Volunteer training is integral to the success of CASA for Kids Inc., but logistics always had presented difficulties.

“We would have to find different locations every month,” advocate supervisor Cindy Hestad explained, as lack of space at the nonprofit’s previous locations precluded large gatherings.

On July 30, CASA held an open house celebrating its new headquarters at 382 W. Chestnut St., Suite 108B, which comes complete with a conference room that seats up to 20.

“Having space in our conference room is going to be a huge bonus, to be able to have our advocates come in and train right here,” Hestad said. “The space is also great because the volunteers can drive up, ask a quick question and leave without having to park, ride the elevator and go up to our old space,” in an East Beau Street office.

Executive director Carrie Richardson agreed.

“The biggest thing for us was making sure that our volunteers have access to us. So bringing the trainings in here was huge for us,” she said. “Our staff members were spending between an hour and an hour and a half, sometimes, waiting prior to a class even beginning. This allows them to continue to work right up until the class starts, so that’s providing more services to our volunteers.”

CASA stands for Court-Appointed Special Advocates, people who work for the best interests of abused and neglected children involved in the Washington County juvenile court system. Volunteers serve as fact-finders and speak on behalf of children in front of judges.

“It’s not your typical volunteer gig,” Tony DePalma, former WJPA news announcer who served as master of ceremonies for the celebration, said. “It requires an immense amount of heart and grit and love and perseverance, for sure.”

During 2018, he told guests, CASA served 162 children, and the current year’s number is expected to be higher.

“Last year, volunteers logged over 14,352 hours on their cases,” he said.

Among those attending the event were CASA volunteers, staff members and board members, along with officials including all three Washington County commissioners.

“I’ve known a lot of volunteers, and it always amazes me, the quality of people you get to volunteer for this organization,” Commissioner Larry Maggi said. “That’s a sign of how important a job is needed and what is done.”

His colleague Diana Irey Vaughan commended CASA’s work.

“You’re one of my favorite organizations,” she asserted. “You’re helping our most vulnerable in our society.”

The other commissioner, Harlan Shober, provided further compliments.

“We talk about the community and village to raise a child, but what you do as CASA workers, you really do a great job of supporting the CYS and everyone else,” he said, referring to Washington County Children and Youth Services. “Congratulations on being able to do what you do.”

Jeff Kotula, Washington County Chamber of Commerce president, quoted Kevin White, the late former mayor of Boston:

“We can lay thousands of yards of cement for highways. We can build skyscrapers hundred of floors, and we can also totally revitalize our city. But if we’re not taking care of those who are not participating in our economy and making life better for everyone, then we’ve achieved nothing.”

He proceeded to tell those involved with CASA:

“We have great people, and you’re making even better through supporting our young kids and helping them become better citizens and the future leaders of Washington County.”

Everyone attending the celebration received a promotional “kazoo for CASA” courtesy of board member Dean Helfer, founder and president of the Charleroi company Channel Craft.

For more information about CASA for Kids Inc., visit www.casawashington.org.

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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