In 2012, I was living in Florida and was retired for some time. Looking for something to do, I attended a senior living fair. In my retirement, I volunteered for a variety of organizations: Garden Club, Museum Docent, library assistant, Women’s Auxiliary Club, and a two-year stint with Hospice, to name a few. One day I picked up a Senior Living Magazine when I got home and saw a small advertisement about becoming a guardian ad litem (GAL) — what we call CASA. It was a Friday afternoon, but I decided to call them and learn more about what it takes to be a volunteer. By Monday morning, I was sitting in a training class. The instruction was demanding. The subjects touched on a wide range of knowledge and requirements. Not everyone stayed. Each session, the class got smaller and smaller, but those who did stay became very dedicated GAL/CASA volunteers by the time the judge swore us in. I realized that I had “found my calling.”
Unlike many volunteer organizations, as a CASA, I felt I had a direct involvement and impact on the mission—THE CHILD. The work is rewarding, and the organization made me feel like a professional, although we were unpaid volunteers. In my experience, being a CASA allowed me to draw on my formal education and skills that I had honed in my former career. In addition, being a part of CASA introduced me to new friends and colleagues that have impacted my life. After all, we all worked together for the same goal, advocating for children.
In early 2014, my husband and I moved to Savannah. As soon as we got all the boxes unpacked and the pictures on the wall, I looked for a CASA program here in Chatham County. There were new faces and some different ways of doing things. Still, the special sense of fulfillment I had initially found in Florida was here in Savannah- a direct impact, use of my education and skills, a sense of professionalism, and camaraderie. I soon found myself a part of an creative organization, always looking to improve, and a real leader in the field of advocacy: Brightside.
Unfortunately, due to a health crisis within my family, I have not been an active CASA volunteer for the past few years. Initially, I wanted to return to what I loved being a part of. Unfortunately, I have yet to find myself in a position to begin dedicating so much of my time. However, I have been able to continue to make an impact by volunteering on special projects and have been able to participate in training other CASA volunteers. Most recently, I helped with landscaping at the Bright House.
Every hour I can give as a volunteer of any kind is an important donation— a donation of one’s precious time. But let’s face it, it takes money for Brightside Advocacy to expand its programs and innovative ideas to train additional CASAs to advocate for every child and create support programs that directly benefit these children and their families.
Thanks to Kate and her dedicated staff at Brightside, there are more ways than ever to make an impact. Over these past few years, as my role as CASA decreased, my role as a donor increased. I miss being a CASA and witnessing firsthand the difference in these children’s lives. But most importantly, my role as a donor still connects me with the original elements that made me feel I had “found my calling” to begin with. If you are looking for a way to make a difference, I encourage you to contact the Brightside team to hear about ways you can help.
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