. On behalf of the children throughout Northeastern Indiana that will benefit from your efforts, we sincerely thank them for their generosity." 

David Young, Aaron Duzan, Paul Cherry, Tim Kochanski were the winners of the four-man Florida scramble.

The event included a golf outing, lunch, and silent auction to benefit the program.  The committee comprised of Scott and Cathy Pepple, Lonnie Fry, Dennis Carper, and Mack Short, worked for many months organizing, soliciting sponsors and teams, and many other responsibilities to put on a "wonderful" event.  Other Moose members donated their time throughout the day as well.

"The investment of their time in this outing has been amazing," said Bachman. The group is already planning a second outing for July 21, 2019. See event photos by clicking here >>>

Bucket-list item turns into life-changing mission

 Judy Rensch has been a volunteer for Northeastern Indiana CASA for approximately four years after witnessing a little girl in a courtroom proceeding while Judy served as a juror.

Judy Rensch has been a volunteer for Northeastern Indiana CASA for approximately four years after witnessing a little girl in a courtroom proceeding while Judy served as a juror.

What started as an item on her bucket list became a reality four years ago. Judy Rensch was in a courtroom serving as a juror when she was moved to become an advocate for children.

“I sat in that courtroom and watched a little girl have to go through some pretty serious court proceedings. I kept thinking about her and wondered who would speak for her or advocate for her needs,” Judy recalls. “It was heartbreaking to think of how overwhelming it all had to be for her and how scared she may have been. I knew there was something I could do. That’s when I looked into becoming a CASA.”

Northeastern Indiana CASA serves Noble, Lagrange, Dekalb, Steuben and Whitley counties by providing court appointed special advocates (CASA) for children who are facing judicial proceedings. These adult volunteers work with children and their families to assess the child’s situation and offer valuable insights and evaluations for judges and judicial authorities.

Volunteers can expect to complete an application before attending training sessions before officially taking up the role as a CASA. Training equips volunteers for cases by helping them know how to interact with court reports and at hearings as well as how to conduct interviews with teachers, family members, and other individuals who have encounters with the child.

“It’s a rewarding job,” said Judy. “To know you are a part of their life in such a positive way. As a volunteer I am able to help that child be in the best situation possible – someplace they are safe and somewhere they can feel at home.”

Although some situations end with the child being removed from their home due to court decisions, there are some occasions where parents meet court guidelines in order to have their children returned. Judy said this is something she celebrates.

“I praise the parents that do the hard work needed to get their children back. Even when we are going through the case, I try to be very positive with the parents and cheer them on if they are trying to do the right thing.”

Unfortunately, statistics have shown that children who grow up in volatile homes are more likely to create a volatile home as an adult, perpetuating the destructive, unstable environment they have come to know. This can create a cyclical pattern from generation to generation. However, Judy said she sees CASAs as a “beacon of hope” that can turn the tide for the child.

“The need is there. There are so many children who need us and need more of us,” said Judy. “These parents are lost and so many times you find out they are only repeating what they know from when they were kids. But when we get involved, we can change all of that for the child we are helping. We have the chance to change things for generations to come. We can break that generational curse.”

One of the challenges for a child in these types of cases is the revolving door of service providers. While counselors change and even healthcare providers are different, a CASA is sometimes the only constant face in the middle of a turbulent time for a child.

“There’s a lot of changing faces,” said Judy. “The case can stretch on for a while and that child may see several different people. That in and of itself is hard to deal with if you’re a child and you aren’t really sure what’s going on. When we as CASAs are in the picture, we are the constant smile, the constant friend, the constant face that these kids can depend on.”

Judy went on to say that her influence in the courtroom is vital to the child’s future. As she builds a rapport with the child and learns more about who and what influences her case, she sees the importance of CASAs who offer feedback to the judges.

“I was amazed at how much say we have in the case. The judges really listen to us. That makes me even more motivated to be detailed in my reporting and to really give each case my all. I want to know the ins and outs so that I can really be the best advocate for this child.”

Understanding the importance of a CASA’s role would seem to imply days of paperwork and many long hours in the courtroom. However, Judy said her experience has been more manageable than she expected. With interviews and visits she can schedule on her own time, Judy is able to spend about four to six hours a month on her given case.

“I know there are people out there that want to make a difference but might be hesitant because they don’t feel like they can do it,” Judy said. “But I am here to tell you it is doable. You aren’t alone. There is support and training to guide you through. More importantly, you are needed. There are so many children who are waiting for a CASA but there are not enough volunteers for them. You’re making a difference in the life of a child. You’re making a difference in the future of that child. You’re making a difference right in your own community. You’re getting a chance to be a solution to the problem.”

A fall training session will be offered September 17th in Albion, Ind. Community members who are interested in volunteering should start by completing an application by visiting www.neincasa.net or by contacting Northeastern Indiana CASA at 260-636-6101 or by emailing casa@neincasa.net

Palooza supporters rally for more than $52K to help CASA

 Northeastern Indiana CASA's annual fundraiser event was held April 20th at Sylvan Cellars Event Center featuring tasting stations, drinks and silent auction items. The event raised $52,500 for the nonprofit.

Northeastern Indiana CASA's annual fundraiser event was held April 20th at Sylvan Cellars Event Center featuring tasting stations, drinks and silent auction items. The event raised $52,500 for the nonprofit.

ROME CITY -- It's an annual event supporters are sure not to miss. Complete with food, drinks and silent auction items aplenty, CASA Palooza is consistently well attended and this year's event proved to be another "success."

The event was held April 20th at Sylvan Cellars Event Center in Rome City, and the night closed with more than $52,500 raised for Northeastern Indiana CASA. 

"It's an important event since this is our only fundraiser," said Executive Director Kristi Bachman. "Each year there's more awareness and more support for our mission. It's great to see it growing."

Caterers, restaurants, and other eateries came together to provide tasting stations that varied from Asian fusion cuisine to prime rib to bison meatballs. As crowds tasted and sipped their way through the night, silent auction items were on display to tempt the purse strings. 

"It's a fun night with something for everyone," said Bachman. "So many great people came together to make this a success. Our staff, board members, and volunteers go above and beyond. Some of our sponsors are loyal supporters and there are some restaurants who come out year after year to be part of this event. It means a lot."

Northeastern Indiana CASA provides court-appointed advocates for children involved in judicial proceedings. Community members from DeKalb, Lagrange, Noble, Steuben and Whitley counties volunteer their time to be an advocate, working with children to be a voice for them and their best interests in the courtroom. 

"The message tonight is simple," said Bachman during her remarks at the event. "It’s about home. The place everyone here will go to at the end of this day. The place we know where to go to at the end of the day. One former CASA child said it like this, 'Home means the place where you don’t want to leave.' In Spanish the word CASA means home.  Our goal is to help ensure every child has a safe, permanent home. Your support helps us help these kids get there."

Approximately 350 children are already being served by the nonprofit. However, there are 60 additional children waiting for a CASA. Volunteers are needed and can apply online or by contacting the office. A volunteer training is provided twice a year so volunteers can be best equipped for their role. 

"Eight-six percent of our caseload is being served," Bachman said. "The good news is this is almost a twenty percent increase from two years ago. Progress is being made. Every year at this event we focus on children our advocates have helped," said Bachman. "This year I wanted to share some of the children’s stories who don't currently have a CASA."

Bachman referred to a few specific situations such as a five-year-old child in foster care because the mother is "unable to stop using drugs" and the father is "unknown." Currently, there is a family of four children who are temporarily living with their grandparents, waiting for an advocate, while their parents are in prison. Bachman also mentioned a baby, born just last week addicted to opiates.

“Our volunteers are a constant for the child in a time of chaos,” said Bachman. “A child may have multiple social workers, attorneys, therapists and foster placements throughout the life of the case but only one CASA volunteer, which can make all the difference for the child’s future. We just can't urge community members enough to become aware of this need and get involved.”

Photos from the event can be found at www.neincasa.net. Visit the website to learn more about volunteer opportunities and to complete an online application.

CASA Urges Northeastern Indiana Residents to Act Against Child Abuse

ALBION – During National Child Abuse Prevention Month in April, Northeastern Indiana CASA challenges residents in the area to stand against child abuse and take action to support children who have been abused or neglected.

At any given time, there are hundreds of children in foster care in the counties we serve - DeKalb, Lagrange, Whitley, Steuben and Noble counties. These children come into the child welfare system through no fault of their own.

“The number of children in our area coming into our care continues to grow and we aim to meet that need,” said Kristi Bachman, Northeastern Indiana CASA's Executive Director. “Every child deserves the support of caring, consistent, trained adult to help them find a safe, loving home where they can heal and thrive.”

Throughout the month of April, Northeastern Indiana CASA is calling on members of the community to help our program serve more of our area's most vulnerable children. Through social media posts and community involvement, our message is clear - abuse and neglect are not acceptable in our area and we stand together to raise a voice for children who need it.

Without intervention, the odds are stacked against children in foster care. A child with a CASA volunteer, however, spends 20 percent less time in foster care, on average, compared to a child without these volunteers. Studies show children with a CASA volunteer receive more services that are critical to their well-being and are four times more likely to find a permanent home.  

“Our volunteers are a constant for the child in a time of chaos,” said Bachman. “A child may have multiple social workers, attorneys, therapists and foster placements throughout the life of the case but only one CASA volunteer, which can make all the difference for the child’s future.”

Northeastern Indiana CASA is a member of the National Court Appointed Special Advocate Association (National CASA), a nationwide network of programs in nearly 1,000 communities. At the heart of the movement are nearly 87,000 highly trained volunteers who advocate for the best interests of more than 280,000 of America’s children who have been abused or neglected. In our area, there are volunteer advocates fighting for the best interests of children, but more children need the care and support of a CASA volunteer.

To learn more about Northeastern Indiana CASA or to become a CASA volunteer, visit www.neincasa.net

Annual fundraising event planned to benefit Northeastern Indiana CASA

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CASA Palooza 2018 is slated for April 20th at Sylvan Cellars in Rome City. This event is Northeastern Indiana CASA's annual fundraiser that features tasting stations with food and drinks from area caterers and restaurants. There is also a silent auction with proceeds from the event directly benefiting Northeastern Indiana CASA.

"Last year, with the support and help of generous community members, sponsors, volunteers and business, we raised $48,000," said Executive Director Kristi Bachman. "But we are excited to exceed this number this year. Already we have several business and community sponsors."

This nonprofit organization serves Dekalb, Whitley, Lagrange, Steuben and Noble counties with a focus on advocating for children involved in judicial proceedings. Northeastern Indiana CASA supports and promotes court-appointed volunteer advocacy so abused or neglected children can be safe, have a permanent home and the opportunity to thrive.

"Our staff and volunteers all work to provide a voice for children in our area," Bachman said. "We advocate for their best interests and strive to improve their circumstances and quality of life. What we do has a long-lasting impact on the children we serve, which makes events like CASA Palooza so important in order for us to keep our mission empowered to make that difference."

Tickets to CASA Palooza are now available online. Get more information on the event at www.neincasa.net.

An insider look at what it's like to work with Northeastern Indiana CASA

Myrlee Gray: Marking a decade of dedicated service    

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  A decade of service has been fueled by passion and positive impact for Myrlee Gray. February marks Mrylee’s 10-year anniversary with Northeastern Indiana CASA where she works as a Case Manager for the nonprofit providing “a voice for powerless children involved in judicial proceedings.”

      In addition to having a caseload of more than 15 cases at one time, Myrlee also offers support and guidance to the organization's group of volunteers. However, it’s the facets of Mylee’s job that won’t be identified on a resume that makes her efforts far-reaching.

 February marks the 10-year anniversary for Myrlee Gray and her dedication to Northeastern Indiana CASA.

February marks the 10-year anniversary for Myrlee Gray and her dedication to Northeastern Indiana CASA.

     “I first became involved with a 14-year-old boy whose parents’ had their rights terminated five years prior to my assignment. There were behavioral concerns and his mother struggled to control her son,” Myrlee said. She remembers the boy telling her that he had lived in different institutions since he was nine years old. He was not told about the decision to terminate parental rights and his behavior reflected a host of emotions.

 Myrlee is pictured, center in front row, with other CASA staff and volunteers at a recent conference.

Myrlee is pictured, center in front row, with other CASA staff and volunteers at a recent conference.

     “He told me was so scared that he slept in the floor against his door, so no one could come in to hurt him. Every time he was placed in a pre-adoptive home he did things so outraged, the family wouldn't want him. He would act out thinking that it was the ticket to going back home.”

     Myrlee said the boy continued this behavior for the next three years, all in hopes to return to his mother, but again not knowing or understanding what all had transpired to separate the boy and his mom. This situation was not acceptable to Myrlee.

     “I tracked down his grandmother who began visiting him and taking him fishing, but she never offered to take him on a more permanent basis,” Myrlee remembers. “He began writing his mother, but even though that correspondence had been established, he continued getting into trouble.”

 Pictured right, Myrlee works with other CASA volunteers to pass out appreciation gifts at a recent banquet honoring volunteers, board members and staff.

Pictured right, Myrlee works with other CASA volunteers to pass out appreciation gifts at a recent banquet honoring volunteers, board members and staff.

      At age 17 the boy was placed in a juvenile detention center, and at age 18 he was released. He located his mother and was reunited with her, but Myrlee says the “old behaviors” continued. Now the boy, who has turned into an adult, is in prison.

     It would be easy for case managers and volunteers to deem this case a “failure,” but Myrlee continues to hold out hope.

     “I take heart that he was reunited with his mother who is his now his only support and any hope for a future when he is released from prison. I think he may possibly have had a better outcome had someone acted as his advocate at the age of nine.”

     And that’s what Myrlee does day in and day out. She has spent her 10 years matching children to volunteers, attending court hearings, participating in family preservation programs and monthly child protection team meetings. She is no doubt motivated by that nine-year-old boy, and numerous other children, who need someone to advocate for their best interests and strive to improve their circumstances and quality of life.

     Before her role with Northeastern Indiana CASA, Myrlee worked as a nurse. The experience afforded her an inside view of the need that was in her community.

     “I heard many stories from children and parents. I heard their struggles and frustrations with the fact that no one really listened to what they needed or wanted. I felt I wanted to be that voice for these kids,” said Myrlee. “Many parents have attorneys who advocate for their rights in court. But a CASA volunteer advocates for the rights, needs and wants of the children. We offer recommendations to the judge to what is in the best interest of the children.”

     In addition to the support in the courtroom, Myrlee, and the team of staff and volunteers, keep abreast of services and resources available in the community that might help families and children in need.

      “Sometimes it is only a matter of rental or utility assistance, transportation needs, food banks, job training or adequate childcare that is needed to keep children in their homes,” says Myrlee. “CASAs advocate for a child's educational, physical and mental health needs as well as ensure they are successful in life and not falling into negative footsteps of their parents.”

     Recent reports have listed Indiana in the top five states that have the highest number of children in custody. Many of these children, more than half, were removed due to drug and alcohol abuse.

     “Addiction has led to homelessness. Kids go hungry, they can witness domestic violence, and miss school,” Myrlee says. “These children can become neglected or abused while caregivers are feeding their addictions. When caregivers are arrested, they leave these children with no one to take care of them, so they are placed in foster care.

     Through her 10 years of experience, Myrlee says that while the mission of CASA is the same, judges, attorneys and child service organizations have become more aware of the positive influence CASA staff and volunteers can have in the life of the children they serve.

     “When attorneys from both sides argue good points for that case, the volunteer can tip the balance so that the best interest of the child is the focus,” says Myrlee. “Children are the future of our communities. By helping these children be the best they can be, we build stronger, more positive communities.”

     To learn more about how to volunteer as a CASA, visit www.neincasa.net

 

Volunteer group completes valuable training

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Seven volunteers recently completed Northeastern Indiana CASA's Fall Training. Twice a year, volunteers gather for training in order to learn how to better advocate for the children they serve. 

"This is a valuable training for all of our volunteers," said Executive Director Kristi Bachman. "By coming together to learn, we can support each other in our mission to speak up for children in our area. The training also gives our volunteers confidence to do their best in all their efforts."

Becoming a volunteer takes a few steps, one being an application that needs to be completed. 

“We don’t always have to know the answers. There’s great support in the board and staff at our office," said volunteer Brayton Pickard. "What’s important is that volunteers are emotionally invested and want to give a couple of hours a month to a kid that needs them. Anybody can do this. Honestly, with the support and training we receive, you can do this. If you’re thinking about it or are interested in it, don’t build it up in your head. Just realize that it’s your heart that counts most.”

To apply online, visit http://www.neincasa.net/application/

Whitley County welcomes a new volunteer

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David Lowe recently completed his volunteer training in order to join the ranks of other community members who serve as CASAs for Northeastern Indiana CASA. David was sworn into his role by Judge Rentschler in Whitley County. David is a facilitator supervisor at 80/20 by day and wanted to do something to help children.

If you want a way to get involved in the lives of children right in your own community, consider becoming a volunteer! You can apply online at http://www.neincasa.net/application/

Finding a new purpose in 2018: Volunteering ranks as 'priority'

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It’s a season known for retrospection and resolution. As the new year creeps closer, there’s a natural tendency to look back on the year. And as the calendar rolls over to 2018, resolutions start to shape the coming year. Brayton Pickard knows a little about making the most of 2017. He’s spent the year volunteering with Northeastern Indiana CASA in DeKalb County, and is looking to continue his impact in the new year.

  Brayton Pickard is a volunteer with Northeastern Indiana CASA serving DeKalb County.

Brayton Pickard is a volunteer with Northeastern Indiana CASA serving DeKalb County.

“Working as a CASA makes me thankful for my personal situation,” said Brayton. “I am thankful for my childhood and that my parents loved me. It gives me perspective on how I want to raise my kids and how they see and experience things. Those feelings propel me to give the kids I work with a chance to have a little of what I had growing up.”

Northeastern Indiana CASA provides volunteer advocates for children who are involved in judicial proceedings. These trained volunteers speak for the child’s best interests and work to improve their circumstance and quality of life. In addition to DeKalb County, Northeastern Indiana CASA serves Lagrange, Noble, Steuben and Whitley counties.

Brayton was first introduced to CASA while he was in graduate school in 2008, but it took several years before he became a volunteer.

“I thought CASA sounded cool and it was interesting,” said Brayton. “But I didn’t think I had the time or the availability to get involved. When I moved back to the area, I knew I needed to do it now if I was going to get on board.”

Brayton is now married and a father. He said it is likely he has less time to give as a volunteer now than he did while he was in graduate school, but he’s made it a priority. “You make time for the things you think are important.”

Brayton is one of the youngest volunteers currently working with Northeastern Indiana CASA. At a time when most men his age are focused on family and career advancement, it seems he has chosen to look at his stage in life as the “perfect” time to become a volunteer.

“You will always find things to keep you busy or make excuses to not get involved. You’re going to fill your time with something, so why not choose to make a difference? Right now, I have the stamina and energy to juggle it all. If I’m not going to do it now, when?”

This will be Brayton’s first Christmas as the CASA for the children he has been assigned. He said although they are younger, the children are starting to make a connection.

“They know me now and recognize me when I come to see them,” Brayton said. “They are starting to see me as someone who supports them and as a sort of caregiver. I don’t think I am changing the world, but I am there for them and sometimes that’s what they need most.”

Community members might be considering volunteering as a CASA, but the task can seem overwhelming. However, training is offered throughout the year to help equip volunteers for their roles as advocates.

“When you think about it, I’ve had more formal training to be a volunteer than I’ve had to be a dad,” said Brayton. “We don’t always have to know the answers. There’s great support in the board and staff at our office. What’s important is that volunteers are emotionally invested and want to give a couple of hours a month to a kid that needs them. Anybody can do this. Honestly, with the support and training we receive, you can do this. If you’re thinking about it or are interested in it, don’t build it up in your head. Just realize that it’s your heart that counts most.”

To learn more about Northeastern Indiana CASA or to get volunteer information, visit www.neincasa.net

Steuben County produces two volunteers

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Recently, two women from Steuben County were sworn into their roles as CASA volunteers after completing Fall training with Northeastern Indiana CASA. Mary Leite (pictured left) and Sabrina Fritz (pictured right) took their oaths with Steuben Circuit Court Judge Allen Wheat. 

In addition to Steuben County, Northeastern Indiana CASA serves Whitley, Noble, Lagrange and Dekalb counties. 

CASA PROVIDES A VOICE FOR POWERLESS CHILDREN INVOLVED IN JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS; ADVOCATES FOR THEIR BEST INTERESTS; AND STRIVES TO IMPROVE THEIR CIRCUMSTANCES AND QUALITY OF LIFE.

Padgett is sworn into volunteer service

Recently, Mike Padgett was sworn in by local judges so that he could begin his volunteer position with Northeastern Indiana CASA. Padgett is from Wolcottville, and will be serving children in Noble County and possibly Lagrange. Swearing him in was Noble County Judges Steve Hagen, Michael Kramer, and Robert Kirsch.

Padgett recently completed Fall training and joined group of like-minded volunteers who are aimed at speaking up for children who are involved in judicial proceedings. Northeastern Indiana CASA advocates for children's best interests and works to improve their circumstances and quality of life. The nonprofit serves DeKalb, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, and Whitley counties.  Northeastern Indiana CASA is proudly supported by United Way of DeKalb, Noble, Steuben, Whitley, and LaGrange United Fund.

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Spreading Good Words: CASA banquet celebrates volunteers

   Awards were given to (from left to right) Lee Marki and Rick Owens for five years of service, Cheryl Weaver and Barb Bauer for 10 years of service, and Elizabeth Gilbert for 15 years of service. In addition, board members Troy Weimer and Scott Newman (not pictured) were recognized for five years of service. 

Awards were given to (from left to right) Lee Marki and Rick Owens for five years of service, Cheryl Weaver and Barb Bauer for 10 years of service, and Elizabeth Gilbert for 15 years of service. In addition, board members Troy Weimer and Scott Newman (not pictured) were recognized for five years of service. 

KENDALLVILLE - Although it's an annual celebration, the Northeastern Indiana CASA Volunteer banquet is anything but mundane. Each year a group of volunteers, board members, staff and area judges gather to applaud the efforts of like-minded community members all focused on advocating for children in the area. 

"We celebrate the many accomplishments you, our dedicated volunteers, have achieved through the last year. We honor you for all you do," said Executive Director Kristi Bachman at the event held recently at the Cobblestone Event Center in Kendallville.

In 2016, 450 children were served by volunteers. So far this year 420 children have been served. Northeastern Indiana CASA provides a voice for children involved in judicial proceedings while advocating for their best interests and striving to improve their circumstances and quality of life.

"I have found that CASAs are the eyes and ears of the court outside of the courtroom," said Whitley County Judge Matthew Rentschler. "CASA makes the court more confident about important decisions."

The night's theme was emotional. From the gratitude for the volunteer efforts on display to the pride of those who have dedicated numerous years in service, the event was focused on bolstering the hearts of those involved. Ted Westerhof, student and employee assistance coordinator for Bowen Center, was the featured speaker who delivered a practical approach to compassion fatigue.

"It is easy to find yourself tapped out," Westerhof said. "You give a lot and care a lot. Your heart is invested. I want to challenge you to identify why you do what you do and keep that in your mind's eye."

As part of the celebration, awards were handed out to volunteers who had reached a milestone in their service. Awards were given to Lee Marki and Rick Owens for five years of service, Cheryl Weaver and Barb Bauer for 10 years of service, and Elizabeth Gilbert for 15 years of service. In addition, board members Troy Weimer and Scott Newman were recognized for five years of service. 

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Colorful bracelets decorated the tables but also became a parting gift full of encouraging words. "The bracelets scattered on the table are for you, and the kids you serve. Take them all and give them to anyone you think needs a positive word or two," Bachman said. 

"I thank you all for your part in making Northeast Indiana a better place for our children, " Bachman said in closing. "I hope you leave here tonight feeling proud of being part of this larger movement."

To learn more about joining Northeastern Indiana CASA as a volunteer, visit www.neincasa.net

A Second Go-Round: Stanton returns to volunteer

   Linda Stanton has recently returned as a CASA volunteer after having previously served the nonprofit for 10 years.

Linda Stanton has recently returned as a CASA volunteer after having previously served the nonprofit for 10 years.

Ten years wasn’t enough for Northeastern Indiana CASA volunteer Linda Stanton. After a decade spent working with the nonprofit, Linda recently returned to offer more of her heart and time to children who need adult advocates while navigating the court system.

“I have always had a heart for CASA and the positive impact it has on our communities,” said Linda.” I was a CASA for 10 years before I decided to step away.  But even then, CASA remained in my heart and I continued my support in other ways. I found myself once again speaking up for CASA and the experience laid heavily on my heart. So here I am, putting on my ‘CASA shoes’ once again.”

While working as a secretary at an area middle school, Linda began to realize that there were children who needed a positive adult in their lives. “I saw the challenges many children had every day,” she said. “There were some who could use a voice to speak up for them. I could see it on their faces.”

At the time, Linda had not heard of CASA and wasn’t entirely sure what the organization did. Once she was educated on the many ways the nonprofit impact the lives of children, it still took Linda two years to decide to begin volunteering.

“I was working and I didn’t think I had the time,”  Linda said. “But it just kept coming up. I had an interest and I wanted to see what it was all about. To me, CASA is not only being the voice of the child, but it is being a community member.  It is building community relationships, serving our communities, and being a positive influence on a child’s life. It’s having a desired positive impact on family life.”

With more than a decade of perspective to match her passion for the work Northeastern Indiana CASA does, Linda returns as a volunteer. She has seen some “exciting” changes and growth in the communities served. With the integration of more technology and improved, “sophisticated” training, volunteers are well equipped to handle their responsibilities.

“The whole organization is working better and CASA is a little more accepted as a resource within the community and the court system,” said Linda. “All sides of the equation see its importance and that keeps the conversation going and minds open to what CASA can provide.”

CASA offers a voice for powerless children involved in judicial proceedings, but also advocates for the child’s best interests while striving to improve their circumstances and quality of life. Linda said she also sees CASA as a chance to “heal families.”

“People don’t realize the issues kids face,” Linda said. “Some of these kids have parents who are in jail or who are fighting drug use. It weighs heavily on their little hearts, but knowing someone is there to care for them and watch out for them means a lot. In the end, we hope that the family can be reunited in a healthier, happier way.”

Volunteers are always needed as the number of children served by a CASA volunteer grows. More than 400 children have been served so far this year, and more children are waiting for a CASA.

“If you have time to go shopping, you can find time to sit with a child,” said Linda. “Join with a friend. Join with your spouse. The important thing is, just join. You simply have to have the heart and interest. If you want to share in the mission, you should ask for more information and learn how you can become involved. You don’t realize how important you really are to the well-being of a child. You can make a difference, and it’s rewarding to know what you do matters.”

To learn more about Northeastern Indiana CASA, visit www.neincasa.net

Toymakers give a gift full of fun

Recently, two men from "The Toymakers of Greencroft Middlebury" presented Northeastern Indiana CASA's Executive Director Kristi Bachman, pictured center, with handmade wooden toys.

This group of wood crafters proves that CASA supporters come in all ages, from all areas and with all kinds of talents and good things to share with the children we serve.

"These will go to our CASA kids," said Bachman. "Thanks so much to the Toymakers of Greencroft Middlebury for helping us help children 'one smile at a time!'"

Learn how you can get involved, with a gift or monetary donation or as a volunteer CASA, at www.neincasa.net


 

Northeastern Indiana CASA welcomes new advocate

Tammy Miller, pictured center, was recently sworn in as a new advocate for children, working with Northeastern Indiana CASA. 

CASA PROVIDES A VOICE FOR POWERLESS CHILDREN INVOLVED IN JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS; ADVOCATES FOR THEIR BEST INTERESTS; AND STRIVES TO IMPROVE THEIR CIRCUMSTANCES AND QUALITY OF LIFE.

We serve in DeKalb, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, and Whitley counties. 

To learn more about what CASA does and the impact our volunteers make, check out this quick video where some of our advocates share their story!

Volunteer Spotlight: Hezekiah Davis

"The opportunity to help someone else in need is a rewarding feeling."

Hezekiah Davis is one of Northeastern Indiana CASA's newest volunteers, having been sworn into service in April. He currently serves Steuben County and several others. 

"I grew up in the court system and was united with a loving family in my early childhood, " says Davis. "I wanted to give back by helping another child. After reviewing different ways to give back, becoming a CASA was the right fit for me."

Although Davis has had limited experience serving as a CASA, he says he was most "impressed" with the training offered to volunteers. 

"The training helped me understand the need for such programs in our communities. It helped open my eyes to the resources that are available," said Davis. "I was especially surprised to learn the lengths CASA and its volunteers go in order to ensure children's needs are heard by the judges."

There are several hundred children served each year through Northeastern Indiana CASA, and there are more who are waiting for CASAs to become available. More volunteers are needed in order to handle the demand. Although the task may seem daunting, Davis found the opportunity motivating.

"Volunteers should be prepared to be awakened by just how great the need is and how rewarding the opportunity can be. If you're thinking about volunteering, the time is now," urges Davis. "Most of us have been helped either by a loved one, friend or a program similar to CASA. The opportunity to help someone else in need is a rewarding feeling."

Apply online to become a CASA volunteer > Click here!