In honor of YWCA Clark County celebrating 35 years of our CASA Program we’ve interviewed three of our wonderful and dedicated volunteers on what it’s like being a CASA. Our final interview with Gail Shelton is below. (Follow the links to read our interviews with Avonna Chung and Larry Didier as well!)
How long have you been a CASA?
What first inspired you or got you interested in the CASA program?
During my last few years of teaching reading in the Evergreen School District I was thinking about volunteering in some capacity in the schools, possibly as a “Big Sister” or “Lunch Buddy”. I was drawn to an ad in the paper that kept reappearing every so often, describing the CASA Program. I thought, “I could do that!” I had had several students who were in temporary foster homes over the years, and my own two sons were adopted, so I was somewhat familiar with children who didn’t have permanent, stable homes. More
Volunteers are the lifeblood of YWCA Clark County. We could never provide the resources for our community that we do without their selfless work and dedication, and we love to take any opportunity to celebrate their achievements. That is why it fills us with great pride to announce that this year’s recipient of the Washington State CASA of the Year is our very own Judy Walter!
Judy has served as a CASA since February of 2014. She had always prioritized volunteer work, and decided to sign up after she was encouraged to join the program by a friend who was also a CASA, and knew of Judy’s love of children.
Judy, who spent 30 years working in the insurance industry before retiring 13 years ago, has made a it a priority to stay involved in her community, both as a CASA, as well as volunteering at her granddaughter’s elementary school every week.
Judy’s love of children is at the heart of her commitment to being an exceptional CASA, and something she says is essential for anyone thinking of becoming a volunteer. She also emphasizes the need to stay objective and clear-headed. “It’s a commitment, so you have to make sure you are willing to put in the time to do the best job you can for the children you are serving. Be prepared to become emotionally involved with the children you are advocating for, but be prepared to let go when the time comes.” More
In the past 101 years, YWCA Clark County has adapted to meet the changing needs of the community while honoring an overarching mission of eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. Our most recent adaptation has been that of the Women’s Leadership Center. We’ve developed this program as a response to the disparity of women within leadership positions nationwide. Whenever leadership fails to reflect the population, the society is at risk of losing valuable perspective and access to advancement. The Women’s Leadership Center will contribute to creating a more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable world.
In honor of 35 years of the CASA Program, we’ve interviewed three wonderful and dedicated volunteers about what life is like as a CASA. Read the first profile here, and keep an eye out for part three to come.
Meet Larry Didier. He’s been a CASA for about two and a half years.
What first inspired you or got you interested in the CASA program?
I was feeling like my life in retirement lacked something. I wanted to do something to make a difference. I saw an article in our local paper about a CASA who had been doing this for many years, and I thought this was something I could do. I contacted the CASA program, went through the training, and never looked back. More
The transition from adolescence to adulthood is complicated for most everyone, however youth in foster care face a unique set of challenges once they age out of the system. At YWCA Clark County, our Independent Living Skills (ILS) Program aims to help youth age 15-21 successfully transition from state-supported care to independent living through education, financial assistance, and advocacy focused on housing, education, and employment which empower participants to define and achieve their goals.
According to the National Foster Youth Institute more than 23,000 children age out of foster care each year. Robbie Orr, Director of YWCA Clark County’s ILS Program highlighted some of the particular challenges youth face when aging out of the system:
“Many youth are not ready to leave foster care, but have to anyway. Because of this, some youth struggle to learn basic life skills like how to obtain and retain a job and housing, as well as how to keep stable relationships with a support network. Youth in the foster care system are also used to social workers making all of their decisions for them, so once they turn 18 they often struggle with how to do basic things like set up doctors appointments, show up to places on time, continue to go to school, and live on a budget.” More
At YWCA Clark County we continually stress how important support from our community is in helping us live out our mission, serve the people of Clark County, and help them achieve greatness. Every contribution that is made by volunteers, grantors, sponsors, and community partners is felt and appreciated, which is why we love when we’re able to turn the spotlight back on those who’ve helped us throughout the years.
Michelle Thor, Vice President of Outreach and Social Responsibility for Columbia Credit Union (CCU), has been involved in furthering YWCA Clark County’s mission for many years. Thor worked for five years for YWCA Clark County in marketing and special events. During that time she worked closely with CCU to help plan and coordinate our benefit luncheons. Columbia Credit Union has been a longtime community partner, and is once again a sponsor of our upcoming 21st Annual Empower Luncheon.
Seeing the ways in which CCU lived up to their tagline “Make Life Better” impressed Thor, and when a position in their marketing department opened up, she felt confident she would continue to work somewhere that put stock in making a difference. “When the opportunity to join Columbia Credit Union’s Marketing Department came up, I knew their values aligned with mine, and that in my new role I would continue to support the mission of the YWCA and help make life better for our members and the communities we serve,” Thor said.
This post started out as a personal journal entry! Journaling has been an important aspect of my own self-care, especially during this political climate.
One of my favorite videos right now features Lucas Silveira (from the band The Cliks) and Laura Jane Grace (from the band Against Me!) singing “The Ocean,” a song that Grace wrote in a time before she was able to live openly as a woman. In a basement-like room, surrounded on all sides by fans who are mouthing the words, they sing a song of dreams and transformation:
“And if I could have chosen, I would have been born a woman
My mother once told me she would have named me Laura
I’d grow up to be strong and beautiful like her.”
YWCA Clark County would be nothing without our volunteers. We feel an enormous sense of pride and gratitude for all of our program volunteers that give their time, energy and compassion so selflessly to help aid many of the most vulnerable members of our community.
This year our Clark County Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program is celebrating its 35 year anniversary, and as a way to commemorate the program’s longevity we’d like to take some time to shine the spotlight on several volunteers who advocate for children in our community, and celebrate the work that they have done.
For the last 100 years, we’ve seen and experienced the greatness of our community, which has built and maintained a safe place where eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all, remains the ultimate mission.
This was evident in 1916, when we established a lunch counter, so that working women could eat and socialize in public. It was also clear in 1960, during the emerging civil rights movement, when we took an official stand against segregation. Over the years, up to seven different programs have been developed to address the changing needs of our community, and to ensure that equality, diversity, and empowerment are celebrated and encouraged in the work we do and the lives we live.
This year our Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program is celebrating its 35 year anniversary. We are incredibly proud of all the work our volunteers have done for children in the community through this program. In honor of this, we’d like to take some time to look back at the very beginnings of the CASA Program, and why it remains a vital resource to advocate for children.
The National CASA Program was started by King County Superior Court Judge David Soukup in 1977. During his time on the bench in juvenile court, Judge Soukup became frustrated that during cases there was no one in the courtroom whose sole job was to provide a voice for children, and from his concerns the idea for CASA grew. “It struck me that it might be possible to recruit and train volunteers to investigate a child’s case so they could provide a voice for the child in those proceedings, proceedings which could affect their whole lives,” said Soukup.