Luanne Sullivan – March 2024

This month we are recognizing Luanne Sullivan as our Volunteer Spotlight!

Luanne has served as the CASA volunteer for one child for the past 3.5 years. Luanne has been present for many ups and downs throughout her case yet has remained consistent and dedicated to advocating for this child’s best interest. Because Luanne is the longest serving team member, she has unique insight and knowledge of the youth. Luanne is the encouraging and engaged volunteer her kiddo needs.

I became a CASA in 2020 after seeing an ad in the newspaper calling for volunteers. We were in Covid lockdown and becoming a CASA volunteer seemed like a great way to connect with others as well as to help an at-risk child. It has been a gratifying learning experience and four years later I’m so glad I made that decision!

I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and recently retired from my work as a therapist, so I find being a CASA is a great way to give back to my community. I’m a Columbia native, proud mother of two lovely, talented adult daughters, and currently share my home with three cats and my CMHS rescue dog, Phoenix (the best boy ever!) In my newly acquired free time I love taking walks with my dog, reading, cooking, socializing with friends, seeing movies and of course, spending time with my CASA child.”

Thank you, Luanne, for your continued support and care towards your CASA kiddo! We appreciate all you do!

Jennie Sieg – February 2024

This month CASA wants to recognize Jennie Sieg as our Volunteer Spotlight! She has been a volunteer for 2 years. Jennie just closed her second case in reunification! Jennie has advocated for 3 children in her 2 years. Her dedication has been invaluable. Jennie was consistent with her visits and checking in with the family. She was able to get concerns addressed quickly. We are so thankful for Jennie’s continued dedication. Below are some words from Jennie.

“I became a CASA volunteer because I have always felt bad for kids that end up in foster care. Nothing is their fault and they don’t always accept that. When I was a kid, our neighbor took in foster kids for the money. The kids weren’t treated much better there than they were at home. I never understood why the system let that happen. I feel that CASA provides that extra set of eyes and ears that the kids really need. I have eight grandkids and until I became a CASA volunteer, I didn’t realize just how easy their lives are and how privileged they are.”

We appreciate you, Jennie!

Gloria Fishman and Kathryn Fishman-Weaver – January 2024

This month we are recognizing a mother/daughter duo for our Volunteer Spotlight – Gloria Fishman and Kathryn Fishman-Weaver!

Kathryn Fishman-Weaver and Gloria Fishman were sworn in as CASA advocates in 2021. A few weeks later, Kathryn took on her first case, advocating for a toddler for about a year before the case ended in guardianship.

After that, she and Gloria stepped up to co-CASA a sibling set of three children. They have been on their current case for nearly two years. Through multiple placements, the two have been enthusiastic cheerleaders at sporting games, regulars at family events, a constant voice of support, and consistent advocates in and out of the courthouse.

“It’s all about the kids.” says Gloria. “Being a CASA is another way for me to be a grandma for even more kiddos.”

Kathryn refers to the three children on their case as her “CASA loves.” When she and Gloria pull up to visit, their youngest love races out to be swept up in their arms. Next she checks to see what snacks or other treats Gloria has left for her in the backseat.

Recently their oldest two CASA loves surprised Kathryn and Gloria with a handwritten card. “You are the best.” wrote the oldest girl. “You help us when we need it.” She signed her message with love. The oldest wrote, “Thank you for being the best CASAs ever.” and signed his message with a heart.

“Love is what holds our world together;” says Kathryn, “it is also what CASA work is all about. We opened our hearts and three wonderful children came barreling right in.”

Thank you, Gloria and Kathryn!

Sue Kopfle – December 2023

This month we are shining the Spotlight on Sue Kopfle! Sue has been a CASA Advocate since June 2019 and she is on her 3rd case.  Currently, she advocates for 3 young children, ages 9, 6, and 5. This case has been a little difficult lately, but Sue does not let that interfere with how she is the persistent voice for her kids. She has the ability to build strong relationships with the children and families and has truly made a huge difference in their lives.  Here are a few words from Sue:

“I grew up in the Midwest in a family of 10 kids. Money was always tight with so many of us, but we always had each other and our own unique place in the family. I’ve had a lifelong curiosity about people, wondering how they developed into the individuals they gradually came to be. This curiosity led me naturally into the Human Resource field. After marriage and two beautiful girls, I pursued that “people field”.  It gave me wonderful career opportunities in Arizona, Idaho, Pennsylvania, and finally Columbia MO, where I served as Chief Human Resource Officer for the University of Missouri Healthcare System for 10 years.

Heading into retirement, I looked forward to leisure time, golf, beach vacations, and travel. I am so fortunate to be able to pursue all of these pastimes with much gusto. I also wanted to do something meaningful, something that really mattered. That something turned out to be a CASA Volunteer. Over the past 4 ½ years, I’ve had three cases, each of which had their own set of dynamics, high points, low points, obstacles, and triumphs. What was the same for each case, was the privilege of getting to know the kids and learning how to represent and amplify their voices and needs to the Judge. The beauty of seeing these children beam when they get to spend time with a much loved parent, when they actually understand math for the first time, or when they get an award at school is unmatched.

The foster care system is complex and fraught with human fallibility, but I can say with complete confidence it is a better system with CASA in it”.

Thank you so much Sue for being the voice for the children you’ve gotten to know throughout your 4 ½ years as a CASA. We appreciate and celebrate you!

Rachel Fisk – November 2023

This month we are recognizing Rachel Fisk as our volunteer spotlight!  Here is what Rachel had to say:

“I was born and raised in Independence, MO and moved to Columbia for college and fell in love with the community. I worked in childcare for about 8 years and recently started working for ParentLink through the University of Missouri. Over that time, I worked with many foster families and even other CASA volunteers (before I knew what that was) by caring for and making observations about what a child needs.

When I learned about CASA through my mom (who is a family lawyer), I knew it would be a great opportunity to get more involved in the foster community and help make a difference. Through this experience I have learned so much about myself and my desire to help others. I have always wanted to be a foster parent someday, and my case has ignited that want even more. It keeps me busy in this season of life and my fiancé even says that he can see how passionate I am about it 🙂

CASA is meaningful to me because it helps children in the foster system to have someone who is always going to be there, it gives them a voice in a world that tells them to be quiet. I love CASA and all that we as volunteers do. It makes a difference. I’m a CASA for two sisters who are older youth, and one of them once told me that some of their worst weeks were made better by a visit with me, and I think about that all the time.”

Great job, Rachel!

Lisa Stevens – October 2023

This month we are recognizing Lisa Stevens as our Volunteer Spotlight!  Lisa Stevens has been a CASA advocate since 2019.

“I started out with two young children and since they were adopted, I have gotten to visit them in Austin, Texas.  My next CASA child was in Mexico and I worked with three children earlier this year. I am proud to say, one of my favorite moments, was just recently. I received a message from the three children’s legal guardian asking me how I was doing. For the guardian to call and say the kids were asking about me was something else.

Now I work with siblings that have been separated. Each case has brought forth unique challenges.

I became aware of CASA when I met Kelly Hill, Executive Director. Kelly inquired about placing some advertising on KOMU 8 for CASA. The ads were so compelling and in no time, Kelly shared with me that she would get me started with classes. The next thing you knew, I was involved.

So many children have been helped through having a CASA advocate. The CASA is the voice for the child, in the courtroom, in FST meetings and anytime the CASA needs to be heard.”

Thank you for all you do to support children in foster care, Lisa!

John Howe – September 2023

This month we are recognizing John Howe as our Volunteer Spotlight! Here is a little about John:

“I am a recently retired Finance professor. Over my career, I taught at various universities for 41 years, the last 28 of which were at Mizzou. Growing up, I lived in various locales, including Nairobi, Kenya. I went to high school in Boulder, Colorado (where my parents still live) and did my undergraduate work at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. My graduate degrees are from Purdue University. I like to travel. This year has been “M year”—Madrid, Marrakesh, Melbourne (Australia).

As I approached retirement, I thought about what I’d do with my newfound free time (filling it has not been a problem!). My mother was part of a Child Protection Review Team in Colorado. Although not the same thing as CASA, it is related. Her experience influenced my interest in CASA. I signed up for the training with the thought, “I don’t have to become a CASA if I don’t want to,” but by the end, I was rarin’ to go.

I was sworn in as a CASA on July 30, 2021, at 1:00 p.m. and was assigned my first case later that day. I’m still on that case. I suspect that any CASA will tell you that a case can be quite gratifying despite occasional frustrations. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a fine young person and seeing parts of Missouri that I would never have seen otherwise. I’m very happy with my decision to join the CASA cause.”

Thank you for all you do, John!

Amy McCormick – August 2023

Heart of Missouri CASA would like to recognize Amy McCormick for this month’s Volunteer Spotlight! Amy swore in as a CASA Volunteer in November of 2022. Amy is serving on her first case. She has been instrumental in connecting the family with resources and communication with all the team members.  Here is more about Amy:

“I grew up in Fulton, MO and I believe there is a great sense of community in Callaway County. Throughout my life my mom was actively involved in various organizations.  I accompanied her many times to the events and got to experience how wonderful it was to volunteer.

I started to learn about HOM CASA and attended their informational webinar. When I learned of the challenges a child faces while in foster care and how a CASA can help, I could not start training fast enough! During the years of working at the hospital bedside, I loved advocating for my patients! Hearing their stories of what happened throughout their childhood years made me question why there wasn’t an advocate for them when they needed someone the most. How would their life have turned out differently if they had someone in their corner? I have years of experience working with adults, but I was up for the challenge of learning how to advocate for kids.

People often say to me, “I could not do what you do,” “That would be too hard,” “Why would you want to do that?” It is hard, but it would be even harder to be the child in the situation and feel as if I did not have a voice. As a CASA there is a possibility that you are the child(ren)’s only consistent adult during their time in foster care. That is both heartwarming and heart-wrenching. However, that is a part of my “Why.” My case alone has changed caseworkers’ hands four times. I have been his consistent adult involved and prioritized communication so pertinent information would not get lost in his case.  Being a CASA has been the most wonderful and easiest decision I have made. I became a CASA because I love the mission behind the organization and the people in the community, I get to continue to build relationships with!”

Thank you for all you do, Amy!

Mike Moran – July 2023

This month we are recognizing Mike Moran as our volunteer spotlight!

Mike represents the true meaning of what CASA stands for. Mike has been the advocate and mentor his older youth has needed since coming into foster care. This young man came into care in May of 2022 and did not have a CASA volunteer right away. He was struggling with placements, school, and just navigating the foster care system. Mike was appointed as his CASA volunteer in November of 2022. Since Mike became a part of this young man’s life, he has thrived. He went from bouncing around from placement to placement to being settled in one place. He went from not doing well in school due to constantly moving schools to graduating and starting his first year of college in the state of Washington. We are very proud of the bond that Mike and this older youth have, and will continue to have for long after the case closes.

Thank you for all you do, Mike!

Denise Mauzy – June 2023

This month we are shining the Spotlight on Denise Mauzy.  She has been advocating for 2 brothers, ages 13 and 5, since May of 2022. These brothers had been in 3 placements with traditional foster parents and all they really wanted was to live with their grandmother.  Denise was very instrumental in making that happen and continues to be a support for the boys and grandma.  Here are a few words from Denise:

“I became a CASA after experiencing a lot of frustration serving on a local jury trial. The young adult who was tried had aged out of foster care. As I heard his story during sentencing, I kept thinking we can and should be doing better than this for children who are brought into care.  Not long after, a friend invited me to an event to learn more about serving as a volunteer.  I decided that evening that this was what I had been looking for and I have not looked back.

I love being a CASA. I have spent the last year supporting two children. We have had lots of fun times getting to know one another. I look forward to our visits. It can also be challenging at times, and I worry about them when they are struggling.  But I remind myself that what I feel as their friend and advocate can’t compare to what they are experiencing. We are working on a permanent solution for them, and I hope to stay connected once their case closes and I receive another assignment”.

Thanks so much for being such an awesome advocate for these brothers and giving them a voice. We really appreciate you Denise!

Beverley Fries – May 2023

This month we are recognizing Beverley Fries as our Volunteer Spotlight!  Beverley had this to say:

“After my youngest child went off to Truman U. and was doing very well and looking forward to a bright future, I began noticing in our local newspaper there were pictures of young adults pretty much every day in the arrest section and they were charged with pretty serious crimes.  I felt sad for these kids as it appeared they were likely heading for a lifetime of being in and out of jail, ruining not only their own lives but lives of other people as well.  At the same time, I noticed Dr. Phil and Robin McGraw were saying that our Foster Care system was broken and the kids in care needed help and that CASA was a great way to be able to help a kid.  They emphasized that “You could be a CASA”. So I called our local CASA phone number, which was only manned part time back then.  Amazingly, after my interview they said with the training I really could help.  I loved the learning part and have loved being a CASA.  And I know it’s had such a positive impact on the kids I’ve had.  And I have learned and grown personally through my experience as a CASA.

My first case had four children and ended in reunification.  The next case had six children but had a change of venue to Cole County after a few months.  I took on my next case which was one child.  That case ended in adoption.  My next case was a little boy who had just had his seventh birthday and recently decided to opt out of jurisdiction just a few weeks before he turned 19.”

Beverley has been a CASA for 13 years and was on her last case for 9 before he recently aged out.  Bev, you have made such a difference and we are so grateful for you!

Maryann Williamson – April 2023

This month we are recognizing Maryann Williamson as our CASA Spotlight.

“I was born in Boulder, Colorado and moved to Missouri when I was thirteen. My family moved to Columbia where I attended Hickman High School. So, yes, I am a Kewpie!!! I worked for the University of Missouri for over twenty-seven years, beginning in the Department of Nuclear Engineering, spending 15 years in the University System Office, and the last eight years before I retired working at the Thompson Center for Autism. I love to sew and have made a couple quilts. I also enjoy working in my yard and especially attending the Silver Sneakers classes at the YMCA. I volunteer at my church, Southside Baptist, where I am a Trustee, assist with the food pantry ministry and co-facilitate the Grief Share program. I have three children, eight grandchildren and two great-granddaughters.

I received my first CASA case in December 2019.  This case is still active and has definitely been a learning experience for me. There have been many challenges with the case, which often are frustrating. But I know by being there for these seven children, and working with the caseworker, GAL, JO, Judge Crane, and others, that we are making a difference in their lives.

My oldest daughter, Jennifer, once asked me how I could be a CASA, that it would just be too hard to work with children who have been abused, neglected, etc. She said, “I just couldn’t do that!” I thought for a moment before I responded, and then said, “If not me, then who?” I am proud to say that today Jennifer is a CASA also.

My faith tells me that all people matter and that while we are on this earth, we need to make a difference. Being a CASA is that difference that changes children’s lives when they are at their most vulnerable. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to make a difference!”

Maryann has persevered through some difficult times with her case but has developed a positive relationship with the seven children she advocates for.

Thank you, Maryann, for all you do as an advocate and supporter of HOMCASA!

Catherine Westhoff – March 2023

This month we will be spotlighting CASA volunteer, Catherine Westhoff. Catherine has been a constant presence for the 4 older youth she serves. There have been many ups and downs over the past three years and her care and patience have been such a gift. Her steadfast support is something to celebrate!

“I’m originally from Michigan. I went to MU for school, and left Columbia after graduation in 2011, but eventually found my way back in 2015 and I’ve been back ever since! I worked at True Media for almost 6 years, and have been working in marketing for Equipment Share since 2021. I spend my free time playing golf, tennis, and volleyball, and I love to cook and spend time with friends and family.

Prior to joining CASA, any volunteerism, while good-intentioned, was quite sporadic and unfocused. I was really searching for something I felt passionate about and that was more regular so I could really dedicate my energy toward it. CASA fit the bill perfectly. It’s such a great organization. I was sworn in right at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, and I’ve remained on the same case since then, so I’ve really gotten to know the four kids involved quite well.”

We are so grateful for you, Catherine!

Patti Zap – February 2023

We would like to introduce this month’s CASA spotlight, Patti Zap! She has been an outstanding Callaway County volunteer for over 4 years! Patti is currently on her second case. Patti has been a wonderful advocate for 3 children and helping support the parents. Patti has a giving heart. She is involved in other organizations to give back to the community. Patti also has many exotic birds that she rescues and takes care of! Thank you Patti for you continued dedication to Heart of Missouri CASA!

“I grew up in a home of amazing parents who adopted 4 children after having 3 of their own. I loved having younger brothers and sisters. I also grew up in a Christian home with parents that spent their lives helping others. If that’s not a good motivator, I don’t know what is.  I’ve been Involved in singing and acting since college and find that still a wonderful gift from God.  Since moving to Missouri from California, I have opened my home as a rescue for exotic birds that need a home. I moved here with 6 of my own and now have 20. They are a blessing.  My best friend encouraged me to get involved in CASA and it has been work but also heartwarming and rewarding. I also am a hospice volunteer, which I would encourage everyone to look into.”

Thank you for all you do, Patti!

Brianna Korte – January 2023

This month we are shining the spotlight on Brianna Korte! Brianna is one of our newer CASA volunteers but has done a tremendous job with her case. Brianna has taken a case that was stagnant and has advocated for what she thinks is in the best interest of this child. The case is close to achieving permanency!

“Hi everyone! My name is Brianna and I am in my last semester as student at the University of Missouri studying biochemistry. I will go on to complete my Master’s degree in genetic counseling. For fun, I enjoy baking, playing the clarinet, and going on hikes with friends. Attending college here, I quickly fell in love with Columbia, however, I am originally from Highland, IL.  I am honored to be selected as the volunteer of the month! When looking for a volunteer opportunity a few years ago, I came across Heart of Missouri CASA. The mission statement, the welcoming community of advocates and workers, and seeing the impact I could make really stood out to me. I love having the opportunity to truly make a difference in children’s and family’s lives in the local community. I have had one case to the sweetest baby girl, who will soon be adopted. Being a CASA can be difficult work, but this sweet girl makes it all worth it! I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve this little girl and to watch her grow!”

Thank you Briana for your hard work and dedication to CASA! 

Laura Baker – December 2022

This month we are shining the spotlight on Laura Baker! “I’m Laura Baker, CASA volunteer. My husband and I live in Columbia and own a teardrop camper business in Kingdom City, Missouri. We have three children, three dogs and a cat.

I taught Sunday School for many years and love working with children. I had a friend become a CASA volunteer and watched her through social media share about what it meant to her. I saw how the need was great and the volunteers were few. I read about the program and talked with my friend to see how it impacted her. I really felt called to become an advocate. The placement provider I work with said it best-‘CASA volunteers are there for the children even if everything else around them is changing.’ I want to bring light to a potentially dark and scary time-be a constant and bring hope.

I have had one case so far with two children who will end in reunification very soon. I’ve made connections and friends and hope I can make a difference in this community.” We appreciate you so much, Laura!

Jennifer Thorpe – November 2022

This month we are shining the spotlight on Jennifer Thorpe!  “Originally a transplant from southern California, I grew up going back and forth between Missouri and California.  Missouri has been my home now for several years, with the last 10 or so in mid-Missouri.  My career is in higher education, serving several years in Rolla at Missouri University of Science & Technology, followed by my current position at Columbia College.  I serve as the Registrar and the Assistant Provost of Institutional Research.  I love that I get to make an impact and help educate tomorrow’s leaders!  I have three fur babies at home and extended family across Missouri that I like to spend time with and that keep me busy.  In addition, I try to be very involved in my church and my community.  In my spare time I like to fly fish, specifically for trout, and I’m also an avid reader. 

A few years ago I was looking for a volunteer opportunity and decided that I would like it to be helping children in some way.  A friend of mine, who was a foster parent, introduced me to CASA. I checked it out and decided it was the right fit for me.  There are so many children out there that need an advocate!  Sometimes it is really difficult to be an advocate, and other times it is really uplifting.  These kiddos count on me and I need to be sure I’m the best advocate I can be.  I have found the experience absolutely worth it!  No matter what the day brings my way, when I visit them and they run to me, yelling ‘Miss Jennifer!’ and give me a big hug, it just validates that I’m making a difference and I’m where I need to be.”  We appreciate you so much, Jennifer!

Wendy Gish – October 2022

This month we are shining the Spotlight on Wendy Gish!  Wendy is advocating for a 16 year old girl who is going into guardianship with her grandmother. Wendy has been very consistent with keeping the team informed on how her the young lady is doing in school and living with grandmother. Wendy also provides the family with additional services and opportunities they might be interested in.

”I live in Columbia with my husband, Aron, two dogs, Franklin and Sparky, and our daughter’s snake, Poncho, who I begrudgingly take care of while she attends Mizzou. I have worked at MBS Textbook Exchange since 2000 and am currently the Director of Marketing Services. When I’m not working or volunteering, I’m usually reading (I’m up to 51 books this year), exercising or enjoying live music or stand-up comedy.

I first heard about CASA when one of my coworker friends asked me to serve as a reference for her CASA volunteer application. As I read through the questions on the reference form, I realized the gravity of the volunteer position. I wanted to learn more and possibly get involved myself. Around that same time, the Olympics were airing and I saw commercials for CASA that made me tear up; I was moved. I felt like it was a sign! My only child was getting ready to leave for college, and it had always been my plan to get more deeply involved in the community as soon as I had more time. CASA checked all the boxes of what I was looking for in a local organization.

I wholeheartedly believe in CASA’s mission, am inspired by the staff’s passion and appreciate all their support. I am especially grateful to be in my CASA kid’s life and be able to elevate her voice, watch her become more assertive and help prepare her for a successful future. She is a wonderful kid who has taught me so much about resilience and empathy”.

It takes a special person to advocate for an older youth.  Thank you Wendy for being that special person!  We appreciate all that you are doing for CASA and your child.

Elaina Olsen- September 2022

This month we are shining the spotlight on Elaina Olsen!  Elaina has been an exemplary CASA volunteer since 2018, and is currently serving on her second case.

Elaina says, “I enjoyed growing up in a rural, small town in southern Alberta. I was always surrounded by family and friends who supported me. I loved playing basketball, hiking, waterskiing and spending time with my family. After high school, I moved to the U.S and went to Brigham Young University. While there I earned my degree in chemistry. Family has always been important to me. I am a mother to five incredible kids and a grandmother to two baby boys. My children had friends that were in foster care at times, and I always wanted to do something more to help them but couldn’t at that time because of our own busy family life. I knew once my children were grown that I would like to become a CASA. My faith has also always been very important to me and as a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints I have worked to help improve the lives of women and children. That work gave me the confidence and desire to reach out into the community and become an advocate here in Boone County. I want to help protect families in whatever way is the best for them. I became an advocate because I know the drop in the bucket that I have to offer is still important and I want to give whatever I have to offer to the families in our community.”

Thank you for all you do, Elaina!

Amber Wood and Billie Simpson – August 2022

Heart of Missouri CASA would like to recognize a fantastic dynamic duo for this month’s Volunteer Spotlight! Amber Wood and Billie Simpson swore in as a CASA Volunteers in November 2020. Amber and Billie are on their second case together. They have advocated for 6 children in the past 2 years. Amber and Billie’s passion for helping children has shown in everything they do for Heart of Missouri CASA. We want to give a big thank you to Amber and Billie for dedicating their time to Heart of Missouri CASA and giving children a voice.

Amber heard about CASA through a human trafficking information page. She did a bit of research and shared the info with Billie. They decided to take a journey together and signed up for CASA training in September, 2020. Upon completing training, they opted to do their first case together, helping 4 children.

Billie and Amber said “To say becoming a CASA has been gratifying is a huge understatement. The smiles and the big bear hugs make all of it so worth every second. Growing up with kids in foster care, Billie can truly relate to the need for this program. It fills our hearts to be a part of making these kids feel loved and safe. And, as if it couldn’t be any better, we get to do it with our best friends (each other). We are so happy that we can be Co-CASAs, we make a great team. We just hope that our presence in these kids’ lives really makes a difference to them, because they certainly have made a difference for us.”

Melanie Pezold – July 2022

This month we are recognizing Melanie Pezold as our CASA Spotlight.

“I remember listening to Suzanne Guerrant speak with our church about the roles of a CASA in our community, and I felt such an urgency to become a part of this organization, that was a six years ago.  I knew that becoming foster parents was not the best fit for our family at this time but becoming a CASA would enable me to connect with kids in the foster care system in a different and meaningful role.   I did not realize it at the time, but becoming a CASA has and continues to change my whole outlook on what defines a family and the impact one relationship can have on someone else.  We often think that we as CASAs can make a positive change for a kid in foster care.  However, for me it was the opposite, I feel forever changed because of the child in foster care that made the positive change in my life.”

Melanie persevered through some difficult times while continually building a positive relationship and being a voice for her child. Her child had eight different placements and 11 different caseworkers during the five years, eight months, and ten days that Melanie was their advocate. Melanie may be forever changed because of this experience, but this child’s story was changed as they now have a forever family,

Besides advocating, Melanie also organized 5K Jingle Bell Runs sponsored KCA (Kingdom Christian Academy) for several years with proceeds providing gift cards to Callaway County CASA children.

Thank you, Melanie, for all you have done as an advocate and supporter of HOM CASA!

Jennifer Chapdelaine – June 2022

This month we are recognizing Jennifer Chapdelaine as our Volunteer Spotlight!  “My journey with CASA started about 15 years ago. My husband and I decided it was the right time to train to become foster parents. After finishing the training, we were part of a fost-adopt support group. We had a placement of a 7 month old boy and met another couple with a 3 year old boy. We became close friends and began socializing outside of the group. We each had biological children still living at home and the ages of our kids lined up. My friend was assigned a CASA.

One weekend that same year, my friend’s husband was killed in a car accident. She was left to raise the children alone. Her CASA remained a wonderful support to her for many years. I knew that one day I would like to be that kind of support for someone else.

Most of my children are grown and out of the home. We are still raising that 7 month old boy who is now almost 15. During Covid, I found the time and desire to step into the CASA role. I work part time as a bookkeeper and tax accountant and was able to do all my training online. I was given the assignment of a sibling group living at Coyote Hill. I continue to work with them as we’re on their journey for a permanent home. It’s not the easiest assignment for me, but I believe all children need a loving home, education and opportunities to develop their own gifts and talents. In my role as their CASA, I want the kids to know that I am here through the whole process and won’t give up until we find permanency for each of them.”  Thank you for all you do, Jennifer!

Fran Schnarre – May 2022

This month we are shining the spotlight on Fran Schnarre!  “I’m a retired Disciples of Christ minister, and I live on a farm in north Boone County.  Thirty-six years ago my husband and I adopted our daughters from Children’s Division.  The girls were two-and-a-half  and one years old, joining our birth sons who were ten and seven.    We had hoped to adopt one girl, but these little sisters came as a package, and eventually we got the hang of being the parents of four kids!   It was a big change, but I am so proud of all four of them—now 46, 43, 39 and 37!

Foster care and adoption was a part of my ministry, as the small church I pastored for 14 years in Monroe County included two large foster/guardianship/adoptive families and we celebrated with a Foster Care/Adoption Sunday.  I am a CASA because foster children have a special place in my heart.  That includes not only my adopted daughters but also the foster children I served in ministry and my current four CASA kids.”

Fran has been on her case for 2 years.  She has traveled far and wide to visit with her children and is a phenomenal advocate.  Thank you, Fran!

Beth McWilliams – April 2022

This month we are shining the spotlight on Beth McWilliams.  Beth has been on her first case, a 3 year old boy, since August 2021.  She has built positive relationships with both the foster parents and the mother to ensure the child’s needs are being met.  Heart of Missouri CASA is very grateful to have Beth as an advocate.  We want to thank her for her dedication and support she gives to her case and her kiddo.

“My name is Beth McWilliams and I live in Columbia with my husband, our two kids, a dog, and a cat. I work at Columbia College in the Advancement division. I decided to become a CASA after my sister became a foster parent and I was inspired by her experience. Watching and listening as she navigated her first placement showed me the value of someone who really focused on the unique needs and perspective of the child or children in care. Being a stable and consistent presence in a child’s life and advocating for their best interest is so important I really saw how much of a difference that can make through her experience.

I also was looking for an opportunity to get more involved in the central Missouri community and volunteer my time for an organization with a mission I believed in. I have really loved my CASA experience so far – the organization and all of the staff are incredibly professional and dedicated and the experience of getting to know the child I advocate for has been so rewarding and meaningful.”

Lindsey Peonie – March 2022

This month we are recognizing Lindsey Peonie for our Volunteer Spotlight!

“I’m from Louisville, KY and moved to Columbia in October 2016 for a job at a local content marketing agency, Influence & Co. Upon moving to Columbia, I also helped start a new church in 2017 with some friends called Trinity Community Church. In 2020 I founded the local Columbia chapter of the global organization, CreativeMornings. Beyond those roles, I spend most of my time with my golden retriever, Ginger, and my partner, Henry. I enjoy hiking/biking the local trails, going to concerts, and reading books of just about any genre.

My own childhood was troubled by dysfunction and instability so I have a lot of compassion for kids going through something similar. I saw volunteering as an opportunity to support a local child in their foster care journey. Showing up for a child and being a listening ear can make such a difference in how a child views their own value and worth and I take that very seriously. It’s a privilege to walk alongside these children and I’m hopeful they’re impacted in a positive way by my involvement in their lives.”

Lindsey has been on her case for over two years.  Thank you for all you do, Lindsey!

Janet Desmangles-Mckee – February 2022

Heart of Missouri CASA would like to recognize Janet Desmangles-Mckee for this month’s Volunteer Spotlight! Janet swore in as a CASA Volunteer in March of 2019, and she is now serving on her second case. After her first case closed, she jumped into taking another one. Janet has been advocating for 2 young children for the last 2 years. She has been dedicated to Heart of Missouri CASA since she became an advocate. Janet has been one of the constant adults in the children’s lives and this has shown through when it comes to pivotal decisions with the case. Janet is a tremendous asset to Heart of Missouri CASA and we want to thank her for helping give children a voice.

Tracy Gastineau – January 2022

This month we are recognizing Tracy Gastineau for our Volunteer Spotlight!  Tracy knows first-hand the result of commitment, dedication, and hard work.

“I became the Head Softball Coach at William Woods University in 1998.  I also serve as the Associate Director of Athletics, the Senior Woman Administrator, and the liaison for the Association of Student-Athletes at William Woods University.  I graduated from New Bloomfield High School and from William Woods University with a degree in accounting and a minor in legal Studies.  While at William Woods, I played both basketball and softball.  I received my Master’s in Education from William Woods University in 1998.  I have been named the American Midwest Conference coach of the year five times and the American Midwest Conference Coach of Character three times.  In 2016, I was named the NAIA Coach of Character.  I was also inducted into the William Woods University Athletics Hall of Fame in 2015.

I became an advocate because part of my passion in coaching has been empowering the young women I coach.  My professional goal is to graduate strong, independent thinking women that go out and change the world for the better.  And as I learned about CASA and all the great things this organization does, I felt this was another way for me to champion our future generations.”

Kayla Michael – December 2021

This month we are recognizing Kayla Michael as our Volunteer Spotlight!

“My name is Kayla,  I’m married to my husband Cam and we have two kiddos Blakely and Maverick. I love anything outdoors, drinking coffee (specifically iced!), and hosting parties and game nights. I found out about CASA through my church and wanted to learn more about the foster care system through advocacy. I have enjoyed volunteering and have learned that consistency over time leads to meaningful relationships! My favorite memory so far has been helping M and her friend get ready for the homecoming dance. I am thankful for all that the CASA agency does and I am happy to be a small part of such important work!”

Kayla has been a consistent, positive adult in the older youth’s life on her case. Thank you, Kayla, for your hard work and advocating for the youth on your case! You are appreciated!

Shannyn Harris – November 2021

We are shining the Spotlight on Shannyn Harris this month. She completed training in May of 2019. Shannyn’s first case ended in reunification, and she is currently advocating for a 17 year old girl.  Reunification isn’t the plan for this young lady, but Shannyn has been assisting her with services to prepare her to live independently and plan for the future.

Here are a few words from Shannyn:

“I provide support for people with disabilities at Missouri Mentor Day Program. I engage with them in community outings, achieving personal goals, daily living, etc.  I chose to become a CASA because I wanted to make a difference in the lives of others, helping them through difficult times and being able to experience the good with them. Being a CASA has taught me more about myself than I could ever imagine”.

Shannyn’s day job is similar to her work as a CASA volunteer. She truly believes in helping those in need. We want to thank Shannyn for her dedication to CASA and her commitment to the children she’s served. We appreciate you!

Cynthia Gardner – October 2021

This month we are recognizing Cynthia Gardner for our monthly spotlight. Cynthia was sworn in as a CASA volunteer November of 2018. Cynthia is currently assigned to her second case. Cynthia was able to step in to be an advocate for two children in 2020 when the previous volunteer had to step away. She has been instrumental in advocating and ensuring services have been pro-vided for her children. Cynthia has provided consistency in the lives of these children.

Cynthia said “Many of the continuing education opportunities available through CASA have expanded my empathy and have been applicable in other areas of my life. I wish I would have known the things I learned as a CASA when I was a teacher.”

We want to give a tremendous thank you to Cynthia for her dedication to CASA and the children she serves!

Laurie Wern-Overmann – September 2021

Laurie was assigned her first case in June 2020. Her case is now in its 16th month, and it has proven to be a tougher case than it appeared on the surface. The child on her case came into care during the height of closures due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, as such Laurie was only able to visit him through Zoom meetings until February of 2021 when she was finally able to meet him in person. When her case began the child on her case was placed locally, but he soon moved to a residential placement in St. Louis and then to an even more remote location in rural Missouri – such that she drives approximately 400 miles monthly in order to spend time with him. Despite these barriers and the many changes and stakeholder turnovers, Laurie has been the consistent person on the case. Her child knows he can count on Laurie to visit and advocate for him. When he missed a family wedding, Laurie arranged to livestream the event, got dressed-up and set-up a makeshift wedding and reception at his placement replete with flowers, cake and boutonniere to match the wedding party!

Laurie is a retired Math Educator who practices mindfulness. She enjoys playing piano, drawing, and “doing what makes her happy, when she wants to do it.” She enjoys volunteering for CASA and helping to change the story of the child on her case.

Connie Epperson – August 2021

Connie Epperson knows first-hand the difficulties in life that some children face.

“I chose to become a CASA because as a former schoolteacher and administrator, I saw first-hand the difficulty children placed in foster care had. Knowing that they never knew what tomorrow would bring was heartbreaking to see. Children living in foster care need an advocate that can give them reassurance and a sense of stability in a time of uncertainty in their life. Not all placements work out but knowing they have someone to share concerns with and can get answers to questions they may have is vital. Serving as a CASA has allowed me to have a direct impact on helping a child that needed the love and support of a caring individual. I have been blessed to see the growth and positive changes the child I work with has made over the course of my case. I hope to be the “bridge” this child needs to make it through this difficult journey. He deserves a bright future!”

In 1989, Connie moved to Fulton to start her career in education. She met her husband, David, shortly after moving to Fulton. They have three children and will soon have their fourth grandchild. The last 20 years of her career, Connie served as an administrator in the Fulton School District. Besides working as a CASA volunteer, Connie works at Westminster College as an adjunct professor and serves as their Physical Education coordinator. Additionally, she serves on the Fulton School board, The Callaway County YMCA board, and works as an administrative substitute for Columbia Public Schools. Heart of Missouri CASA and the Callaway County community are both fortunate to have Connie working with their children.

Carissa Tarnowski – July 2021

This month we are recognizing Carissa Tarnowski for our Volunteer Spotlight! Carissa first wanted to be a CASA after working in a Domestic Violence Clinic during law school. They focused mainly on adult victims but she realized that the children needed someone too. Carissa’s grandmother told her about CASA years ago, and after graduating in 2019 she decided to apply. What she loves about being a CASA is getting to know the child and being her cheerleader. She gets to see her learn and grow in so many ways. This child is so strong and resilient, and it makes Carissa so happy and proud to know someone so wonderful. Carissa works as a Public Defender in Cole County. She lives in Columbia with her family and two dogs. She enjoys hiking and being outside when the weather is nice. Keep up the great work, Carissa!

Sally Delwood – June 2021

A newly retired friend told me about her work with CASA and I signed up for the volunteer training in the fall of 2017.

My first two cases ended in reunification with a parent.  Currently, I am the CASA for three beautiful siblings, aged infant to 10 years.  I enjoy all three children immensely, each at their own developmental stage in life with unique experiences, challenges and needs.   CASA’s get to know the children and are a constant on the team amid caseworker and team member turnover.

I continue with CASA because it’s important to have a voice on the team focused on the best interests of these particular children.   Plus, I enjoy being part of the CASA team and have the invaluable support of experienced staff who listen, interpret and advise.

After 30 years in Wyoming, I’m happily settled in Columbia (since 2005) assisting part-time in my husband’s medical office and generally being the home-based part of our married team.  We enjoy biking on Missouri trails, visiting our children and grandchildren (who happily settled elsewhere), and growing tomatoes.

Sally is an exceptional voice advocating for the children on her cases! We appreciate you Sally!

Julie Wesley – May 2021

We are shining the Spotlight on Julie Wesley this month. She completed training in February 2016 and received her first (and current) case in May 2016, which included three teenage brothers. The older two achieved guardianship and reunification. She’s still advocating for the youngest brother, who has had some ups and downs, but is doing well and has some goals, including attending college, after graduating this year from high school.

Here are a few words from Julie: “Having lived in Columbia for over 40 years, I always enjoy finding ways to give back to the community that has nurtured my children and family. After hearing about CASA from a friend, I felt like it would be something I could be involved in and still maintain a full-time job. The benefit for me was that I signed up with a business partner. We have worked together as a team, known as “The Julies”, to the other members of our case. The curriculum and training to become a CASA is highly informative and not at all time-consuming. I felt more prepared as we ventured out with our first case. Little did I know that my supervisor would continue to be a wealth of information and support through the years with the case we were assigned. She meets with us on a regular basis and is always available for a call; to offer guidance and suggestions. I feel that one of the most important aspects of being a CASA volunteer is that you become the “constant” in the lives of the foster child and bring continuity to the Family Support Team. While some case workers and foster families may change through the years, a CASA remains as an advocate for the child and with the case until it is closed. This is extremely valuable to be able to continue to do what is in the child’s best interest throughout the time that they may be in the foster care system.”

Thank you, Julie, for your dedication and commitment all these years to the young men you advocate for. We appreciate you!

Jennifer Books – April 2021

This month we are recognizing Jennifer Books for our Volunteer Spotlight. Jennifer has been a CASA volunteer for the past year. While 2020 was a challenge for us all, Jennifer has done an outstanding job in advocating for her child and ensuring they have a voice!  Jennifer resides on the Books family farm in Williamsburg with her husband Jason, and children Lydia and Waylon.  Callaway County is now the place she calls home, having previously resided in Boone County for almost half of her life.  Having obtained a master’s degree in strategic leadership, all online, Jennifer was ecstatic when CASA training was offered online last spring.  There have been silver linings due to the pandemic; this being one of them.  Jennifer knew the online option was truly a sign from our awesome God, indicating it was her turn to step up, becoming a powerful voice to help out our kids.  Inspired by her mother (MaryAnn Williamson) becoming a CASA a few years ago, Jennifer took a long hard look at herself, asking “Who doesn’t have a few hours to spare each month? If not my voice, then who will speak up for our kids?”

Amy Woods – March 2021

Amy Wood joined CASA in the middle of 2020, and she was referred by a friend. She did not know how it would go, starting in the middle of the pandemic, but she was ready to help change a child’s story. Amy has now been on her case for nine months. Amy’s child, in her words, ”despite all of the things he has been through, he is the most resilient, happy kid, and I just love being his CASA!” This is not to say her case is easy. Due to Covid-19 restrictions Amy and the child have had to meet outside, and when it was too cold, they had to get creative. Amy drives a minivan, so she pulls up, cranks up the heat, leaves the van door open, and they sit inside and play Uno and eat fiery Cheetos! It’s a routine they do every other week that they both enjoy.

Amy is married with 3 children- a freshman, a seventh grader and a fourth grader – and a dog. When she is not eating fiery Cheetos and running to sports events with her kids, she is the media clerk at Rockbridge Elementary and the President of the PTA.

Linda Williams – February 2021

Continuing to make children a priority in her life after teaching for 34 years is Linda Williams’ mission and purpose in life.

“It has been my life’s passion to make a difference in the lives of children. As a retired educator, being a CASA volunteer has allowed me to continue working on behalf of children of all ages and backgrounds. CASA volunteers advocate for and ensure a child’s right to a safe, nurturing and happy life. My hope is that through my work as a CASA volunteer, I cannot only speak for a child whose voice often goes unheard but also help them to believe in themselves and their unique gifts and talents and provide support as they experience a very difficult time in life. Working with children is what I have been called to do, and I am so honored to have the opportunity to be doing so as a CASA volunteer.”

Linda swore in during October 2016 was instrumental is seeing six children being reunified with a biological parent. She is currently advocating for six children and  is hoping to change their life story.

Linda has been a part of the Callaway County community for 37 years teaching for Fulton Public Schools and is currently an adjunct professor for Westminster College’s education department. Linda and her husband Doug were blessed with two beautiful children, a daughter, Nicole, and a son, Ike. Heart of Missouri CASA and the Callaway County community are both fortunate to have Linda working with their children.

Erin Leuschke – January 2021

Erin Leuschke grew up in Jefferson City and returned to Missouri in 2019 after living for several years in Tennessee. Her professional work is in Learning and Organizational Development, a subset of Human Resources. In her time away from work, she loves to cook new things, read, and find reasons to get outside.

Erin first learned about CASA while working at a children’s literacy program in Tennessee. A CASA contacted the program about getting a child involved in the summer months to maintain the child’s reading level and make sure she was getting a chance to be with other kids. The whole interaction caught Erin’s attention–this advocate knew the child’s needs so well and, because of that, was able to support the child effectively.  Erin says, “Supportive relationships matter so much for all of us, and it struck me that this special relationship between a CASA and a child could really have an impact during a really challenging time in this child’s life.”

Erin advocates for three kids ages 12, 14, and 16.  The kids have been in care for 18 months and are currently on Trial Home Placement. Erin really enjoys building relationships with the kids, learning about who they are, and having time to really understand their perspectives.  Great job, Erin!

Yoko Gely – December 2020

Yoko Gely is our December volunteer spotlight! “Born and raised in Japan, I have worked as a healthcare social worker at a nursing home and a paraprofessional for children with special needs. I’ve been married for 32 years and blessed with 3 children. After my youngest with special needs finished the high school, I wanted to do something which I could utilize my experiences as a social worker, a paraprofessional and a mother and fortunately found out about CASA from my friend. I’m hopefully finishing up my first case soon and it has been nothing but rewarding to me. I will never forget the faces of my kiddos when I first met them. They were sitting close together, scared and confused, and they could barely talk. After over 2 years, all I see now is their smiling faces and they cannot stop talking to me. It is rewarding to see their transformation! I’m planning to continue working as a CASA as long as I can.”

Yoko has been crucial in keeping her case on track and moving it forward for reunification to occur. We are thankful to Yoko for being a consistent, persistent, and positive CASA in these children’s lives. Thank you Yoko!

JulieAnne Mattson – November 2020

We are shining the Spotlight on JulieAnne Mattson this month.  She completed training in February 2016  and received her first (and current) case in May 2016, which included three teenage brothers. The older two achieved guardianship and reunification. She’s still advocating for the youngest brother, who has had some ups and downs, but is doing well and has some goals.

JulieAnne heard about the CASA program from a friend who is a foster parent. JulieAnne states “I’m inspired by my friend who has been fostering for many years. I didn’t think fostering was the right fit for me,  but I had a desire to help children and she suggested this great program. I think it’s helpful for there to be a consistent person in the children’s lives. In my case, there have been multiple foster homes and case workers over the past four and a half years, but I think having the same CASA volunteer has been helpful to the boys.  I appreciate that each CASA only has one case at a time. I admire and respect the case workers and juvenile officers who have so many cases and children; I sure don’t know how they keep up!

I share my CASA case with my friend and business partner, Julie Wesley.  Since we had three boys to begin with, having both of us working together was very helpful.  I encourage anyone who is interested, but perhaps a little unsure or intimidated, maybe signing up with a friend or relative would be good for you as well!”

Thank you, JulieAnne, for your dedication and commitment all these years to the young men you advocate for. We appreciate you!

Anita Hayes-Birt – October 2020

This month we are recognizing Anita Hayes-Birt for our monthly spotlight. Anita was sworn in as a CASA volunteer May of 2018. She was immediately assigned to a case that she has been advocating for the same child since. Anita shared why she became a CASA volunteer:

“I became a CASA volunteer because oftentimes children are voiceless and society ignores children if they don’t excel in sports or spelling competitions.  Humanness requires caring for our most vulnerable populations – young, old, disabled.  Kindness costs nothing, but enriches so much!”

Anita has adapted to the changing circumstances of the pandemic all while staying in constant contact with her child. Anita ensures that her child has a voice during team meetings and in the courtroom. We want to give a tremendous thanks to Antia for her dedication to CASA and the child she serves!

Ruth Threlkeld – September 2020

Ruth Threlkeld has been a CASA Volunteer since November 2018. She found CASA when googling the terms “mission child work” and she promptly applied. Ruth just wrapped up her first case which was a successful reunification between an adolescent girl and her mother. Ruth started her case in Columbia in 2018 but ended up driving 2 hrs both ways to visit her child and her mother. Ruth said it made her very happy to help reunify the family. Knowing that the family was stretched thin for resources, Ruth often brought groceries from her local food bank when visiting the family. That speaks volumes about who Ruth is daily.

Ruth has been married to her husband, Edward Threlkeld, for 43 years; they have 2 sons, 5 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren. Ruth had a very successful career as a Nurse Practitioner and is now retired. Although she said, “My husband and I don’t really know what retirement is!” and this is true. She and Edward are very active in their church, Sturgeon Methodist Church, about 4 days a week. They volunteer with the food bank – “our idea of fun is to go to the food bank”, where they help about 180 families every month. Ruth is also a lay pastor at the church.

Ruth’s ability to pastor and her ability to connect with people have really helped her in her role as a CASA. She continues to have phone contact with the family she helped to reunify because they find her guidance and counsel helpful. Ruth looks forward to her next case and continuing to change another child’s story.

Karen Kennedy – August 2020

Karen Kennedy is our volunteer spotlight of the month!

“Parenting was a highlight of my life and I was looking for a way to help my community. . . so becoming a CASA seemed like a good thing to do. But then I got cold feet, wondering if I was up to the task – knowing nothing about the court system or social services. Would it work well in my schedule? I’m so glad I finally went through with the training. I learned a lot and I have really enjoyed being a CASA – even if at times it can be frustrating and at times I’m not sure I’m doing all I can. There’s nothing like really clicking with a kid!

When I’m not advocating, I enjoy weaving rag rugs, singing, cooking, traveling, reading, line dancing, doing genealogy, and riding my bike. I’m also active in my church, Trinity Presbyterian Church and several other organizations.

I have 4 great kids, all happily married, and 10 amazing grandchildren. My husband of 47 years, Bill, is retired and we enjoy hanging out together.”

Karen is a great CASA. She has been assigned a child who deals with many special needs. Karen chooses appropriate activities and utilizes sensitivity and creativity to connect with her child both in-person, and remotely. Recent Zoom activities have included sewing a mask and letting child pick out material, baking muffins (and later delivering them), making biscuits, reading together, going on tours of her garden and performing magic tricks. Karen is an amazing advocate and continues to surprise with her creative approach to building and maintaining rapport with her child. She constantly gives new meaning to the term “zealous advocate”.

Susie Woods – July 2020

We are recognizing Susie Woods for our monthly Spotlight. During this pandemic, Susie was creative in finding a way to remain connected to her three children. She turned good old fashion hand written letters into a way for the children to express themselves more freely. Susie shared “this is a big step in our relationship because it’s difficult to get her to open up” and “She can express more through written words”.

Susie stated “I became an advocate because I have wanted to help foster children for a long time but just didn’t know how to get involved. I read a magazine article by Jimmy Wayne where he mentioned CASA, so I contacted HOM CASA and started the training”. Susie swore in on September 4, 2018 and is a co-CASA on her first case with six children.

When not advocating, Susie enjoys playing the guitar, cooking, gardening, traveling, and reading. Her highlight of any day is spending time with her husband, her 5 children, 2 step children, and 4 grandchildren. She also enjoys taking her black labs out for a romp in the woods.

Thank you Susie for going above and beyond to help this family of six in multiple placements know how much you care about them and for helping their mother find a place for them to call home.

Brenda Pipes – June 2020

We are shining our CASA spotlight on Brenda Pipes this month! A few words from her on why she is a CASA volunteer, “I became a CASA Volunteer because I wanted to make a positive impact in children lives.  I believe every child is special and deserves love, security and a safe environment in which to grow, dream and succeed in life no matter the circumstances.”

Brenda retired 6 years ago from the Education field and we are thrilled she decided to join the CASA team. Something else that keeps her busy besides CASA is dabbling in genealogy research. She has 2 children and 1 granddaughter, and they enjoy having family skyping sessions since living in different states. When Brenda tells me fun stories about her granddaughter, her face lights up; one of her recent skype stories was about hula hooping with her granddaughter for her birthday! Brenda said, “my hula loop even lights up”.  Brenda has a fun and caring heart, which is something I appreciate about her.

Brenda swore-in as a CASA volunteer November 2018. She has been assigned to her first case since she was sworn in and has worked diligently to be sure the children on her case have the educational tools they need to succeed.  With all the hardships of COVID, Brenda has made sure the children continue learning by reading to them over the phone and that they have summer camp plans.

Thank you, Brenda, for your diligent work throughout this case, for continuously being open to learning new things, and of course, being a consistent positive person in these children’s lives!

Kate Jagger – May 2020

This month we are recognizing Kate Jagger for our monthly Spotlight. Kate is an exceptional CASA! She has two children on her case, both with very different needs. The older child has some significant mental health issues and has spent most of the time in residential care. Kate has been a faithful in-person (and now Zoom) visitor at each new residential facility. She calls the child regularly and thinks of creative ways to tap into his creativity and unique skills, such as riddles and other games.

The case worker for this child invited him to a local restaurant as a reward for improvement and when she asked him who he wanted to attend, he quickly replied “my CASA”. Though he has now been placed out of state with relatives, Kate has remained in contact with him, as well as other team members and extended relatives. Kate has tirelessly worked to obtain as much information as possible regarding the children, such as attending daycare visits, IEP meetings, regular check-ins with placements, family and her Advocate Supervisor.

Kate doesn’t shy away from tough conversations and has brought up several significant issues to the team for discussion and decision-making. Though Kate is a relatively new CASA, she embodies the spirit of a CASA – she is caring, empathic, curious, respectful and engaged. I, Leah, am proud to work with Kate.

Tod Schattgen – April 2020

Tod has been a CASA volunteer for nearly one and half years. He has been on the same case for that time frame. Tod has been dedicated to Heart of Missouri CASA since he became and advocate.  Tod has traveled over 860 miles to have visits with the child on his case. We want to thank Tod for being an outstanding Heart of Missouri CASA Advocate.

Here is a little bit about Tod and is family:

Tod retired from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s, Commissioned Officer Corps nearly 10 years ago. During his 23 years of service, he and his family moved every 3 to 5 years. He stated “Moving every few years I was never able to establish a connection to the communities that we lived in. We made many lifelong friends along the way, but the connection to the communities never materialized.” When he retired, he and his family moved to his wife’s hometown in Callaway County. He and his wife continued to volunteer in the local schools that their three children attended.

As his connection with the local school grew he was asked to informally mentor a trouble child in elementary school. Through this informal mentoring he was frequently blocked from access and information that would have aided him in connecting with the child. That’s when he learned about the CASA program. Through CASA training he learned why he struggling with access and information and learned that through the CASA program he would be empowered with the tools and authority to help him help children in his community.

Julia Faber – March 2020

Julia received her case in July of 2017. She advocates for a brother and sister who are 12 years old. In the 2 1/2 years that Julia has been on her case, the brother has been moved to different placements 10 times. The sister has remained in her first placement. The moves have been difficult for both children as they are very close. Julia has been their voice by trying to keep visits/contact going and consistently asking for the brother to be placed in Columbia, which he has been here since August of 2019. Her case has had a lot of twists and turns, 6 caseworkers, 10 placements and 1 CASA. When all the other changes happened, Julia was the one who knew the children and the history of the case. Here are a few words from Julia:

“I am the School Nurse at Grant Elementary and am the proud grandmother of 4 (11yo, 6yo, 2yo, and 3 months) that all live here in Columbia. I enjoy knitting, reading, sewing quilt tops, and spending time with my grandchildren.  In the summer I like to go hiking and ride my bike on the Katy trail.  I have 5 siblings, 4 sisters and 1 very lucky brother, and a cat named Max.  I was really excited for my Spring Break trip to Iceland – but I will get there another time!

My oldest son is a criminal defense attorney here in town and mentioned CASA to me about 4 years ago, thinking that I would like to do that.  He knew that I had driven for Meals on Wheels for about 25 years and enjoy volunteering.  I looked into it  and here I am!  While the frustration of a long case is tough, I enjoy knowing that these kids know who I am, that I care about what happens to them, and that I’ll be with them for as long as it takes.”

Thank you Julia for continuing to be the same face and voice for your CASA kids.  We appreciate you and your dedication. 

Joy Naeger – February 2020

Joy has been a volunteer since April 2016 and is on her second case. Each time she has chosen to take on cases working with an infant. Some may think or say, “why would an infant need a CASA?” The reality is these babies are truly dependent on an adult and have no speech at all to voice their best interest. Joy’s cases have had difficult aspects to each of them. Joy has navigated these difficulties with a sound objective mind, thoroughly thinking of the whole situation, remaining professional and patient along the way. Joy is lovely to work with and we appreciate her greatly!

Here are a few words from Joy: “I moved to Columbia with my husband in 1972 so he could attend the University of Missouri. We made our home here and raised three children. I have worked for the University since 1973 in various departments. I retired from the School of Law in 2016, and continue to work part time. Several years before retiring I heard a request on KBIA for CASA volunteers and made the decision to become a CASA. It has been one of the most rewarding commitments of my life. When not working at the School of Law or actively volunteering for a CASA child, I enjoy making special memories with my 5 grandchildren, traveling, volunteer knitting and knitting special gifts for family and friends.

Christa Daro – January 2020

Christa was sworn in on October 11, 2016 and began her first case on February 6, 2017. Christa is still on her first case which is getting close to adoption. Christa shared a few words about herself:

“I became a CASA because God put a tugging in my heart for the children in foster care. I have several friends that foster and have adopted. I knew that my gifts weren’t to foster or even adopt, but my heart was heavy for kids in foster care.  Suzanne came to my church and explained what a CASA was and I knew immediately this is what God wanted me to do!

As a CASA I have been mightily blessed to help the children in my case to move toward permanency in their lives.  I have gained a lot of insight into the foster care system and how it works and how CASAs can help in that system.   As a CASA I have received a lot of training on childhood trauma and how it affects people in their future as adults. I hope that my work as a CASA can help children have healthy outcomes after being in the system.

I am engaged and plan to get married in May to Eric Edwards. I have a son, Adam, age 18 and a daughter, Brooklynn, age 15.  Eric has 3 adult daughters, Erica, Ashley, and Allison and 2 grandsons, Teddy and Emmerson.  We have two dogs, Pepper and Earl and one cat, Eddie. Our family enjoys being outside and loves anything to do with nature.”

HOM CASA is lucky to have Christa as an advocate! We appreciate her hard work and for being a strong voice for her kids! Thank you, Christa!!

Sue Anderson – December 2019

When she’s not spoiling her grandchildren or working, you can find Sue volunteering her valued time advocating for her adorable CASA child!

Sue swore in during May of 2018 and has been serving on her case for over a year and a half. Sue is the perfect match for her sweet, energetic CASA kiddo. They quickly formed a bond and Sue has been able to visit her child every month and attend all of her meetings and court hearings. Rain, shine, or in this case a snow storm, Sue always shows up. We are so thankful to have Sue as a part of Heart of Missouri CASA and we truly appreciate the difference she is making for the child she serves and for our community.

Here’s what Sue has to say about volunteering with CASA: “I became a CASA volunteer because I wanted to give a voice and be of service to our most vulnerable children who find themselves in foster care as a result of abuse, neglect, abandonment. Often these children are without a voice in a frightening and confusing legal system. We speak for them and express their wishes to the judge in all Court matters.

Sometimes a CASA volunteer is the only consistent, stable, caring and positive person in their lives…and their lives matter. What we give them now could make a lifelong difference on who they become as adults.”

Kayla Welch – November 2019

She received her case on May 25, 2017 and continues to advocate for the same child today.  Here are a few words from Kayla:

“I own my own pet sitting business and spend most of my weekends and evenings taking care of everything from dogs and cats to birds and guinea pigs. I just started law school at the University of Missouri this August, and time is already flying. Any free time I have is usually spent on a trail in the middle of nowhere with my trusty four-legged sidekick, Milo. I hope to one day become a federal law enforcement officer and/or prosecuting attorney focused on crimes against children. My long term dream job is working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to help reunite families or find answers and closure for others.

I volunteer with CASA because helping children has always been close to my heart. As an adopted kid myself, I know first-hand the incredible difference a strong team and the right adopters can make in a kid’s life. (I don’t know where I’d be without my amazing foster parents and social worker(s), not to mention my parents!)

I signed up with CASA the morning of my 21st birthday after meeting a CASA at an involvement fair during my freshman year of undergrad at Stephens. I’ve been on the same case for that entire time period, making it about two years now, and my kiddo has been in the system for a little over six years. The Extreme Recruitment Team has helped us breathe life back into the case, but unfortunately, we haven’t been able to find a permanent placement (yet!). Regardless, my kiddo has been making fantastic progress and really growing as a person, which has been a blessing to watch over the past few years. I’m grateful to Heart of Missouri CASA for allowing me to make a difference in a child’s life and my own community while I grind out these degrees!”

We are grateful for you, Kayla, and your dedication and commitment to being the voice for your child. You have really made a difference in his life. Thank you Kayla!

Cynthia Beverley – October 2019

Cynthia swore-in November 2018 and has been on her first case advocating for 3 children since January 2019.  She has navigated working with a large team and dealing with the sometimes difficult dynamics of having 3 children on a case, where there can be longer court reports and many details to keep track of.  She is professional in all her interactions with the team members, while making sure the best interests of the children are heard. She consistently visits the kids, making sure they know they matter.

From Cynthia, “I have worked with children most of my adult life, and my retirement from teaching a few years ago left a hole in my world. I knew about CASA and had planned to make it  my main post-retirement activity, but when it came time to sign up for training, I chickened out. One day my daughter called from Seattle with a simple message, “Mom, you should be a CASA.  They need people like you.” She and her husband were eight months into their new role as foster parents and felt fortunate to have been assigned a CASA. My daughter also knew that I had previous, positive experience with foster care, as my own two brothers were adopted through the system. I made the leap and have not looked back. The children in my case are beautiful and remarkable, and I have been humbled by how hard the people involved work– both families and professionals– to make things better.  It feels good to be part of something this important.”

Thank you Cynthia! We appreciate you greatly!

Gary Bonsall – September 2019

Gary has been a CASA volunteer for 2 years. He has been on the same case for those two years. Gary has been dedicated to Heart of Missouri CASA  since he became an advocate. Gary has been the one constant in his child’s life and this has shown through when it comes to pivotal decisions with the case. Gary is a tremendous asset to Heart of Missouri CASA and we want to thank him for helping give children a voice.

Gary is a very humble man. He has a wife of almost 50 wonderful years and two biological children. Gary’s kindness goes back to taking in a foster child that lived with them for several years. This child remains apart of the family and she is considered their daughter to this day. Gary is a proud grandparent of 7 grandchildren. Gary retired as the Director of Student Life from the Missouri School for the Deaf in Fulton, Missouri. After his retirement, he continued substitute teaching at the Missouri School for the Deaf for 5 years. Gary has been on the board of Heartland Church for over 30 years. Gary’s daughter, Christina, summarized her father as “always had a heart for helping people.” Gary and his wife continue to help those in need by offering any kind of assistance they can. Gary enjoys his farm and tending to the animals and home that he built for his family.

Jennifer Lage – August 2019

Jen is a loving wife and mother of 5. Her passion for our community’s most vulnerable children is evident in the time, energy, and heart that she pours into being a CASA.

Jen swore in during February of 2018 and has remained a consistent, stable adult for her 3 CASA kiddos. She has taken the time to see her children in a variety of settings such as school, home, sibling visits, extracurricular activities and going shopping! As all CASA volunteers know, cases can go through many changes that can cause emotions to run high. Though Jen has faced some really tough situations as a CASA, her dedication and commitment has never wavered. We are so thankful for her and the impact she makes!

Here’s why Jen volunteers: “I became interested in volunteering with CASA as a way to start getting involved with the foster care system. My hope is that this is the beginning of a lifetime of involvement and opens doors and opportunities to do even more. I enjoy knowing that I am one small piece in the larger picture of establishing safety, security and love in the lives of children in Boone County.”

Mary Hoskins – July 2019

Mary became a CASA volunteer in May of 2016 and is currently on her second case. Her current case has a couple of siblings who are in different placements and attend different schools. Mary is consistent with her visits and persistent in advocating for what she believes is in the best interest of the kids. One of Mary’s many strengths is her ability to always make the parents feel welcome and heard at FST meetings and during home and school visits.

Here are a few words from Mary about why she wanted to get involved as a CASA volunteer: “I became a CASA volunteer after I retired from working for the State of Missouri. I am very fortunate to have the time now to devote to CASA activities. One of the reasons I volunteered with CASA is after I retired, I wanted to get involved with children and families at a level where I felt I could really make a difference in their lives. One of the greatest benefits for me as a CASA is that I have learned so much about my community, the systems that some families must navigate and what living in Columbia is like for struggling families. It has also pushed me out of my comfort zone to do things I never have done before. My CASA children are always teaching me new things! It’s always a learning experience. I have learned to look for strengths instead of just the difficulties. I feel that the longer I serve as a CASA, the better I’m able to serve the children. Sometimes it’s easy to get discouraged if you feel you’re not doing enough or if the current situation seems stalled, but the CASA staff are so encouraging and supportive in helping see the big picture.”

“I have lived in Columbia since graduating from the University. My husband and I have a daughter and one-year granddaughter in Nashville, so we like to travel there as often as we can. Other activities I also enjoy are my Book Club, volunteering at Church, Zumba and dancing.”

Thank you, Mary, for being such a strong voice for your CASA kids and for helping the parents advocate for themselves as well.

Janet Baker – June 2019

Here are a few words from Janet Baker, our volunteer of the month! “I became a CASA for many reasons, but the main reasons are: 1. I love children, 2. my daughter is a foster mother and I see the issues her kids face and 3. I was adopted out of foster care when I was 2 years old.

My name is Janet Baker and I’m a single mother of three grown children; my daughter and 2 sons and am blessed with 4 grandchildren, 1 girl and 3 boys; two of these wonderful grandchildren will be adopted by my daughter out of foster care within the next month.  I also have a foreign exchange student that lived with my family for a year whom I lovingly call my daughter from Puebla Mexico and she and her husband will be giving me yet another grandson any day now.

I, along with my biological brother, were raised on a farm where we had dairy cows, row crops and a huge garden.  I am so grateful to my parents for giving me such a wonderful life.”

We appreciate Janet for her continued efforts of child advocacy on her case and her big heart for children. Thank you Janet!!

Lisa Ovaitt – May 2019

Lisa swore-in during May of 2018 and is on her first case. Lisa’s dedication to her three CASA children/youth is truly inspirational as she has driven over 3,800 miles to visit her kids. She has visited them in various placements, attended school events, and celebrated their birthdays with them. This has been a complex case, and Lisa has persevered during times of adversity with the team.

Lisa was born on Mars (Street) and comes from Mexico (MO). She is the mother of 4 brilliant adults. Lisa has had every job from car salesperson to teacher to radio movie critic, but considers herself a professional volunteer.

When Lisa saw the TV ad for CASA, she recognized it as a perfect fit for her desire to give back, in a significant way, to the world which has shown her such awe-inspiring opportunities. Lisa feels “it is the least she can do”.

In her free time, Lisa likes to read, garden, and hone her vocabulary.

Callaway County is lucky to have Lisa as a volunteer and appreciates the many hours she gives to this family.

Milly Biggs – April 2019

Even with working full time and having a family of her own, Milly finds time to make an impact on her community.

Milly swore-in during October of 2016 and is on her second case. Milly’s dedication to her CASA child is truly inspirational. Last year, she drove over 1,000 miles to visit her child. From attending therapeutic horseback riding lessons to seeing a movie at the movie theater, she has seen her child in many different settings. They’ve developed a close bond and love to laugh and chat together. In addition, Milly has secured over $1,000 in grant funding for HOM CASA through her employer!

Here’s why Milly volunteers: “I’ve always heard people say how bad the foster care system is and how so many kids slip through the cracks, unnoticed & unheard. Becoming a CASA was a chance to do something positive for the foster care system and a kid that needs an anchor when they feel like they are drowning. I have been able to build a relationship with my kiddo and ensure all the changes in her case, her life, are what’s best for her.

The anchor is what holds the ship in rough waters.  Be the anchor for a child’s life when all they’ve known has suddenly changed and they are in rough waters.”

Nikki Aguero – March 2019

Nikki has been an advocate to a young boy in her first case since May 2016. From the beginning, she made sure he knew she was his voice to the team and court. Nikki has advocated for many positive changes in his life including getting him into Extreme Recruitment. An uncle in Washington, DC was found and he is currently going through the steps towards a possible adoption.

From Nikki: “When I learned about CASA from an encouraging friend, I immediately knew in my soul that I needed to volunteer.  I remember sitting in the courtroom as a child feeling no one was on my side. Being a CASA is extremely meaningful to me, it not only gives a voice and consistent, loving support to a child in desperate need of a reliable person in their life, it heals a little wounded piece of my heart; I hope it heals a little piece of theirs, as well.  Peace and joy are things I strive to keep in my core, as there is too little time in life for negativity or hate.  I adore time spent with family, art, music, food, and being active in all kinds of things; I’ll try anything once. My husband, Shon, and I were high school sweethearts, we have two awesome sons, Austin and Isaac. We’ve been blessed with a goddaughter, Mai, from Egypt and a darling daughter-in-law, Laura.  As a HS teacher, I have many more children for whom I advocate and love.  I hope all of my children will learn to value and love others and pass it on, as we all do our part to make the world a better place.”

Nikki’s Team values her recommendations and she has made a tremendous impact in her CASA kid’s life. Thank you Nikki! We are incredibly thankful for your dedication and consistency.  We’re lucky to have you!

Krista Rodgers – February 2019

“When we first moved back to Missouri, I wanted to find a place to volunteer; I was also contemplating a social work graduate program. At a work lunch, my husband heard about CASA: a perfect melding of my desire to volunteer and interest in social work. Shortly after, we received tickets to Justice is Served where I was able to hear impact stories from children who have CASAs and speak with several CASA volunteers. I knew this was where I was meant to be; I wanted to be there when others are not and help children through such hard times in their lives. I registered for volunteer training the next day. When I was offered my first case, with three children, I nervously accepted.  We began our journey that following week and, through all the ups and downs, I could not be happier with my decision because they needed someone and that someone was me.”

Krista has been advocating for 3 children for the past year. She has proven to be a strong advocate for these kids, which has not been an easy task with the family dynamics. Krista has kept her objectivity, spoken up on the children’s behalf when needed and remained consistent in these children’s lives. Thank you Krista; you are greatly appreciated!

Kelly Borman – January 2019

Kelly has been a CASA volunteer for 2 years. She has had 3 cases total and served a total of 6 children. Kelly has been dedicated to Heart of Missouri CASA  since she became an advocate. This has shown through Kelly’s passion of helping all the children she has advocated for in Callaway County. Kelly is valuable asset to Heart of Missouri CASA and we want to thank her for helping give children a voice.

Here are a few words from Kelly:

“I became a CASA because my eyes were opened to the need when a family at church was trying to adopt their foster kids. Two of the children did not have a CASA and the baby did. The parents explained to us that the process with a CASA went much more smoothly and more swiftly. They educated people at our church about the lack of CASAs and the real need for them. This really touched my heart and I knew it was a way I could make the difference in the lives of children. There are too many children in foster care but each one of them deserves a voice. I have had 3 cases serving 6 children in two years.

I am married to Tim Borman, an Investment representative at the Callaway Bank in Fulton, and have 3 adult children and 3 dogs. I am a former elementary teacher in Columbia and North Callaway and love kids! Currently I volunteer in several capacities with the Callaway Chamber of Commerce, the Brick District Playhouse and the Kingdom of Callaway Historical Society. I encourage anyone who has the capacity to love and advocate for children to become a CASA.”

Cindy Gergen – December 2018

Cindy’s giving, compassionate heart has made an impact all across Columbia. When she’s not spending time with her CASA kiddo, you can find her tutoring English or hitting the gym!

Cindy swore in during February of 2016 and is on her third case! Though she has had cases with many different aspects, she has been able to effectively advocate and build a relationship with each of the kids that she has served. Cindy always works hard on her court reports and makes fact-based recommendations. In fact, when she turned in her most recent report, the caseworker said “That was the best CASA report I’ve seen written.”

Here’s what Cindy has to say about why she volunteers with CASA: “I first learned of CASA a few years ago when my daughter was a Theta at Mizzou, and she was my inspiration to become involved.  Having recently started my third case, I have seen the need, up close and personal, for these kids to have a consistent presence in their life who will stick with them through a very challenging time.”

Cindy’s hard work and dedication are truly invaluable and we are so thankful for her!

Jane Smith – November 2018

Jane received her first case in March of 2012 and is currently on her fourth case.

A few words from Jane, “I became a CASA when I became an empty nester. I graduated from MU in 1986 with a degree in Child and Family Development. Before my children were born, I was a preschool teacher. I have felt in each case I helped my CASA children in their situations. I find the Continuing Education programs offered interesting and helpful in my work with the children and the court system. I really believe in the CASA program and that is why Tom and I help financially as well.  I am very fortunate to have the desire and time to be a CASA.”

So far, Jane has advocated for 6 children which resulted in two reunifications and one guardianship. One of her many strengths is her ability to build relationships with the members of her team, parents and foster families. Jane is very active in the community, also volunteering substantial time with The Assistance League of Mid-Missouri. We are incredibly thankful for Jane’s hard work and consistency on her cases, and also her generosity in supporting our program! Thank you Jane. We’re lucky to have you!

Candida Rogers – October 2018

A few words from our volunteer spotlight Candida Rogers, “About ten years ago, I saw a notice in the newspaper under “Volunteer Opportunities” about CASA and thought it would be something I would like to do.  However, my work as an ER nurse, lastly at Women’ and Children’s Hospital, meant variable workdays and shifts so I could not commit.  The month I retired, I started the class to be a CASA.  In a few months, I began to serve a three sibling family that had had an unfair share of troubles in their young lives.  Today, two of those children remain in foster/residential care.  Thankfully, their elder sister went into a wonderful foster home and is today a student at a local college.

Over the years, I think the most important thing I have been able to offer these children is being a consistent, no drama, adult presence in their lives.  I cannot change their developmental difficulties, nor their living circumstances, but I can show up for visits no matter where they are, keep in communication with them, share meals, walk and talk together. I try to convey to the FST and the court what the children say they want and need as well as what I see and hear in the places they live.  My hope is that each teen gains some of the tools to have healthy, productive, adult lives.”

For the past 5 years, Candida has advocated for the children on her case in different areas in regards to their school, placements, and mental health; giving the team information in regards to the children’s wishes.

There are many words to describe Candida: courageous, adaptable, understanding, compassionate, persistent, diligent and ambitious, the list goes on. I (Leslie) am grateful for each one of these characteristics. Thank you Candida for your consistency and advocacy over the years on your case.

Linda Willenburg – September 2018

Linda and her husband, Trent, began their first case in July 2013. They were a great support to the foster family with their consistent visits to two young boys. Due to their commitment and loving relationship, the boys were adopted by the same foster family in late 2016. When asked if she would take another case in March 2017, Linda willingly agreed. She worked hard to establish a positive relationship with two challenging teenagers. While one has aged out, Linda has worked diligently securing guardianship for the other teenager. Without her persistance in getting paperwork completed, this guardianship would have stalled out. Thank you Linda for your perserverance and willingness to go the extra mile.

A few words from Linda: “I was a child who suffered abuse and neglect while growing up, yet my heart’s desire was to be a wife and mother when I grew up. My husband, Trent and I have had the privilege and responsibility of raising three wonderful children; two sons and a daughter, who are all now married and either have children or are expecting a child very soon. One thing that stood out to me, even as a child, was that children do not choose to be born and do not have anything to do with getting here and that parents are responsible to care for them, love them and teach them. Trent and I wanted to raise kind and loving, hardworking kids who would love God and others. These three children were our passion and our ministry –“training up a child in the way he should go”. When they were all out of the home and on their own, we wanted and needed a way to be able to serve and help others. We tried working with the elderly for a while, but while at SERVE one day they recommended CASA to Trent to have the opportunity to help children who needed to have a voice! For me it was exciting as well as scary because I was still “that kid” and could relate to these children to at least to some degree. Our first case was with such a wonderful first-time foster family and two awesome boys! Both the foster family and Trent and I learned so much while working together to bring permanency for those two boys who they adopted! While we were still on our first case our first granddaughter was born and since then have three more precious grandchildren with one more due in October! Trent and I enjoy spending time with our grandchildren very much and get to see them every week so that their parents can have some time for themselves. I also enjoy gardening, knitting and crocheting, cooking, reading and going for motorcycle rides with my husband.

So, it turns out that being a part of helping children and has helped me probably more than I helped them. While on this journey I have come full circle and because of what I have learned from different speakers, the children and books I realized that I had not faced the abuse and neglect of my childhood and I am now able to stop running and hiding in constant fear and becoming the woman God intended for me to be. My current case has sexual abuse, verbal abuse, neglect and physical abuse. I was VERY hesitant to take another case, especially because of the sexual abuse. It was getting kind of close to home and I had been running a very long time! But somehow, I did it anyway, and am seeing two more children realize that they are valued, heard and cared for. That two people are willing to sacrifice just about anything and everything for children they did not even give birth to without really “getting anything in return” is so remarkable, honorable and astounding!!! I have incredible awe for our foster families we work with. It is a joy and a privilege to help a child have a voice and be a part of seeing their lives change for the better.”

Linda was one of the very first advocates to join the Callaway County program in 2013! Heart of Missouri CASA would like to thank Linda for sharing her story and for the many hours spent advocating for these children in Callaway County!

Cynthia Helphingstine – August 2018

From yoga class to her successful career, Cynthia is a busy woman! However, she faithfully makes time to visit with and advocate for our community’s most vulnerable children.

Cynthia swore in during November 2015 and is on her second case. Cynthia is a consistent, stable person in a life of many changing adults for the children on her case. She always pays close attention to the details during home visits and always communicates her observations to the team. Cynthia’s strong advocacy and caring heart are so valuable to her work as a CASA volunteer. She has a heart for our mission and is not afraid to take a stand when changes need to be made to keep children safe.

Here’s what Cynthia has to say about her time as a CASA Volunteer: “I really love being a CASA.  I get to make sure each child knows that they matter.  I tell them that what they feel or think is important and it is my job to make sure the judge knows what they want.  It is a great feeling to get to advocate for a child and know that I am making a difference.”

Thank you, Cynthia, for the difference you are making for our community!

Becca Highland – July 2018

Becca has been a strong advocate for the youth she has served, making sure she is consistently visiting, advocating where needed, all while positively impacting the youth.

Here are a few words from Becca, “My late grandpa Gross (Ed Gross) had a saying that is on the walls of Candlelight Lodge somewhere that said “The greatest privilege in life is to serve” and I have known that since I was a little girl.

As I had my own family I found opportunities to serve our community with my two sons inspired by my parents and our family holiday tradition of  The White Envelope.  However, a couple of years ago I was on a solo retreat asking the question to myself “what next” as my kids were grown and out of the house. I looked back to when I had felt the most fulfilled and it was working at JJC thru college and then subsequently with abused and neglected kids in Kansas City. I had heard of CASA and it seemed that the timing was perfect to do a little research. I made a few phone calls and the next thing I know I’m in training and then getting sworn in as a CASA.

Being an advocate for the kids that I have been a privilege to serve has turned into an unexpected blessing.  The time invested comes back 100 fold when I get to witness families reunited or playing a game of hoops with a teen who has dreams of being in the NBA and the conversation turns into other dreams he has in other arenas in life. I walked into the doors of CASA for training one night thinking I get to help advocate for kids needs and a year and a half later I sense that I have learned as much from my CASA kids than they do from me.  My grandpa had it right, it is a privilege to serve and be a CASA.  I’m the lucky one.”

Lincoln Sheets – June 2018

Lincoln Sheets began volunteering for CASA in August of 2015 and in January of this year received his second case. In his first case, Lincoln was assigned a brother and sister who were placed in the St Louis area in different facilities. He diligently advocated for them which resulted in reunification with their parents.  He not only built a relationship with the kids and parents, but with his team as well.  

A little background from Lincoln: “I am a physician and medical researcher who serves as Director of Health Informatics for the School of Medicine at the University of Missouri. After college, I enjoyed a brief career in professional ballet, then worked for 20 years in software engineering before entering medical school and my current career.

As a medical student, I organized medical missions in Africa and Latin America, and helped create a student-run free clinic in Columbia, Missouri. In addition to my faculty position at Mizzou Med, I live and serve full-time at St. Francis House, a Catholic Worker community that provides shelter and hospitality to the homeless residents of Columbia. I am an active member of the Friends (Quaker) Meeting.

My free-time interests include dance, triathlon, movies, mountaineering, travel, languages, martial arts, and spending time with family at home in Columbia and in my hometown of Springfield, Missouri.

I wanted to be a CASA in order to help the kids and their families who must navigate the complexities of our legal system. In my first three years as a CASA, I’ve learned that patient listening and encouragement are probably the most valuable help I can give.”

When Lincoln was ready to take a second case, he chose two brothers who were placed in two different residential facilities, one in St. James and one in Kansas City.  

All together, Lincoln has traveled 3,776 miles to visit kids who were placed outside of Boone County and away from family who could not visit them.

Heart of Missouri CASA would like to thank you Lincoln for all the many hours and miles you have spent being the voice and familiar face to your kids!

Nick Drake – May 2018

A few words from Nick: “I became an advocate because of the great need for CASAs and because of a strong desire to honor God and love my neighbors as myself by being a servant in our community. As a CASA I have learned a great deal. One thing that really stands out, though, is the eye-opening reminder of the tragedy of brokenness in our world, particularly in families and relationships. This tragedy has made me more aware of the need for more and more people to invest in the lives of others.

My wife (Marsha) and I have been married for 16 years, and we have five children. Our two youngest (Zoe from Ethiopia and Micah from China) are adopted. People can read more about our adoption journey at our family website ( As a family, we love traveling together, spending time outside together, playing sports, and serving together with our local church family, Richland Baptist Church, where I have served as pastor for nearly five years.”

Nick has been on one case since July 2015. His case actually closed in August 2016 with reunification but sadly the child immediately came back into care. Nick has been dedicated to advocating for the best interest of this child even though others on the team were opposed to his suggestions several times. Through this adversity, Nick was able to help this child achieve permanency through guardianship with a wonderful family.  Heart of Missouri CASA would like to thank Nick for his dedication and many hours spent advocating for this child in Callaway County!

Sharon Schneeberger – April 2018

Sharon Schneeberger has been a CASA volunteer since February 2016. She has successfully advocated for 5 children on 2 cases and has just taken her third case.

Sharon diligently and thoroughly completes all aspects of her CASA role. She visits the children consistently, making sure to know and understand her kids’ best interests. She communicates well with team members on the case and makes sure to follow her role as a part of a team. She regularly attends the CASA CEs and we love that she is always wanting to learn more!

“I am a retired Stephens College professor and a parent of two children. Both academically and professionally, I have always been involved in the education of preschool children to adults. I like to learn and like to see others learn. My hope for each of my CASA children is that he or she enjoys going to school and is able to be a learner.

I am a member of two book groups; one group focuses on adult books and one focuses on children’s books.  I also, volunteer in the Literacy Corp and currently have a student who is learning English. Explaining the English language to a person with another first language is challenging. I also, volunteer one morning each week at the Daniel Boone Regional Library. My exciting task is returning non-fiction books to the shelves. The job has a clearly defined beginning, middle, and end.

I recognize the gravity of advocating for CASA children and appreciate the support the CASA staff offers to volunteers. In spite of my background of human development and learning, I find the many learning opportunities CASA offers priceless.  I often think about what else I can do to advocate for and support my CASA children and often a CASA training session provides me with an idea.”

We greatly appreciate you Sharon!

Nancy McKerrow – March 2018

A few words from Nancy:  “I am a retired Public Defender.  I still take appeals as a contract attorney.  In addition to being a CASA, I am a board member of the Boone County Children’s Services Board.  This is the board that awards funding to programs that help children in Boone County.  I also volunteer at Mid-Missouri Legal Services in the divorce clinic.  My hobbies include Mah Jongg and furniture painting (when I have time).  I look forward to working in my flower garden this spring and summer.  I decided to become a CASA because I like working with children of all ages and working with youth who have been the victims of physical and emotional abuse.  I live in the country with my wife and 7 cats.

Nancy has been on 5 cases since 2011 advocating for 11 children. After her most recent case closed, she was asked when she’d be ready for the next one and her reply was “sign me up, I’m ready!” Not only is she ready to take on case after case, she can be counted on to help HOM CASA in any way she can. From fundraising/social events, manning a table at recruitment event, and attending CE trainings, Nancy’s presence is welcoming.

Her cases may have all been different but what has been consistent is her commitment to being the best advocate for her kids that she can be. She’s the quiet voice with a loud impact.

Heart of Missouri CASA would like to thank Nancy for the many years she’s given to her cases and kids. And we know if we need to ask someone for help, Nancy’s ready!

Mike Currier – February 2018

A few words from Mike: “Taking the plunge into the ‘Fourth Quarter’ and ‘retirement’ is an interesting proposition! I am lucky! I found CASA and serve as an advocate for amazing kids! I volunteer for Mobility Worldwide (formerly PET) and help build carts that enable people with lower body disabilities to have transportation! I coach soccer through Columbia Sporting’s Recreational Program, and even get to play! I am an adult leader with Boy Scout Troop 707 and go on amazing backpack and camping trips! I love the True/False Film Festival and am a Volunteer! As I read this – it sounds like a lot! I give a little, but get so much back!”

Mike has been on 1 case since 2016. He has been dedicated, successful at performing the CASA role, and reliable throughout the length of this case.  He consistently visits the children, makes them the priority and speaks up in their best interest. The kiddos we serve need consistency and to know someone is there for them and Mike being that person is extremely important for the success of these children. Heart of Missouri CASA would like to thank Mike for his dedication and many hours spent advocating for these children in Boone County!

Betsy Schlemeier – January 2018

Betsy resides in Fulton with her husband Jorgen. She has two adult children, Sarah and Joe.

Betsy was sworn in on April 28, 2014 and has had ten cases advocating for 25 children! Betsy began her volunteer journey when she graciously stepped in on a case vacated by another CASA. During her advocacy, Betsy has seen seven children achieve guardianship, nine achieve reunification, five closed for other reasons, and she is presently seeking guardianship with her current four children. Betsy has gone well above and beyond when advocating due to her love for children and a desire to make a difference in the children’s lives as well as their families’ lives. Betsy is well respected by caseworkers, juvenile officers, GALs, and judges as she is well prepared in FST meetings and in court.  Betsy is not afraid to speak up on behalf of what her children want or need as well as what is in their best interest. Heart of Missouri CASA would like to thank Betsy for her dedication and many hours spent advocating for children in Callaway County!