Volunteer 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 2015Dallas 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.