By Joanne Colella
We continue to be inspired and impressed by the determination and adaptability of our grantees to continue their vital services amid the challenges of COVID! In early September, Impact 100 Grantee Liaison volunteer Judie Saunders received an update from Cindi Van Brundt, Executive Director of our 2019 grant recipient, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Monmouth County. CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to advocate for abused and neglected children in foster care to ensure they don’t get lost in an overburdened legal and social service system, receive the services they need, and find safe, permanent homes.
Cindi reported that CASA has benefited greatly from the new development hire that was funded by Impact 100 and is creating a new virtual fundraising campaign, using personalized webpages to solicit donations for special fundraising challenges.
CASA is on schedule with volunteer training, which is being done virtually. The sheriff’s office also implemented socially distant measures to accommodate the fingerprinting process during COVID so that volunteers could be fingerprinted, matched with a child, and supervised by CASA team leaders.
Since COVID restrictions also prevent in-person visits, CASA advocates have maintained frequent contact with their assigned kids through video conferencing. The volunteers have become adept at finding creative ways to establish relationships and keep the children engaged and motivated, including using puppets for the younger ones, reading books, and tutoring with flashcards.
CASA volunteers have stayed connected with weekly virtual meetings which have also included stakeholders from other organizations with whom they communicate so they can continue to coordinate services for the children and families. More recently, CASA has held some socially-distant volunteer meetings outdoors in a park, providing a refreshing opportunity for in-person contact. You can see a video from one Thompson Park meeting here:
This was their first socially distanced Air and Share. They were delighted to finally see so many of their volunteer advocates in person again!
Due to the COVID-19 state budget crisis, funding for the CASA program has been cut from the State of New Jersey’s supplemental budget, forcing CASA to cut staff and services while continuing to be a voice to speak on behalf of New Jersey’s most vulnerable children – and making the funds that the Impact 100 members provided through our grant even more vital than ever before! We applaud CASA for all of their hard work and survival during an unprecedented crisis and will continue to highlight their ongoing need for funds and support from the community.
“It has been a time of great learning and appreciation for us to know that there are so many dedicated professionals and volunteers who, even though they are struggling with their own personal issues, continue to work so diligently on behalf of our kids,” said Cindi, “and for Impact 100 members, we hope it’s rewarding to hear about these achievements that their grant has made possible!”
Remember to save the date for the Impact 100 Annual Meeting on November 17, 2020 when you’ll see more updates from CASA in our brand new 2019 Grantee Update Videos which will be premiered that night! In the meantime, learn more about CASA and our other grantees here and check out their Wish List here!