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.
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