table of contents
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4 Letter from the Executive Director
5 Celebrating 30 Years: Our Volunteers
6 Our 30th Anniversary Celebration
8 Bittersweet Goodbyes and Warm Welcomes
9 Volunteer Spotlight
10 Giving Tuesday
11 Our Successes
12 Grateful Hearts
13 What We're Loving
14 Inspiration for You
Join Fairfax CASA on Sunday, December 8th from 1pm-4pm at Crafthouse in Reston for a Quarterbacks for CASA event! Right now, 54% of the children we serve are male, whereas only 19% of our volunteers are men. CASA needs champions for these children! Is there is a man in your life who would be a great advocate for an abused or neglected child? If so, please invite him to this fun event. Join us as we watch the Redskins take on the Packers and hear from some of our experienced volunteers about how you can have a positive impact on a vulnerable child's life. Appetizers and non-alcoholic beverages will be provided, along with fun door prizes for attendees. And of course, female football fans interested in learning more are welcome, too!
Quarterbacks for CASA
Sherry Anderson coined a saying - "Volunteers do not get paid, not because they're worthless, but because they're priceless." We couldn't agree more. Over the last three decades, our volunteers birthed this organization, stood strong as our backbone, and now, fearlessly look to the future as they continue their advocacy. The nearly 1,700 community members who have taken up and enacted their vow of CASA service since 1989 have served close to 7,000 abused and neglected children in Fairfax County - bringing a light of hope to each of them. The amount of love, effort, and dedication each of these remarkable individuals has shown throughout the years is immeasureable. And they've done all of it for one simple purpose: to better the life of a vulnerable child. From our very first class of two volunteers, Christine Charters and Jenny Bridges, to our current volunteer force of over 130 CASAs, every single one of these individuals has positively shaped the life of a child who deserved love, respect, and care. For that, we are so deeply grateful to each compassionate individual who has stepped up to be the voice for an abused and neglected child since 1989.
celebrating our 30th year
Letter from the executive director
Click through our slideshow here to see our volunteers throughout the years!
1989 to 2019 : Our Volunteers
Happy Thanksgiving to each and every one of you. On Thanksgiving day I hope that you all have an opportunity to stay in your pjs, watch some of the Macy’s parade (if that is your kind of thing), see at least one person you love, eat until your pants feel uncomfortably tight, and enjoy a second helping of pumpkin pie late in the evening.
Thanksgiving—the term “thanksgiving"—is about giving thanks for what we have. Finding gratitude. Being grateful. It is easy to get bogged down in the negative—to focus on all that is wrong, sad, awful and out of our control—especially during these times. However, working to find something—even the smallest of somethings—to be grateful for, can truly change how we feel, how we live and how we respond to what life throws at us.
I remember many years ago watching Oprah Winfrey religiously and her encouraging her audience to create a gratitude journal and to write down three things, every single night, that they were grateful for. She said she did it. She swore it changed her outlook on life. And so I bought a beautiful little book to write down my three things, nightly. They ranged from just having running water in my home to going on a vacation with my girlfriends. And, Oprah was right: being grateful for what I had and recognizing how MUCH I had really did change my outlook and my mood. I practiced gratitude for a long while, and then life got busy and my journal fell to the bottom of my to do list.
Recently, we had Corie O’Rourke, who is one of my colleagues in the work that we do, present to the CASA volunteers at a roundtable luncheon. Corie is a child abuse survivor who is now a lawyer, child advocate and trauma informed speaker. She talked about how she
practices gratitude regularly. At the end of her presentation, one of the CASAs came over and told us how she, on her walks each day, says thank you for the trees and the beautiful sky and for whatever else crosses her path. I felt like it was a sign to begin practicing what I knew was good for me, once again. And so I have started consciously acknowledging all of the things I have to be grateful for, little and big. And once again, I have found that just focusing on what I have in my life in this very moment not only feels good, but it makes me more grateful and aware throughout the day and even in really challenging situations.
So, as we prepare for Thanksgiving 2019, know that I am grateful to all of you who volunteer with our program, who partner with us, who donate and who believe in what we do. For those of you who do not actively practice gratitude, I would encourage you to give it a try, starting on Thanksgiving.
Community Partner Award - Jinson Chang, owner of High Side
High Side is a craft beer tavern and Asian street food restaurant in downtown Fairfax. Owner Jinson Chang has a passion for supporting local charities and has been a strong partner with Fairfax CASA over the past year. From hosting our first Cheers for Children Happy Hour to inviting us to be the charity beneficiary of two local beer garden events, Jinson and his team at High Side have proven time and again that they value the local bond between their business and the work of CASA.
On Sunday, October 27th, our community of volunteers, staff, board members, supporters, service providers and donors came together for a landmark occasion: the celebration of the three decades of hope Fairfax CASA has provided to abused and neglected children in Fairfax County. What started as a cloudy, rainy morning, quickly turned to gorgeous and sunny afternoon as Mother Nature even got on board with our theme, bringing a 'light of hope' to all attendees. Our guests enjoyed drinks and laughs on the patio at Chantilly National Golf Club, complete with a photo booth to help capture their moments of joy. Executive Director, Darcy Cunningham, took everyone on a walk down memory lane over the last 30 years, reminiscing on the highs and lows we have all shared together over that time from the fall of the Berlin Wall, the tragedy of 9/11, to witnessing the election of our first African American President, while also highlighting the impact our CASAs have had on the children they have served during that time. Our Keynote Speaker, Ashley Rhodes-Courter, bestselling author and former foster child, delivered an inspiring speech emphasizing the positivity her CASA volunteer brought to her during her over 10 years in the Florida foster care system. While Ashley's personal journey was filled with adversity and seemed bleak at some points, her charisma and humor lightened our crowd's spirits as she emphasized it truly can take just one single person to make a difference in a child's life. We encourage you to share in our celebration by looking through the slideshow below and reading onto the next page to recognize our annual award winners for the outstanding work they've done for the most vulnerable children in our community!
Child Advocacy Award - Benjamin Osorio
Ben Osorio is an exceptional immigration attorney and office neighbor to CASA. His relationship with CASA started when two of our staff took the flight of stairs up to his office, desperate for any help aiding one of our youth caught in the immigration system. Ben listened to our concerns about this youth and immediately took on his case, pro bono, without hesitation. Ben remains on the youth's case today, advocating fearlessly for the boy's best interests within our immigration courts.
our 30th anniversary celebration
Corporate Champion Award - Union Home Mortgage
Not only was Union Home Mortgage our Platinum Sponor for our event, but they have supported our program throughout the last calendar year in many unique ways. One critical project they helped us with was getting technology into the hands of our older youth who need it to further their education by donating 20 laptops to our program. Union Home Mortgage also supported us with our annual Run for the Children by sponsoring the event and creating a race team, engaging their employees in giving back!
May Cook Heart of Gold Award Winner - CASA Cathryn Krebs
Cathryn has served as a CASA advocate for over seven years, advocating for 13 children in her time. On top of her CASA commitments, she has led a life of giving. She was a special education teacher for over 30 years, has been a foster parent with her husband, raised multiple service dogs, and recently donated a kidney. When asked what motivated her organ donation, she simply responded, "It was on my bucket list!" Cathryn is truly an inspiration and so deserving of this honor.
bittersweet goodbyes and warm welcomes
Ashleigh: How did you initially find your way to CASA?
Cathryn: After I retired from teaching students with blindness and visual impairments for over thirty years with FCPS, I took a year off to think about what kind of volunteer work would interest/challenge me. Over the years, my husband and I had two foster children and lots of exchange students, so I knew I liked a focus on children. CASA seemed like a good fit so I went to and was impressed with the intense training. I was also intrigued by the continuing education programs and flexibility in scheduling. It really helped fill the hole in my heart I had for my former students.
Interview by Ashleigh Conrad
Jennifer Katac joins CASA after a long career at a nonprofit animal welfare organization where she worked as the director of community programs overseeing several different programs, including the volunteer, humane education, and community services/public assistance programs. Jennifer is very excited to be a part of Fairfax CASA where she can combine her passion for working with volunteers with her love of children. Jennifer is a 1998 graduate of West Virginia University and once served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Panama. Jennifer currently holds a Certification for Volunteer Administration (exp. 2021). Jennifer has volunteered her time as board member with the Association of Professional Humane Educators and also with Fairfax County’s Department of Family Service’s BeFriend-A-Child Program, where she served as a mentor to an at-risk child. When not at the CASA office, Jennifer usually spends her time knitting, cooking, or working on home improvement projects. Jennifer and her husband, Michael, live in Manassas Park.
A: If you had the chance to talk with someone who was considering becoming a CASA, what would you tell them?
C: If you like children, their families and helping others, this is is the job for you. Your supervisors are just great and help you every step of the way. CASA is an extremely well organized organization and cares deeply about its volunteers.
It is with bittersweet hearts that all of us at Fairfax CASA say goodbye to Supervisor Mary Mulvenon. Mary served Fairfax CASA for 8 years, being first sworn in as a CASA volunteer in early 2011 and then transitioning into her role as a supervisor in late 2012. Mary provided excellent supervison to her volunteers and took on many roles in the office. We wish Mary the best of luck as she moves into a new phase of life!
Mary is pictured left with her husband, James Mulvenon.
CASA Volunteer, Cathryn Krebs at our 2019 Light of Hope event where she was presented with the May Cook Heart of Gold Awaard.
A: How do you pass the time when not doing casework or helping out around the CASA office?
C: I enjoy many activities! I love spending time with family and friends, especially my three grandchildren. Traveling also takes up a lot of my time - I've been to all seven continents, including Antartica. I'm also a member of two bookclubs and enjoy any activity that keeps me moving - walking, yoga, pickleball. Geneology is another interest of mine that keeps me busy.
A: How have you seen your CASA work have a postivie impact on the lives' of the children you have served?
C: It truly proves to you that no child can have too many adults who care about them in their life. I can think of one specific instance. A girl I served struggled with emotional and behavoir issues, so I encouraged her to write a letter to her teachers at the beginning of each school year to introduce herself and say in her own words how she felt about her disability and accommodations. This led to her own self-advocacy and more personalized education plans, both positive outcomes.
We are thrilled to spotlight this year's May Cook Heart of Gold Award Winner, Cathryn Krebs. Cathryn has been an advocate for over seven years, advocating for 13 children in that time, as well as supporting the CASA staff with unassigned hearings and keeping morale boosted with her yummy treats and stories from her extensive travels. Here's a little more about Cathryn!
A: What has been a memorable moment for you over the course of your CASA work?
C: By far it was attending a CASA youth's high school graduation. This particular young lady went to an alternative school and struggled in math. At her graduation, there were only three people present - her boyfriend, her social worker, and myself. She is now 22 years old and has received her CNA, and plans to continue her studies to eventually get her RN. I still get together with her once a month and text and talk frequently. I feel more like her "auntie" and feel that I play an important part in her life. She talks to me about her job, boyfriend, and life in general and she helps me with my iPhone and make-up trends. As I get older, she helps me feel younger!
*Name changed to protect confidentiality
Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Giving Tuesday.
Join Fairfax CASA for a global day of giving and help us celebrate the kick-off to our year end fundrasing campaign! We're calling on all of our supporters to donate $30 in honor of our 30 years of advocacy to help us hit our goal of $5,000! Donate early to make your gift count twice as one of our generous CASAs has offered to match the first $1,000 we receive!
Live Local. Love Local. Give Local.
Lucas* came into foster care at the age of 14 due to a lack of stability in his home, including going without sufficient food, supervision, and an eventual abandonment by his caretaker. During this period of instability, Lucas frequently missed school, choosing to spend the days at home watching TV. Over the summer Lucas began settling into his foster home, but was apprehensive about returning to school as he had lived for so long without structure. Lucas expressed to his CASA that he wanted to have good academic accomplishments during the upcoming school year. His CASA focused on helping Lucas practice good back to school habits as September approached, and encouraged the teen to complete his summer math and reading assignments. Lucas started the school year off strong with good grades including two A's! This month, Lucas was awarded his school's Student of the Quarter Award. His fan club consisting of his CASA, social workers, and foster mother were present to watch Lucas accept his award. Lucas reported to his foster mother that he was overjoyed and proud to win the award, and sees it as motivation to keep up with his academics and school attendance. His CASA reports that he has truly seen a "180 degree difference from where Lucas used to be" to today. His CASA also credits the amazing support system around Lucas with his success including his attentive foster parents and close ties with teachers.
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giving tuesday with casa!
I am thankful to be surrounded by a solid, supportive, highly skilled team of coworkers and I am thankful for my reliable and hardworking volunteers. I am also thankful that we as a team have seen several cases end happily this year, as that always reminds us why we do what we do.
-Emily R., Supervisor and Manager of Adult Education
what we're loving
I am thankful for our entire CASA family - our volunteers, staff, board members, donors, and communtiy supporters - for their passion and dedication to our mission.
-Ashleigh C., Administrative, Marketing, and Events Associate
Our Executive Director Darcy Cunningham recommends Demi Moore's new memoir, Inside Out. Demi reveals her history of childhood abuse, and the chaos that filled her early years due to her parents' struggles with substance abuse. Demi reflects on how this influenced her own dysfunction and unresovled trauma, and how she has journeyed to her own destination of reslience.
I am thankful for the time and dedication our volunteers put into their cases. I am thankful for their caring hearts and determination to help the children and youth in our community.
-Paula S., Supervisor
I am thankful for the amazing volunteers we have who selflessly devote their time and compassion to the children on their cases.
-Shaina G., Manager of Volunteer Recruitment
I am thankful to be working with such a dedicated and passionate group of volunteers who care about abused and neglected children. The amount of time that our volunteers dedicate to their kids’ cases and everything that they do on behalf of the children to ensure positive outcomes for their futures is truly amazing. I am honored to work with our CASA volunteers.
-Jen K., Supervisor
Do you sometimes struggle with having a child you care about in your life open up and share how they're doing? Supervisor Paula Salguero recommends a trip to The Crossroads Table Top Tavern in the City of Manassas. Why? This unique restaurant encourages patrons to play a board or card game while they dine - creating a natural opening for breaking the ice and getting a conversation going. Several of our CASAs have had positive feedback after visiting Tabletop Tavern with the children they serve.
We asked a few of our staff members to reflect on their gratitude and turns out, their hearts are very full!
is a powerful catalyst for