This article is one in a series of stories focusing on local agencies that receive support from the United Way of Chaves County, which is currently conducting its annual fundraising campaign.
Although a difficult position, volunteering for Chaves County CASA is one of the most gratifying experiences one could have, said Executive Director Carrie-Leigh Cloutier.
“I’m very blessed to go to work and help people,” she said. “I’m inspired by the people I work with, and I’m proud to be around people who are willing to change their lives.”
CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) allows children, especially in cases of abuse or neglect, to have a voice in court. Since its beginning in the late 1970s, CASA has created a network of 59,000 volunteers standing with more than two million children within 954 programs nationwide, according to the website.
The local branch of CASA doesn’t just help children have a voice in court, though. Their advocacy program does allow volunteers to “walk hand in hand” with children through the court system, Cloutier said, but they also offer parenting classes and have two very supportive dogs: Emma, a golden retriever, and the newly recruited labradoodle, Moose.
But of course most of the program is based on walking children through court cases. This is both incredibly rewarding, but also very difficult, Cloutier said.
“You see horrifying situations every day,” she said. From drug-addicted infants to 3-year-olds with broken bones, volunteering for CASA is not easy.
But it really works.
“It’s the hardest volunteer work I’ve ever been involved in,” Cloutier admitted. “It makes me cry. It makes me angry. But you’re actually changing the world; you’re actually saving children’s lives, and in the end, it’s the most gratifying.”
Of course, this kind of volunteer work is not for everyone, but Cloutier said they need prayers just as much as actual volunteers.
To learn more about CASA or to inquire about volunteering, visit casakids.org or call 625-0112.