(Seguin) -- If you're looking for a New Year's resolution that's a little bit different for 2016, how about resolving to help children in need in Guadalupe County?
CASA of Central Texas, which serves Guadalupe, Comal, Hays and Caldwell counties is always looking for people to volunteer to serve as an advocate for children whose lives often have been turned upside down. CASA Community Relations Coordinator Eloise Hudson says volunteers don't need any special skills. They just need a desire to help children, which is at the heart of CASA's mission.
"CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates and we're a local non-profit here in the community that gives people the opportunity to volunteer with the program, and get involved with local children who have been removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect. They're currently in the child welfare system and hopefully their parents are working hard to get their kids back to a safe home, but in the meantime, our kids are moving from foster home to foster home or shelters, treatment centers and they need an adult who's caring and will comit to being in their lives and really speak up for their best interest while they're in the state's care," said Hudson.
CASA for years has been working in the communities that it serves to recruit adult volunteers, who can serve as voice and advocate for these kids. Hudson says they've made it easy for people to sign up to become a volunteer.
"Well, the best thing to do to become a CASA volunteer is to sign up for one of our training sessions. It's free. It's basically open to anyone. All of the kids have attorneys, they all have CPS workers so that's not our role. We're just looking for caring people, who want to get involved with these kids. They go through our free training program. After that, they're sworn in by a judge and then they get matched up with the appropiate child. It's really open to anyone and we enourage anyone to go through to the training and see if it's for them, and then we'll go from there," said Hudson.
The new year is bringing with it a number of new opportunities for people to become a CASA volunteer. Hudson says several training dates have already been set up in this area.
"We have our January training date set for New Braunfels. They're going to be every Thursday for six weeks. First session is Thursday, January 14th and that's from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and it will last six Thursdays, January 14th through February 18th. We also have a training going on at the same time January 13th through February 17th, meeting Wednesdays in San Marcos from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. For
working people we'll be with Saturday specials starting in February in San Marcos also," said Hudson.
CASA of Central Texas recently welcomed some of its newest volunteers. Are you willing to also volunteer your time to help children in need in Guadalupe County and many surrounding counties? Pictured are, from left, Mary Navarrette of Guadalupe County; Samantha Hillis, of Comal County; Briana Woodard, of Guadalupe County; Christine Harbach, of Comal County; Jasmin Cruz, of Hays County; Amy Williams, of Hays County; Judge Charles Stephens II; Michael Nash, of Comal County; Katherine Borchert, of Hays County; Jessica Celestino-Smith, of Comal County; Linda Kerger, of Guadadalupe County; and Alvino and Ester Regalado, of Hays County. Visit www.casacentex.org for more information on how to become a volunteer.
People often fear the time commmitment when it comes to volunteering. That's one of the reasons why Hudson says CASA works to give people some realistic expectations about their experience as a future CASA volunteer.
"Our volunteers report that they spend about 15 hours a month on their volunteer work -- it depends. They spend a little bit more time when they're first appointed getting to know everyone on the case, (learning) when court is coming up. For the most part, our volunteer work is on your own time. We have specific requirements like in person visits once a month. So really this is a great individual volunteer opportunity where you set, kind of your own schedule and it meets your needs and the child's needs," said Hudson.
Hudson says people can sign up for any of the training sessions coming up, or they can plan to attend one of the CASA Voices Tour sessions, which are designed to briefly give attendees more detailed information about CASA. The one hour session begins at noon today (Jan. 5) at the GVEC Community Room in Schertz and at noon Wednesday, Jan. 6 at the CASA office in New Braunfels.
If you're ready to simply sign up to be a volunteer, Hudson says new volunteer training courses have been set up for the new year. The Volunteer Training Course is a 6-part training series and all 6 classes are required. Here's the upcoming schedule:
- 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays, January 13 to February 17 in San Marcos
- 1 to 5 p.m. Thursdays, January 14 to February 18 in New Braunfels
- 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturdays, February 27 to March 26 in San Marcos
- 1 to 5 p.m. Wednesdays, March 9 to April 13 in San Marcos
- 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursdays, March 10 to April 1 in New Braunfels.
A link with more information about CASA and its training opportunities can be found on our website www.seguintoday.com, or visit www.casacentex.org/volunteer/.