By CHRIS AGEE
The local Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program has recently added a new position to its staff.
According to information from CASA of Parker County, which also governs Palo Pinto County, Trisha Duke took on the role of recruiter and trainer for the organization at the beginning of the year.
Duke, who began as a volunteer and intern with CASA in 2011, joined the organization's staff as information systems manager last year.
She said she is "very excited to be able to spread the word about CASA" in her new capacity.
"I am available to talk to any group about the organization and explain what the volunteers do," she explained. "I don't want anyone to wonder what CASA stands for – in more ways than one. I want everyone to know, and in turn, be a part of this worthwhile organization."
Duke is currently recruiting potential volunteers for the year's first training course, which begins Saturday.
After interested locals complete 30 hours of training and observe court cases involving child abuse they can be sworn in as volunteers by a local judge.
Volunteers in the program spend time visiting with the victims of child abuse and other sources and reports that information to a judge.
"Typically a CASA volunteer will spend an average of 20 hours a month on their case," Duke explained, noting most of that work is done on the volunteer's own time.
Duke's position is being funded through a Meadows Foundation grant written by CASA volunteer Joe Birmingham, according to CASA of Parker County Executive Director Barb Tucker.
"Having Joe put his grant-writing talent to work for us was obviously very beneficial," she said.
"We feel it was [due to] his great job in writing the request that the Meadows Foundation found our need for a recruiter-trainer very worthy."
The Meadows Foundation is a Texas-based organization that supports a variety of projects statewide and considers each potential grant individually.
Bruce Esterline, Vice President for Grants at the Meadows Foundation, expressed his support of the new CASA position funded through the grant.
"We appeciate the opportunity to assist [CASA's] efforts toward hiring a volunteer recruiter-trainer to expand services for abused and neglected children," he said.
Tucker explained the new position became a reality at precisely the right time.
"New cases are coming in faster than we have volunteers freed up from the cases they are appointed to," she said. "Thanks to the Meadows Foundation, we now have a staff member whose sole duty is to recruit and train volunteers."
Anyone interested in becoming a CASA volunteer can contact Duke by calling (817) 599-6224 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.