Child advocates were honored Friday night at the 2013 Court Appointed Special Advocates annual “Justice is Served” charity auction and fundraiser.
About 300 volunteers and guests attended the event at Green Acres Baptist Church Crosswalk Conference Center to raise money and honor 13 CASA for Kids of East Texas All-stars who made significant contributions to the non-profit child advocacy organization in 2013.
CASA for Kids of East Texas, at 318 E. Fifth St., is a nonprofit organization that provides trained community volunteers to advocate for the abused and neglected children of Smith, Wood and Van Zandt counties.
CASA advocates represented 525 children in 2012.
The 135 child advocates volunteered more than 6,500 hours in and out of court and traveled more than 70,000 miles to represent children removed from homes in Child Protective Services cases during 2012.
Ken George, a CASA for Kids East Texas All-star and former board chairman, said the group provides an invaluable service to children removed from difficult home situations. He said volunteers provide a voice for children and work to help them establish a healthy, stable home environment.
“A lot of times (volunteers) are the only ones who follow up,” he said. “They form attachments with these kids and getting them into better situations is extremely rewarding.”
CASA for Kids East Texas 2013 All-Stars include George, who served as board chairman and continues to volunteer for the organization. He is personally responsible for raising thousands of dollars for CASA through sponsors and auctions.
Mike Ace, also a former board chairman, initiated receipt of more than $40,000 in Smith County juror donations the past two years. He has also lobbied the Texas Legislature for funding and services for abused and neglected children.
Terry Davis, the chairman of the “Justice is Served” committee, has supported CASA for the past decade and helped with fundraising efforts during that time.
Judge Carole Clark, of the 321st District Court, implemented a drug court to increase positive outcomes for families with substance abuse problems and a partnership with the Texas Attorney General to encourage child support for children in foster or kinship care.
Judge Clark also supported CASA training efforts to supply experienced, trained volunteer advocates.
Dawn Franks, a long-time volunteer, has championed the organization’s function since its inception and helped create the OATH Training Program.
Sharon Howell, a six-year member of the board and former board chairman, secured trips and funding in support of child advocacy. She helped initiate a partnership with Green Acres Baptist Church, which increased volunteer recruits the past three years.
County Judge Joel Baker provided financial support via the county commissioners court and approved juror donations. He’s been a long-time “Justice is Served” supporter and volunteer.
Tyler Chamber of Commerce President Tom Mullins has been an important fundraiser and helps maintain a strong board of directors as nominating committee chairman.
Doris Sharp led efforts to update the organization’s bylaws and played a significant fundraising role by procuring auction items.
Felicity Reedy, a past board and executive committee member has offered “behind the scenes” support by securing major sponsors and helped build CASA’s community standing.
Camille Brown, a six-year board member, secured refreshments for “Justice is Served” and solicited auction items.
CASA Chairman Kimberly Abeldt said the All-stars and CASA volunteers play significant roles in an organization that touches the lives of children in difficult circumstances.