Volunteer Spotlight

Volunteers are the heart of the CASA mission. The Rising Star Volunteer and the Pro Star Volunteer awards are given annually in recognition of volunteers who serve in an outstanding capacity. They have made significant contributions toward promoting the best interests of children who are abused and neglected, provide quality advocacy for children, and promote and support CASA in their communities.

To see additional award winners, click here.

PRO STAR VOLUNTEERS

RISING STAR VOLUNTEERS

2018
TERRI CARTER
Montgomery County Juvenile Court CASA

As a Montgomery County CASA volunteer for the past 15 years, Terri Carter has provided exceptional service to children.

Terri takes her role as a CASA volunteer very seriously and has unknowingly raised the bar for Montgomery County CASA volunteers. Her views and opinions are highly respected by CASA volunteers and staff, as well as by magistrates and attorneys. She understands the importance of volunteer recruitment and increasing public awareness of CASA, never failing to attend a public event in a CASA shirt or sweatshirt. Terri always submits her reports on time and attends all case events. She participates in many CASA trainings, typically completing more than required.

Terri does all she can to improve a child’s life. It is not uncommon for her to travel 300 miles or more in a day to maintain a consistent relationship with a child, and she has traveled more than 20,000 miles over the past three and a half years. For children with special needs, Terri will learn all she can to be their best advocate; she once enrolled in a sign language class to more effectively work with a hearing-impaired mother and child.

Terri believes in the process of investigate, facilitate, advocate and monitor. She avoids prejudging parties, regardless of their history. As an example, a recent custody case involved a mother who, having already lost custody of five children, was facing the possibility of losing her sixth. Terri quickly recognized that the woman wanted to be a good parent but had no concept of how to be one. She steered the woman toward parenting classes and would not recommend reunification until the woman demonstrated necessary parenting skills and met requirements of the case plan. This case concluded seven years ago; Terri still receives positive updates from the mother.

A letter in support of Terri’s nomination summed it up: “Terri is the epitome of what we want our CASA volunteers to be.”

2018
CHRISTINE BISESI
CASA OF Delaware & Union Counties

Christine Bisesi has been a CASA volunteer since January 2016, consistently surpassing expectations. In 2017, for example, Christine averaged more than 22 hours of volunteer time per month, many times driving more than 150 miles per month for case-related appointments. She is on track to exceed those numbers in 2018.

Christine balances assertiveness and gumption with calm and empathy. She is compassionate, kind, and professional. It is said that she personifies dedication and commitment to teenagers who are in desperate need of adult guidance, oversight and emotional support. She has been called a valuable asset to the Delaware County Juvenile Court.

Christine also is organized, logical and thorough, with a focus on data that ensures accurate reporting of essential case details. In one recent case, Christine’s report included a chart that documented a couple’s failure to engage with their child, supporting Christine’s position that an alternative permanency plan was in the child’s best interest.

In another case, Christine’s dogged pursuit of medical records, as well as her research into treatment centers and communication with medical providers, helped a teen who had been placed on suicide watch in juvenile detention get the psychiatric evaluation she needed. The girl had been abandoned by her biological parents at an early age, and had been in and out of detention centers, foster homes and residential treatment centers. Christine dedicated herself to helping the child attain her goal of high school graduation.

The young lady has since enrolled in college and transitioned from the custody of Job & Family Services to the Bridges program with Christine’s help. Christine’s dedication has been credited for the young woman’s ability to navigate her life as an independent adult.

2017
GENE SCHUMACHER
CASA of Seneca, Sandusky & Wyandot Counties

Gene Schumacher has been an extraordinary, dependable CASA volunteer CASA of Seneca, Sandusky & Wyandot Counties for 23 years, always going above and beyond the standards.

Gene has devoted his entire adult life to children. He is the father of six, has fostered more than 30 children, and has been a CASA volunteer for more than 75 children across the three counties.

Gene works zealously to ensure that every opportunity for the children he serves is pursued by the adults in their lives; he pushes everyone to work as hard as he does!

At almost 80 years old, he has not slowed down. He routinely makes a nearly eight-hour round trip to visit with a young man in a residential facility at the other end of the state, and volunteers to take additional cases when the need arises.

Many of the youth Gene serves are teenage boys whom Gene stays with well after emancipation. At the 20-year anniversary celebration for our program, one of Gene’s former CASA kids spoke of his successes, crediting, in part, the fact that Gene was by his side from the time he was removed from his home through his college experience. An attendee of the event said the whole room was moved by the story.

Those who meet Gene and listen to his stories walk away knowing they have just met a great man and are a bit better for it. “We have been lucky to have Gene as a CASA,” said Tracie Cress, executive director of SSW CASA.

2017
DOUG PAGE
CASA/GAL of Miami County

Since his swearing-in in 2014, Doug Page has been a hard-working and reliable member of the CASA/GAL of Miami County team. On top of taking cases, Doug regularly assists the staff with training, fundraising and recruitment.

Doug has had an “immeasurable impact” on the community’s awareness of CASA. He has strong working relationships with court personnel, law enforcement and government officials. He is well prepared for the numerous hearings he attends; it is clear he has the respect of court personnel.

Doug developed investigative and reporting skills over 30 years as a newspaper editor. He was known for his passion for protecting children and shining a light on those who mistreat them. With his job skills, Doug is “second to none” working CASA cases. In one 18-month period, he filed 20 reports, many with 15 or more interview summaries.

Doug has regular contact with foster parents, service providers, teachers, caseworkers and medical professionals to gain a complete understanding of the best interest of the children he serves. In a recent case, after realizing the custodial parent’s limits, Doug himself sought waivers of school and lunch fees, procured a grant for school supplies, and obtained CareSource insurance for two siblings. Doug’s was the only voice recommending that the younger child be taken into temporary custody. The boy has since thrived in foster care. He does well in school and has no behavioral problems. Jill Hensen, director of CASA/GAL of Miami County, said, “Because of Doug’s diligence, this young boy’s life has been set on a completely different course.”

2016
KRISTIN LePREVOST
Lorain County Voices for Children

CASA volunteers are often called “a child’s voice.” Kristen LePrevost proved to be the personification of the metaphor when she was assigned a child who cannot speak.

The child was born with a rare, inherited disorder. He had severe abnormalities, and cardiac and renal problems. At any given time, up to 15 doctors and other professionals managed his care. Because his mother was unable to care for him he was removed from the home and hospitalized for failure to thrive.

Kristen was undaunted. She visited the child more than 30 times in various settings throughout the three-year life of the case. She created a spreadsheet of his care providers and contacted them frequently for updates on his condition. She never stopped asking questions, researching, investigating or reporting. Little wonder Tim Green, her program director in Lorain County, called her “assertive and tenacious.”

Kristen’s efforts paid off. The child has been adopted and is thriving. As Tim said, “Kristen was his voice and she spoke loudly.”

2016
DENNIS BLANK
Clark County CASA/GAL Program

The 2016 Rising Star Volunteer can truly be said to always go the extra mile. Dennis Blank lives in East Liberty, but frequently makes a two-hour round trip as a volunteer for the Clark County Juvenile Court CASA Program. In March alone, Dennis added 492 miles to his odometer. That’s quite a few extra miles.

Dennis builds positive relationships with all members of a child-serving team and fosters collaboration. He not only has compassion for children and families, he also has a number of practical skills that translate to effective advocacy. Dennis is so organized and thorough that social workers specifically request him for their teams.

In one recent case, Dennis’ tenacity led to a change in the county’s report-writing templates to eliminate unnecessary delays in adoption proceedings going forward.