Friends of Fairfax CASA
I hope that this holiday season is filled with love, laughter and peace for each of you. It is hard to believe that 2016 is upon us. Over the last few months, I have heard the following quote from Fred Rogers (aka, Mr. Rogers), “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” As we watch the remaining days of 2015 fly off the calendar, I want to thank you for being the helpers to the children of Fairfax County this year.
In 2015, Fairfax CASA faced some challenges. For the first time in several years, we were faced with a waitlist of children in need of an advocate. Our case numbers went up this year, instead of going down as they have in recent years. Some of our funding sources are no longer available. However, as we close out 2015 and look forward to a new year, I do not feel discouraged. I feel incredibly hopeful, and it is because of you—the helpers.
Fairfax CASA continues to receive applications from members of the community who would like to dedicate their time and energy to advocating for vulnerable children. Our existing volunteers have stepped forward to take on additional cases, so we can move children off of the waitlist. Our donors continue to generously support our program. The support Fairfax CASA has received from the Community over the last year has been overwhelming: Our Run for the Children Race and Walk was hugely successful. Giving Tuesday brought in record amounts of donations. Our year-end appeal is off to a great start. All of you, who have stepped forward in 2015 by volunteering your time, donating financially, or spreading the word about Fairfax CASA, have been a helper.
People often ask how we at CASA can “do that job”…how we can work in child abuse and neglect and not be depressed or deeply saddened. I would be lying if I said the cases we handle are easy—that the trauma that the children have endured is not upsetting or horrifying. But what keeps the sadness at bay, for me, are the helpers. Being surrounded by those who don’t just talk about helping, but actually do it, is such a gift.
While 2016 will surely hold new cases and new challenges, I know that Fairfax CASA has an army of helpers out there who will continue to make sure that the children of Fairfax County do not go unheard or unserved. Thank you for all you do, and for all of your help.
Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy and peace-filled 2016.
In other news:
Fall 2015 Volunteer Swearing In
On November 5, 2015, twelve new volunteers were sworn in as Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA.) Judge Janine Saxe, Chief Judge of the Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, Al Schuman, CASA Board President, and Doug Kay, President of the Fairfax Bar Association attended the ceremony, along with the families and friends of the new CASAs. Judge Saxe spoke about the importance of CASAs in the courtroom, and the value of the information they provide to the court. Al Schuman talked about the professional nature of the CASA volunteers and the work they provide to the community, as well as the trend of child abuse and neglect cases in Fairfax County. Doug Kay spoke about the CASA’s clear role as the voice for the child in a system where professionals often have so many competing responsibilities.
This new CASA class brings a wide array of experiences and diverse backgrounds. These volunteers include a bilingual systems analyst, a retired conservation biologist, a former child support enforcement officer who is now a DHS analyst, and a former foster parent who is also a nurse and social worker. Many of the CASAs are parents themselves, and several have professional experience with children and families.
The new CASAs have hit the ground running. When they were sworn in, they were told there were many children on the waiting list. Sixteen children were removed from the waiting list and have been assigned to new CASAs. We are so excited to welcome these new volunteers to the Fairfax CASA family, and are grateful for their commitment to this important cause.
Eileen Foxwell has volunteered with Fairfax CASA for over six years. Eileen became involved with CASA after seeing an episode of Dr. Phil, in which Dr. Phil, who is a national spokesperson for CASA, spoke about the importance of CASA. Before watching that episode, Eileen was already planning on finding a way to help children. She had previously worked as a preschool special education teacher. When she heard Dr. Phil speak about CASA, it hit a chord with her and she knew she had to look into it.
Eileen’s supervisor, Mindy Stewart, describes her as “hardworking, diligent, tenacious, and extremely organized.” Mindy further stated, “She goes above and beyond in her casework, traveling to several different foster homes many miles from Fairfax County. She leaves no stone unturned in her research and is an expert on the issues affecting her CASA children. She has logged significant miles attending medical and therapy appointments and school meetings, and is a staunch advocate for the children she serves. Eileen has remarkable skills in working with children who have significant special needs and children who require a strong educational advocate.”
When asked to describe a case that was important to her, Eileen responded, “They’re all important to me.” Eileen enjoys seeing children doing well with their families, especially when the parents are taking steps to improve their family’s life. Eileen reports all the cases she has worked on have included at least one child with special needs. She stated, “Advocating for those children takes on a heightened importance to me.”
Eileen is from Lancaster, PA, and grew up as the oldest of six siblings. She has five grandchildren, with whom she enjoys spending time. Eileen also likes to read, loves musical theater, and participates in water aerobics. When she gets a chance, she travels. Eileen and her husband, Harry regularly attend and support CASA events, including the Fairfax Run for the Children. Eileen says that most of her time outside of CASA is spent with family.
Fall is my absolute favorite time of year: great sports, perfect weather, pumpkin lattes and fun holidays. I saw a great quote the other day on someone’s Facebook page, “Autumn is the season to find contentment at home by paying attention to what we already have.” I don’t know who the author is, but I appreciate his/her words and feel them in my heart. Working at Fairfax CASA allows me to constantly reflect on how loved my own children are and how blessed I am to be in this position where I am surrounded by such good, kind, caring people. On September 15th, I celebrated my first year with Fairfax CASA. What a great year it was: I have enjoyed getting to know the volunteers, who welcomed me so warmly into the CASA Family and have been so giving of their time and energy. It was wonderful to see so many of them at our annual Light of Hope Volunteer Appreciation event on Sunday, September 27th, and to celebrate their many accomplishments.
As many of you know, over the last few years, we have seen a decline in the number of cases that were petitioned in the Court. This decline can be attributed to the Department working diligently to provide services to families to support them and keep them intact. Over the last 6 months, the number of cases have slowly creeped back upwards, and as a result, we have had children waiting for CASAs. It is our goal to remedy this situation as quickly as possible. If you know of someone who would be interested in advocating for a child, please refer them to our website, www.fairfaxcasa.org. Our newest class of CASA Volunteers began their training last week and we look forward to their swearing in and their joining the passionate and dedicated group of folks who make this program what it is. We currently have 29 children waiting for an Advocate, so the staff and I are thrilled that we will soon have a new group of enthusiastic and committed CASA Volunteers to take cases.
Enjoy this wonderful season.
In other news:
2015 Light of Hope Celebration
Fairfax CASA held its annual Light of Hope Celebration on Sunday, September 27, to honor the 145 CASA volunteers who tirelessly lift up the lives of abused and neglected children. The event took place at the 1757 Golf Club, where guests listened to Bluegrass music performed by KingStreet Bluegrass and enjoyed a delicious brunch.
Darcy Cunningham, Fairfax CASA’s Executive Director, started the afternoon’s program by praising the tremendous work of CASA Volunteers. “When I started, I was told by many that the Fairfax CASA Volunteers were the best. But now, a year later, I can say that, unequivocally, you are not just the best: You are special. Never have I had the pleasure of working with a group of such selfless, compassionate and dedicated individuals.”
Marlene Freedman received this year’s Child Advocacy Award. This award was established to recognized exemplary service by an individual in the community who has demonstrated exceptional dedication to furthering the well-being of all children. Axiom Resource Management was recognized with the Corporate Champion Award for its support and corporate citizenship. A new award was given this year to Twins Ace Hardware, who was recognized with the Community Partner Award for going above and beyond in their support of the 2015 Run for the Children Race.
The most anticipated award at the Light of Hope event, the May Cook Heart of Gold Award, was given to Virginia Hole. This award is the highest honor bestowed upon a CASA Volunteer each year. Fairfax CASA Supervisor MaryAnn Wohlford introduced Virginia, noting that “in June of this year, Virginia celebrated 10 years with Fairfax CASA, served on seven cases which involved 11 children, and over the past ten years, there were only 42 non-consecutive days when Virginia did not have a case, or two!” When asked why CASA remains a part of Virginia’s busy life, she responded by saying “because her own childhood was not happy, she knows how important it is for every child to feel safe and cared for – and she feels honored to have a roll in this process.”
Fairfax CASA is pleased to welcome Supervisors Kristy Tootle and Shaina Goldberg, to our team.
Before joining Fairfax CASA, Kristy served first as a CASA Volunteer in Georgia, then as a Supervisor for the program. With a background in criminal justice, her interests include the interpretation of the law and the policy surrounding child welfare. When not working, Kristy likes spending time with her family and reading. She believes that there is always room for individuals to evolve regardless of the obstacles or challenges faced. Kristy strives to make a positive impact in everyday life and is always trying to find the win-win solution, no matter how big or small the problem.
Shaina moved to Northern Virginia from Chapel Hill, NC, where she worked as a treatment social worker in child welfare. She earned her Master of Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and her Bachelor of Social Work from the University of North Texas. Shaina is married and has a grey miniature poodle named Meyer. Shaina enjoys travelling, running, and spending time outdoors. Shaina looks forward to working with the CASA volunteers as they make a difference in the lives of children in Fairfax County.
If you are in the office, please stop by and say hello to Kristy and Shaina!
June has arrived!
We are in the last month of our fiscal year here at Fairfax CASA. What a wonderful quarter it has been for our organization!
On Saturday, May 2nd, the 5th Annual Fairfax Run for the Children 8k race and 3k run/walk started and finished at the Fairfax County Courthouse Complex. 422 runners and walkers registered for this beloved event and once again, the morning was a fun-filled, successful event for Fairfax CASA. We are happy to report that this year’s race brought in over $81,000 in sponsorships, donations and registrations.
Congratulations to the winners of this year’s race! See race results here.
1st place 8K overall: Female: Shauneen Werlinger. Male: Evan Weisel.
1st Place 3K overall: Female: Rachael Lee. Male: Chad Rink
1st Place 8K Team overall: Team Axiom
1st Place 3K Team overall: Team Hilton Dulles
Top fundraising team: Team SRA International, Inc.
This was my first year at the race. As a runner, I was so impressed with the staff and volunteers and all of the folks who came out to support the runners and walkers. Watching the participants and eating all of the incredible food that was donated by our generous sponsors made for a great morning. I can’t wait until next year’s race: Mark your calendars for April 30, 2016!
Thank you to our 2015 sponsors! Without your contributions, the race wouldn’t be possible. Our 2015 Sponsors.
Fairfax CASA was recently notified that we have been selected for the Catalogue for Philanthropy’s Class of 2016. We are grateful to have been vetted and selected for this prestigious honor.
As you and your families embark on your well-deserved summer vacations, please stay safe and enjoy your time together.
In other news:
Goodbye Diana, we’ll miss you!
Fairfax CASA faces a very bittersweet time: We are saying goodbye to Diana Grosik, who has been a CASA Supervisor for almost four years. Diana has been offered an incredible opportunity in her home state of Pennsylvania, as the Executive Director of the brand new Cambria County, PA Child Advocacy Center.
While we will miss her, terribly, we know that she is going to do great things in her new capacity and bring to Pennsylvania and the Child Advocacy Center a great deal of passion, talent and dedication to the children she will serve.
We will be hosting a drop-in wine and cheese farewell on June 22nd. Please join us in saying goodbye. RSVP to Jennifer firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our new ExxonMobil Community Summer Jobs Program Intern, Erica Cooper, is excited to be on board with Fairfax CASA. Throughout the summer Erica will be creating promotional and marketing videos for Fairfax CASA to share on our website and social media accounts. She is a rising sophomore at Clemson University and is seeking a major in Marketing with a minor in Film Production.
Though she spends her school year in South Carolina, Erica grew up in Gaithersburg, Maryland where she found her love for the outdoors, art, and her family and friends. Her passion for videography and helping others is what led her to the intern position, and she hopes to create a positive impact with the videos she produces during the time she is with Fairfax CASA.