By Sabrina Westfall
The Knox County Court Appointed Special Advocate program swore in seven new volunteers to be voices for abused and neglected children.
The new volunteers, sworn in by Knox Superior Court I Judge Tim Crowley, are Kelly Vieke, Val Goodman, Larry Marchino, Sandy Barker, Cheryl Ginder, Dana Wyant and Angie Downey.
The new volunteers, current volunteers and affiliates with the program all agree the Knox County CASA program is essential to assist youth that are going through the court system.
Each of the new volunteers had a specific reason for wanting to become a CASA volunteer, and are looking forward to the opportunity.
Larry Marchino has a unique perspective coming in as a volunteer, with his years working for the Department of Child Services. Marchino recently retired from the DCS after about 40 years with the organization – 20 of which he spent as the director.
“It’s something that I thought about before I retired because the CASA program always had a positive impact on the kids, and I think these kids need all the help they can get. Another set of eyes and another voice is always welcome,” Marchino said.
He added Judge Crowley’s willingness to work with the CASA program and ensure the program continues to thrive also played a huge part in his decision to become a volunteer.
Sandy Barker recently relocated to Vincennes from the UK, and heard about the CASA program during a Civitan Club meeting. Initially, she said the timing was not right for her to become a CASA volunteer, but a second presentation by Held inspired her to take the necessary training.
Her experience as a teacher and drive to help the youth was her main reasons to become a volunteer.
“I’ve worked with children all my life. I was a Youth Scout leader, a Brownie leader, and I taught for many, many years, and I miss the contact with children. I worked in three severely deprived areas within the UK, so I was aware of the difficulties some children have. For me, it’s an opportunity to use my time wisely, and work with an age group I love, and make a difference to their lives,” Barker said.
Barker said she is looking forward to the feeling of achievement associated with helping someone and making a child smile.
Kathy Evans has been a volunteer with the Knox County CASA program for about two years, and in that time has worked closely with a Child In Need of Service (CHIN).
“I’ve been able to stay with the case through a lot of twists and turns, and really been able to provide a voice for that child in the court system,” Evans explained.
As an advocate, she observes the child’s needs, attends visits, meets with the child’s parents and case worker, as well as the child’s foster family.
“Basically just making sure the child is OK, that things are going well, and advocate for things that maybe other people just don’t quite that need to be done to help the child when those things come up,” Evans said.
Evans said a career change steered her in the path of the CASA program because she would no longer be working with youth. She has been able to continue working with youth, while also utilizing her experience as a mental health therapist.
She encourages potential volunteers to look into the program to see if they could be of help to a local youth, but stresses the importance of the time and commitment involved in being a volunteer.
“I wouldn’t take the commitment lightly, but at the same time I would assure them that if they did make that commitment they would find it rewarding,” Evans said.
NOTE: This is part two in a series. Earlier this week, CASA Director Dena Held explained what the CASA program does in What is the Knox County CASA program?