Volunteer Voices Volunteer Colorado Springs
- Francis Eggelton, CASA
- Mary Hocevar, Teller County CASA
- Sharon Grady, CASA & SEPT Facilitator
- Verl Holmes, CASA
- Diana Lynn, CASA
- Wayne Bland, CASA Board Member
CASA Volunteer Since 2007
“When my first case ended, I had no hesitation accepting my second case. The changes that had happened in the life of that young child were so profound and meaningful, I really felt drawn to continue this work.” Volunteer Colorado Springs
I was drawn to CASA because I was in the family court system in another country as a young adolescent and I did not have the advantage of a court appointed advocate working on my behalf.
I was an emancipated youth at age 15 in New Zealand. Services were available to me, as they are to children in Colorado Springs, but applying for them and negotiating the legal system was overwhelming. I was just shuffled from one agency to another with no one really wanting to take any responsibility. I was basically just fending for myself. When I first started checking out CASA of the Pikes Peak Region, I saw people truly dedicated to determining the best interests of children in need. I also saw that these advocates had a direct avenue to communicate those needs to the professionals working on the case and to the courts.
When I heard CASA would give me the opportunity to advocate for the best interest of children in much harder situations than I had been in, it didn’t take a lot of convincing for me to sign up. I also felt it was one of the most organized and constructive ways for me to give back or pay it forward because this community has been good to me. I was prepared to put my hand up and say, “I’ll help.”
I’m now coming up on my second year with CASA and in that time I have completed one case and have been working on my second for about 5 months now.
The first case I was assigned was with a young toddler who had been placed in foster care. I worked closely with his parents to offer them any support I could to help them stay compliant with courts orders in terms of taking parenting classes, gaining employment and providing reasonable housing for their son.
As expected, there were moments working on this case that were tough, like hearing the mother say now that her son was walking, “he’ll be too much trouble to look after.” And then there was seeing the boy’s dad get put back in jail.
Unfortunately, it became apparent that the parents were not going to be able to provide a safe and nurturing environment. In that case I recommended to the Court, and the professionals on the case agreed with me, that the child should be released for adoption. And that had a very positive outcome. The child was adopted by his foster parents and is thriving in a very warm and loving environment.
When my first case ended, I had no hesitation accepting my second case. The changes that had happened in the life of that young child were so profound and meaningful, I really felt drawn to continue this work.
CASA Volunteer in Teller County
“As CASAs we serve as a safe, neutral adult the child can talk to about anything without worrying about repercussions of being judged.”
Children need a voice in court to speak up for them during some tough and confusing times in their lives. A CASA not only gives voice to a child’s needs, but might be able to facilitate that need. Even a small thing like arranging transportation to ball practice could give a child much needed boost and reprieve during a difficult time in their life.
As CASAs we serve as a safe, neutral adult the child can talk to about anything without worrying about repercussions of being judged. I’ve had the privilege of advocating for a young girl in Teller County which was very educational and rewarding.
This rural court is small and exudes a caring attitude toward the children it serves. The court also openly shows its appreciation for the professionalism and time CASA volunteers give. I felt that Judge Colt fully appreciates my insights regarding this child’s needs and best interests. The caseworkers and various attorneys treat me with respect and are eager to collaborate. I work closely with the CASA case supervisor, Terry Dickman who is always there for me with support and guidance.
I became a CASA volunteer for the opportunity to truly impact a child’s life and make a bad situation better. I am never alone and have all the support and training necessary to see my case through to the end. This has been a very rewarding experience and I recommend it to anyone who may be looking for a meaningful volunteer opportunity.
Retired U.S. Air Force Commander
CASA Volunteer & SEPT Facilitator
“It is my hope that, one day, the family will remember the efforts of the agencies and volunteers and make better choices for themselves. Only then can some repetitive cycles of violence, abuse, and neglect be broken and replaced by more productive and constructive family units.”
After 31 years of service in the U.S. Air Force, Sharon Grady was considering her next career move. She learned about CASA in 2006 and liked the idea of contributing to the safety and well-being of children and families. Sharon began her relationship with CASA as a volunteer for the Supervised Exchange and Visitation (SEPT) Program. As a SEPT facilitator, Sharon’s gratification comes from knowing that her efforts allow family members to share special time together in a safe environment. “I am old enough, after all, to remember when these services did not exist for families in need,” she said.
In addition to her role as a SEPT facilitator, Sharon is also a CASA. She completed her training in the advocacy program in February of 2007 and is currently working on a Dependency & Neglect case involving three children. The household is headed by a single parent who has maintained sobriety for 9 months and recently had parental custody restored. “It is my hope that, one day, the family will remember the efforts of the agencies and volunteers and make better choices for themselves,” said Sharon. “Only then can some repetitive cycles of violence, abuse, and neglect be broken and replaced by more productive and constructive family units.”
Sharon is a wonderful, compassionate person who is a force for good in the community. She is patient, poised, and has a special gift for providing a sense of calm and tranquility in difficult situations. “I feel privileged to work with her,” said CASA Case Supervisor, Corey Almond. “Sharon’s discernment and practical point of view are excellent attributes for CASA advocacy.”
Sharon is married and has two children in college, along with two step-children and four step-grandchildren. Her hobbies include reading, traveling, visiting with friends, and volunteer work. She plans to get her credentials to provide psychological counseling services in the near future.
Life Insurance Agent/Financial Consultant
CASA Volunteer Since 1997
“When you can rescue a child from a life of despair and give them a good life with a bright future – that’s the best feeling in the world.”
Verl Holmes is a seasoned volunteer with 11 years of service to CASA of the Pikes Peak Region. He has been an advocate on many cases, has served on numerous committees, is an active participant in the CASA Speaker’s Bureau, and has been a valuable source of support in countless other ways.
“Verl is a tremendously devoted, creative and tenacious advocate,” said CASA Case Supervisor Terry Dickman. “He has done some remarkable things for the kids he has worked with.”
One of Verl’s most challenging, but rewarding cases involved a baby that was born addicted to methamphetamine. The parents, who had two other children, were both drug users who could not overcome their addictions and could not provide proper care for their kids. After the courts got involved the parents became desperate and fled, taking their kids with them into hiding. Verl was instrumental in helping to locate the family and was present when the police forced entry into the residence to remove the children. “It’s a terrible tragedy when a family is ripped apart by drug addiction, and it’s a hard thing to see first-hand,” said Verl. But his hard work and dedication paid off when the three children were adopted into a safe home by caring, committed parents. A formal commitment ceremony was held to welcome the kids into their new family, and Verl fondly recalls the loving vows the adoptive parents made to the kids.
“Being a CASA is the best volunteer job in town,” Verl said. “When you can rescue a child from a life of despair and give them a good life with a bright future – that’s the best feeling in the world.”
Verl also sits on the Advisory Board for the downtown YMCA and is an active member of the First Presbyterian Church. He and his wife, Reba, have been married since 1972 and have three grown children. Verl inspired his daughter, Caroline, to follow in his footsteps and become a CASA volunteer. Caroline later joined the CASA staff and worked as a case coordinator for the Domestic Violence Enhanced Response Team for several years.
CASA Volunteer Since 1998
“CASA is a way I can give back for all the good that I have experienced and to share what I have learned with those going through difficult times.”
Diana is a generous and dedicated volunteer who serves as a CASA and as a facilitator/Captain for the Supervised Exchange and Parenting Time
(SEPT) Program. Diana is a skilled sign language interpreter and has worked on cases involving the deaf. She is currently working on her fourth Dependency & Neglect case.
As a retired teacher of the deaf and of the blind and an interpreter, Diana has been able to use her knowledge of deaf culture, American Sign Language, and interpreting to help navigate through the complexities of her cases as a cultural mediator in order to meet the needs of the children. One of Diana’s challenges as a CASA has been to distinguish herself as an advocate for the children, while also being a resource for information about deafness. She stresses that it is important for there to be interpreters provided on cases involving the deaf, whether it be for court, staffings, evaluations, therapy, or mediations. Diana can provide information for professionals about the culture of deafness and the impact on decisions regarding the children in the case.
“Diana has been invaluable to CASA,” said Director of Programs, Mittie Pedraza. “She has used her knowledge to help educate the courts and professionals involved on deaf culture and special considerations for cases involving deaf individuals. She is a respectful and diligent volunteer who leaves no stone unturned.”
Diana became involved with CASA because of her own experiences as a foster child. “I was fortunate to have experienced the support of caring people helping me survive through many difficult years,” she said. “I firmly believe that the caring and interest of those special people are the reasons I survived.” Diana is still close to her foster parents, Carolyn and Leo Nassimbene. She says her involvement with CASA is another way for her to honor them for taking her into their home and family. “CASA is also a way I can give back for all the good that I have experienced and to share what I have learned with those experiencing difficult times. It is also because of CASA’s guidance and support in these cases that have supported my efforts on behalf of children of deaf families.”
Diana retired from the Colorado School for the Deaf & Blind after teaching for 30 years. Her other interests include traveling, languages, music, sailing, animals, and reading.
CASA Board Member
“Advocating for a child – standing up for their best interest – is one of the purest things someone can do. I see how effectively CASA does it and that’s why I got involved.”
Wayne Bland is a busy vice president at Kirkpatrick Bank , a devoted family man, and an involved citizen who advocates for abused and neglected children as a CASA board member.
Wayne, along with 23 other dynamic board members, enables CASA of the Pikes Peak Region to effectively and successfully achieve its purpose to serve local children. This past fiscal year, CASA’s board and volunteers helped provide healing and hope to nearly 1,000 local children. Wayne is especially skilled in strategic thinking and financial planning, consistently providing direction to help maximize productivity and minimize operating costs. His support extends beyond the board room as a regular participant in CASA activities and community events.
“I have a deep conviction that every child has a right to grow up in a secure environment,” says Wayne. “Advocating for a child – standing up for their best interest – is one of the purest things someone can do. I see how effectively CASA does it and that’s why I got involved. The leadership, staff, and especially the volunteers, perform at the highest level of any organization I have been around,” he says. “I feel good knowing I can use my skills and expertise to make a contribution – it’s fulfilling for me and it helps CASA.”
CASA Executive Director Trudy Strewler describes Wayne as a humble, soft-spoken person who is thoughtful about what he has to say, and when he speaks his comments are wise and meaningful. “He has such clarity about board governance and is a great gift to CASA,” says Strewler.
Wayne’s family modeled community involvement and volunteerism from an early age that has motivated him to do his part to make the world a better place. Now he is modeling those same behaviors to his own kids.
In addition to his involvement with CASA, Wayne serves on the board of directors for the Center for Nonprofit Excellence and the Rotary Club. He and his wife Pam are active members of First Presbyterian Church (where Pam also works).
Born and raised in Oklahoma, Wayne is as comfortable on a horse as he is in the board room. He moved to Colorado in 1999 and he and Pam now live in Cascade. After spending so much time as a flatlander, Bland says he didn’t just want to be near the mountains, he wanted to be inthem. The couple’s two children (now both young adults) are their pride and joy and they look forward to grandchildren in the future.
Wayne Bland is truly one of the good guys. He exemplifies integrity, compassion and his work with CASA shows how involved individuals can positively impact efforts to end the cycle of child abuse in our community.