Volunteer Recognition

Thank You!

 Donald Sewell

V​olunteer of the year 2017

Donald Sewell has been a certified CASA Advocate for CASA of the 31st Judicial District for nearly 10 years. Don came to CASA at age of 75 as a volunteer because he needed a new ‘hobby’, a new outlook because he had a lot of time on his hands in retirement and wanted to better the lives of abused and neglected children. Don was the 5th advocate at CASA of the 31st.  Now 85 years old, he will retire from CASA at the end of 2017.

Don was not kidding when he said he had a lot of time to spare and wanted to help when he joined CASA. Don has served 36 CASA children and he gave each of them a generous helping of his time, efforts and his recommendations to better the child’s situation.  He never gave up. Many times the judges in District 31 stated that Don knew his cases more than anyone else in the system and they relied on that information for the children. A large number of Don’s court report recommendations were adopted, verbatim, as the orders of the Court.

Knowing Don’s great skill and commitment level, the judges often asked for him to be appointed to their most difficult cases. Don’s special brand of advocacy was needed in one case with several special needs children who had been in the system for over 2 years with little progress. Don started by investigating each and every DCF, medical, mental health, school, and court record, then interviewed over 25 people that had worked with the family. With this information, he created an extensive timeline of the family’s life since the oldest teenager had been born. The timeline was crucial to helping the judge and workers understand the family dynamic and entire history of the children’s lives. In another case, Don served a child suffering from serious birth defects and brain damage. Again, Don made a thorough investigation, this time visiting medical and residential facilities to find the right services for the special needs child. He was relentless in attending or following through on every medical appointment, once sitting in the hospital for 3 days as the child underwent a life-changing operation.  Don was one of the first persons the child asked for following surgery.

Don has worked in all 4 counties that CASA 31 serves, often driving over 100 miles just to attend court or have a visit. Case outcomes ran the range of permanency goals – reintegration, custodianship, adoption, guardianship, aging out and sadly, transferring to JJA custody. None of the children on his case load ever came back into custody again. That says a lot about Don’s effect on children’s lives. In the 10 years that Don has served with CASA 31, he has devoted 5,500 hours and driven over 60,000 miles to CASA in advocating for “his” kids, keeping his skills sharp through additional learning opportunities, fundraising, community outreach, mentoring, training new volunteers and other CASA colleagues, and substituting for staff members and other advocates. He has been invaluable in community outreach and training activities, helping with community events, fundraisers, and presenting workshops statewide and nationally.  In addition he lets the program use his shiny bright red Ford Mustang at events and parades and it became a well-known CASA symbol in the area.

Don has lived and breathed CASA and our mission to serve children for the last 10 years. CASA of the 31st will miss our retiree massively!

 

 

 Rita Lewis

V​olunteer of the year 2016      

The Kansas CASA Association’s highest honor for volunteers is the Volunteer of the Year award. This award recognizes an outstanding CASA volunteer who has made a significant contribution in the lives of abused and neglected children.

Rita Lewis is a soft-spoken, modest person who does not accept that her compassionate and generous efforts to help are above what an average person would do.   However, the words “all children deserve a safe, permanent home” are much more than a slogan for Rita; they are a core belief in the rights of a child.   She not only believes, but dedicates herself to see that children are loved and protected.  

Rita has a very upbeat, encouraging personality that allows her to easily engage with both parents and children.  She does not come across as harsh or critical.  Rita has the ability to be direct, but not offensive when discussing areas where improvement is necessary for the best interest of her CASA children.  

Rita can be described as the ideal volunteer, maintaining contact with her children, being keenly aware of the details of the court case, rarely missing in-service meetings, always completing monthly reports and submitting extensive court reports without prompting.  The two judges who have worked with Rita on her assigned cases have complimented the thoroughness of her investigations and how well-written her reports are in providing information to the court.

Due to her humble nature, Rita would deny that she does anything that is worthy of recognition as an outstanding volunteer.  Her compassion, dedication, hard work and generosity are the characteristics that make her the most appropriate person for just such an award.

Since becoming a CASA volunteer in 2009, Rita has served as an advocate for 27 children from eight families.  From her home in southern Butler County, she travels more than 5,000 miles each year crossing the state to visit with her CASA children.   It hasn’t mattered whether placements have been in Fort Scott, Great Bend, Topeka, Independence, or any location in between, Rita has gone the distance for the child.   

Rita passionately promotes the CASA program to anyone willing to listen.   If the topic of conversation lends itself to child issues, Rita can be heard saying, “Let me tell you about CASA.”  This has not only been helpful in program promotion, but in adding members to the board of directors and fundraising.  If Rita learns of a program need, she works diligently to meet the need.   Rita has filled in as office staff.  When she learned the program was going to begin using activity bags to help volunteers bond with their children, she was anxious to go shopping to purchase toys for the bags.  When budget cuts at the state level resulted in cuts in grant funding, Rita helped correct the deficit, by devoting countless hours to a profitable fundraising effort.

Rita is an extraordinary woman with an immense love for children.   When a judge appoints Rita as a child’s CASA volunteer, it is with the knowledge she will provide significant information for making well-informed orders.  Kansas CASA is happy to present the 2016 Kansas CASA Volunteer of the Year award to Rita Lewis.

 

Kansas CASA Volunteer of the Year 2015

  Dallas Bieker

Dallas has been a certified CASA with our program since April 2014. She has been serving her first and only CASA case since May 2014. Dallas is a very understanding, open-minded, and non-judgmental CASA. She creates an environment where her CASA children feel comfortable talking about what occurred in their home as well what they want their life to look like in the future. Dallas is also very honest, and when her older CASA kids, act the way teenagers tend to act, she if very upfront with them on how their actions and words affect all aspects of their lives. Dallas has taken on a very difficult case for her first CASA case, and she has never backed down from the many challenges that have come with this case.

Dallas has done a great deal of facilitation and advocacy work. There was a time where one of the parents was refusing to give the older youths their clothes and belongings, things very important to teenagers! Dallas advocated through her court report and in her communication with parents and the foster care agency to ensure the children got their belongings. Another time one of the older youth needed some orthodontic work completed, but the medical office was no long willing to work with the parent due to strange behaviors. Dallas stepped up and became the point person for the medical office to contact and coordinated the necessary appointments for the child to get the appropriate dental care. Dallas also maintains contact with all children’s school/teachers, and helped one of the older youth in his goal to become enlisted in the Armed Forces. Dallas maintains constant communication between the foster home, foster care service provider, and the children. There have, at times, been communication issues between some parties, and Dallas has been able to help calm those situations.

Dallas has been a fantastic addition to our CASA team. She has a great deal of enthusiasm for the work she does whether that be in her direct contact with her CASA kids, her support in speaking to new trainees, or her volunteer work at the CAC. Dallas, like many of our CASAs, has her own family, work, and life outside of CASA, but continues to make her volunteer work with our agency a priority.