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 (DrakeCity.com) 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!

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