Franklin County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) continued to serve the community last year by helping 81 children in the court system who may not have had a voice.

Executive Director Glenda Volmert said the organization would not survive without dedicated volunteers.

CASA assists children caught up in court cases. A CASA is a highly trained community volunteer, who is appointed by the judge, to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children.

Of the 81 children CASA assisted last year, 23 have found a safe and permanent home, and there were 32 new children referred to the program.

“The CASA Board of Directors, also all volunteers, have given endless hours attending board meetings and working on special projects,” Volmert said. “This is the most creative and dedicated group of people. For a nonprofit program to continue to grow in this economy, says a lot about their talents.”

What attracted many to CASA were the three training classes in 2012 that produced 15 new volunteers.

“These volunteers joined the existing 40 volunteers who have been working hard to be the voice for children who are looking for a permanent home,” Volmert said. “It’s amazing to think these volunteers have given over 2,000 hours of service in just one year. These hours are a reflection of the individual attention these children have received from a caring adult.”

Those volunteers advocated for 81 children.

Carol Gruber, who has been a CASA volunteer for several years, described being a CASA as “relational.”

“As a CASA, I’m in relationship with the child I advocate for, as well as the child’s foster parent(s), Children’s Division workers, the child’s teachers, counselors and others whose programs assist the child,” she said. “But the child is my primary focus — I am a constant, caring adult in the world of a young person whose life needs mending and healing.”

Gruber noted that she learned about a training program through The Missourian and wanted to know more about the program.

“The eye-opening training sessions taught us about the surprisingly large number of children in Franklin County who qualify to have a CASA volunteer and how we can advocate for them,” she added.

Volmert explained that a goal for this year is to find more dedicated volunteers.

“My heartfelt wish is that every child whose case is going through the court system have a CASA to advocate for them,” she said. “But there are more children than CASAs. Thus, I encourage anyone who has an interest in being a CASA to attend the training sessions. You will be welcomed and find camaraderie as you decide if being a CASA is for you.”

Volmert said CASA has about 20 volunteers who help with special projects throughout the year. This includes things such as accounting services, cleaning, administrative duties, marketing, child care, and fundraising.

“Oftentimes individuals are passionate about the CASA mission, but may not have the time to commit to being an advocate,” she said. “In those cases the staff at CASA works hard to find the right fit to meet the needs of the volunteer while meeting the needs of the program and children they serve.”

One volunteer position came through AmeriCorps VISTA. Janice Weatherly gave one year to CASA by volunteering as a VISTA volunteer.

“After the year was completed and she gained experience, she started her career as a resource development specialist,” Volmert said. “And while she was gaining valuable skills and focusing her attention to growing CASA, the CASA program was able to launch its first annual giving campaign, ‘I am for the child.’ ”

The campaign raises awareness with the ultimate goal of establishing annual giving among members of the community.

The annual CASA Gala is the program’s largest fund-raiser, and in 2012 the dinner and dance raised $22,820.

To become a volunteer, or for more information about CASA, people may call the office at 636-583-4422.