KENDALLVILLE— Each year Northeastern Indiana CASA hosts a banquet in appreciation of its volunteers. The night features food and entertainment as well as recognition for dedicated volunteers who have years of service.
This year’s banquet had some added highlights. Recently, Executive Director Kristi Bachman announced her retirement after 13 years in the position. The banquet marked her last event with the nonprofit and she took the time to encourage volunteers to “push ahead” with the mission to advocate for children in the five counties it serves - Noble, LaGrange, DeKalb, Whitley and Steuben.
“Because it is essentially my last chance to give you all some guidance and encouragement, I want to take a few moments now to do that,” Bachman said at the dinner. “You’ve got this. You’ve got a foundation through your training, judges that listen to you, a board that will continue to help this program prosper, staff that will support you and most importantly, you’ve got heart for what you’re doing. I know you’ve got this.”
Bachman reported that 498 children were served in 2017 and to date, 530 in 2018.
“Tonight we celebrate the many accomplishments you, our dedicated volunteers, have achieved through the last year.”
As part of the night’s recognition were three volunteers who have a total of 35 years of service between them. Both Susan Hughes and Katie Bowman of LaGrange County have each served as a volunteer for five years. Bonnie Schoppman was recognized for her 25 years of service. Schoppman currently serves Steuben County, but in her 25 years she has worked in several others.
In addition to the recognition given, the incoming executive director was introduced. Kirby Cool, of Auburn, comes to Northeastern Indiana CASA from her previous position with the United Way of DeKalb County.
“I know I have big shoes to fill,” said Cool as she was introduced at the banquet. “But I’m excited, and I know I have a great group of staff, board members and volunteers to help me get acclimated.”
The night’s guest speaker was Ted Westerhof who returned for a second year. Westerhof is the student and employee assistance coordinator for Bowen Center, and is certified in critical incident stress management. Given his expertise, it was no surprise that much of his speech centered around “self-care” and helping volunteers avoid the emotional weight that comes with such a position.
Entertainment was provided by harpist Anna Hagen and food was provided by Bo Doogie’s.
“On the days you don’t feel like you’ve got this, fake it until you make it,” said Bachman in her closing remarks. “Most importantly, for all the children in Northeast Indiana who you have spoken for, and for all you will continue to speak for, thank you…thank you…thank you.”