Giving Thanks for the Gift of Connection
“Relatedness…is the lifeline of every living being.” Parker J. Palmer
Thanksgiving offers a wonderful opportunity to celebrate gratitude. We can reflect upon personal blessings, offer deep appreciation to others for the gift of their presence in our life, or acknowledge the goodness that surrounds us. These practices are grounded in our connections to family, friends, and community — connections that are vital to our well-being.
This year, I am most grateful for the gift of connection that our CASA volunteers bring to the lives of the children they serve. When parents fail to keep children safe or do not nurture and care for them, children are slow to develop trust. Social bonds are difficult to form and isolation results. Fortunately, these children have access to a promise-keeper, a CASA volunteer who commits to be there for them over the life of a court case, thus forming a connection that may last for several years or more.
For these children, the relationship with their CASA volunteer demonstrates that they matter and helps them to view the world in a more positive light, giving them solid ground upon which to develop new networks of support and pursue their dreams. We cannot measure the exact impact of a CASA volunteer’s gift of time on a child’s spirit, but I am certain from the stories I hear every day that it is profound and long-lasting.
We are proud to have sustained our ability to provide a volunteer advocate to every child in need this year. Your connection to Fairfax CASA, either as a CASA volunteer, stakeholder, friend, or financial contributor has made this possible.
We hope that as you join with your own loved ones this holiday season, you will make room to provide a lifeline to abused and neglected children – in whatever manner you can. Thank you.
In other news:
Share your Story #Inspiredgiving
Fairfax CASA has been working with America’s Charities since 2009. The organization helps meet human service needs in thousands of communities by marketing its affiliated charitable organizations through workplace campaigns, social media, and private and public sector events.
America’s Charities #inspiredigiving campaign started in September and will continue until December, where donors are encouraged to share stories about what encourages them to give back and contribute to their charities of choice..
What inspires you to give? If you have supported Fairfax CASA through your workplace campaign, please share your story on the #inspiredgiving Storython page. Your reasons for past and future giving may help inspire others to learn more about Fairfax CASA’s volunteers and their advocacy for abused and neglected children.
Journey of a CASA Child
It takes many caring individuals to support abused or neglected children as they journey through the court protection system. In this video, learn more about how and why CASA volunteers share that journey.
Join Us To Support Domestic Violence Awareness
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a time for our community to come together and address the need for safe and healthy relationships in families. On October 17, from 6-9 pm, we invite you to join Fairfax CASA as we team up with Braddock Supervisor, John C. Cook and Artemis House, a local domestic violence shelter, to raise awareness and funds to support our work with domestic violence victims. The event will be held at Kilroy’s Restaurant and Sports Bar, located at 5250 Port Royal Road, Springfield, VA 22150.
Domestic violence violates a person’s dignity, safety, and basic human rights. Known as “family abuse,” it is any act committed against a family or household member involving violence, force, or threat that results in bodily injury or the fear of bodily injury. More commonly, it manifests as a pattern of abusive behaviors used by someone in an intimate, dating, or familial relationship to dominate and control another person.
Children served by Fairfax CASA are victims too, when there is domestic violence in a home. Threats to harm or actually harming children in the home may be used as leverage by an abuser. Studies also show that simply being exposed to chronic domestic violence is as traumatic to children as being a direct victim of abuse and neglect. It is vital that we consider the danger of domestic violence to our vulnerable children and work to eliminate its damaging effects.
Domestic violence touches every person in our community and society as a whole. We hope you will show your support on October 17th at Kilroy’s for food, music, and fundraising! Kilroy’s has generously volunteered to donate 10% of food proceeds to the cause and there also will be raffle items and chances to donate directly.
In other news:
Light of Hope 2013 Volunteer Celebration
Fairfax CASA held its annual Light of Hope Celebration on Sunday, September 29, to honor the 175 CASA volunteers who tirelessly lift up the lives of abused and neglected children. The event took place at the Center for Education at Wolf Trap, where guests were treated to acoustic bluegrass by The Bellevue Rhythmaires and an upscale southern-style dinner.
Fairfax CASA Executive Director, Lisa Banks, kicked off the evening’s presentation by praising the volunteers, noting that “CASA volunteers have the determination to do what is right. We see time and again that they make a profound difference in the lives they touch. CASA volunteers are extraordinary people doing amazing things.”
Attorney Kyle E. Skopic received the Child Advocacy Award. Deloitte’s corporate citizenship and support of Fairfax CASA were recognized with the Corporate Champion Award.
The highlight of the evening was the announcement that Sandy Weinger, Fairfax CASA’s longest-tenured volunteer at 20 years, was the 2013 winner of the cherished May Cook Heart of Gold Award. Sandy accepted her award to a standing ovation of volunteers, staff, board members, and professionals from the legal and human services community.
Sandy Weinger’s 20 Year Dedication to Fairfax CASA
Sandy Weinger has been a Fairfax CASA volunteer for 20 years. “I can hardly believe it myself,” says Sandy. Her commitment to CASA was sealed as soon as she received her first case and was introduced to a young Hispanic girl with a long history of sexual abuse. “She immediately gripped my heart. I followed her until she left the system at age 18, and I was even invited to her high school graduation.”
Sandy went on to advocate for 29 children on a total of 15 cases. She is still going strong and is currently advocating on two cases at once.
At Fairfax CASA’s Light of Hope Volunteer Appreciation Celebration, Sandy was awarded the May Cook Heart of Gold Award. This award, the program’s highest honor for a CASA Volunteer, was inaugurated in memory of May Cook. May served as a CASA volunteer for six years before she died in 2000. A retired grandmother, May was a child of the foster care system and knew firsthand what a tough life that can be.
For Sandy, the May Cook award has special significance. “I was extremely honored to receive the May Cook award. I remember thinking the first time they [Fairfax CASA] gave it out how special it was for the CASA Volunteer who received it. And now 20 years later it is especially meaningful because I, too, am a grandmother – just like May Cook.
Fairfax County Teachers are Child Champions
I hope you all enjoyed a relaxing Labor Day weekend. My longer-than-usual drive to work this week behind school buses and carpools leaves no doubt that summer is over – and school has begun. I enjoy seeing the crowds of excited children at bus stops and the stream of “first day” photos posted on Facebook.
Dedicated Fairfax County teachers will welcome their new students with enthusiasm and polished lesson plans. Sadly, they will also encounter children in their classrooms whose health and safety seems to be at risk due to abuse or neglect. These teachers face the difficult challenge of assessing whether their observations warrant a call to the Child Protective Services Hotline.
Nationally and locally, fall is a time of increased referrals for abuse and neglect investigation. Child victims who might be largely absent from the public eye during the summer, will return to school where teachers are mandated to report suspected abuse. If a child is placed under court protection, teachers and school social workers are part of a hardworking team, along with CASA volunteers, that ensure emotional, social, and educational stability for each child. Time and again, we witness teachers taking on these extra duties with compassion and determination despite their busy classroom schedules.
As school begins, please join Fairfax CASA in acknowledging our County’s devoted and outstanding educational professionals who provide an extra level of protection and support for all at-risk children.
In other news:
Watch the Highlights – New CASA Volunteers Sworn In
Enjoy the highlights from Fairfax CASA’s June 27 Swearing in Ceremony for new volunteers. This video clip offers a glimpse of how the evening unfolds as everyday citizens pledge an oath to serve as Court Appointed Special Advocates for abused and neglected children.
Jennifer Bellhouse, social media guru, joins Fairfax CASA’s staff
Jennifer Bellhouse, our new Events and Development Associate, grew up most of her life in Boulder, Colorado. With a British family, which includes five brothers and sisters (including her) and family living all around the world, she spent a lot of her time traveling to Europe and meeting new people. She has also lived in England, Ireland and Spain. In her spare time she loves to play soccer, sing, cook, explore and be involved with different groups in the community. She received her Bachelor’s in Communication Studies and minor in Business Administration from Colorado State University in May 2011. Loving the east coast she moved to Virginia two years ago to advance her marketing and events career and to be closer to her family. She will be joining our team to help plan the 2014 Run for the Children 8K Race and 3K Run/Walk, handle special events, develop connections around the Northern Virginia area and cover social media. She has a passion for helping children, and working within the community. Jennifer looks forward to working for the team and with CASA!
A Commanding Force Behind Our Success
I like to brag about our CASA volunteers, for they are the heart of our mission. Devoted to children, they work tirelessly to help the young ones they serve move forward from the trauma of abuse and neglect. There is another group of volunteers, however, that is an equally commanding force behind our success – Fairfax CASA’s Board of Directors.
As the managing body of Fairfax CASA, our Board is responsible for developing a strategic plan and making sure those priorities are implemented by staff. They oversee our finances, assist with fundraising and marketing, and ensure we maintain best practices in all areas. They represent us in the community and are strong ambassadors for our program.
I am fortunate to work with this talented group of community and business leaders who volunteer their time to guide our work and ensure Fairfax CASA’s success. They take the time to learn about the work of our volunteers, engage the community on our behalf, and are instrumental in helping us to reach every goal we set. I especially appreciate that they are readily available to work on special projects and willing to talk through challenges or new ideas. We recently added four new members to our already stellar board, and I am excited by the wide range of skills now represented, including finance, marketing, fundraising, child welfare, and organizational management.
Board membership at Fairfax CASA is not high profile — there are no photo ops or fancy awards – but it has become a powerful vehicle to generate great change for our youth. I hope you will join me in applauding our hard-working Board of Directors:
President: Alan M. Schuman — Retired
Vice President: Jose S. Jimenez — Retired
Treasurer: Monte R. Zaben — Principal, Deloitte & Touche LLP
Secretary: Kyle E. Skopic — Law Office of Kyle E. Skopic, PLLC
Kay Bellhouse – Co-Team Leader, Keller Williams Realty
Nannette M. Bowler – Director, Fairfax County Department of Family Services
Judith (Judy) S. Gayer – Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, Freddie Mac
Henry R. Hopkins – Community Volunteer
David (Dave) W. Marsden – Virginia Senate (D-37th District)
Peggy Padalino – Senior Vice President, Global Sales, Avectra, Inc.
Jennifer Topscher – Vice President, Top Sure Investments, Inc.
Maura Burke Weiner – President, JuryMatters
Heather L. Williams – Senior Manager, Marketing & Communications, Computer Sciences Corporation
Special thanks also to recently retired board members, Brian Bates, Jeff Satterly, and Susan E. Woodruff.
In other news: