Jul 11 2018

Coming of Age: Strengthening the 50 and older volunteer experience

by Callie Langford

When asked why she has stuck with CASA over 17 years and 21 cases, Nancy Ellis said, “I have appreciated that CASA is needed on these cases. CPS and an attorney are just not enough people to look after children who have had such a hard time. I’m there to watch and make sure that everybody is caring for these children. I’m another pair of eyes and ears and another brain to care for these kids. And I feel like the judges in Travis County care about and value our observations.”

We reached out to Nancy, one of our longest serving volunteers, after we talked to Coming of Age, a program of Travis County Health & Human Services and Veterans Service. This member organization’s goal is “inspiring individuals 50+ to explore their interests and strengthen communities through civic engagement.” We found out that Nancy is one of the few CASA volunteers to have ever participated in this free program, and that’s something we’d like to change considering that they offer a number of free benefits for volunteers 50 and older.

“If I was not consumed with the [CASA] case I had at the moment, Coming of Age had a variety of volunteer opportunities that were more short term or required less preparation. An opportunity to volunteer in a food bank or work on fundraising was something I might enjoy doing. It’s nice to have some interaction with other people in the community, and you never know when you might get to know somebody who will prove a helpful resource in a CASA situation.” Nancy said that she always maintained CASA as her top priority when volunteering, and looked for opportunities through Coming of Age that wouldn’t conflict with CASA.

One of the best benefits that CASA volunteers can take advantage of with Coming of Age is their mileage reimbursement program, which allows their member volunteers to submit reimbursements for up to 125 miles/month at a rate of $0.20 per mile. That $25 a month becomes $300 over a year of working on a CASA case, and knowing the lengths some of our volunteers drive to see kids placed outside of the Austin area, we hope all of our volunteers over 50 will look into this membership benefit! Coming of Age members just need to complete and print a mileage form each month and ask their Child Advocacy Specialist to sign off on it. Other Coming of Age benefits include the additional volunteer opportunity listings that Nancy enjoyed, free trainings and free admission into their events, recognition and awards for service, supplements to insurance and more.

We encourage all of our volunteers 50+ to become a Coming of Age member to further improve their volunteer experience with CASA and across Travis County. For Nancy, her years of volunteering have been about “getting to know the children, then doing everything that’s within our power as an organization to get the kids what they need and get them moving towards a permanent home as quickly as possible.” She says that the best thing about volunteering with CASA is having a professional team member as a partner: “CASA of Travis County’s Child Advocacy Specialists, our supervisors, don’t take over and run the whole case. We really are partners. They provide the leadership but the work is ours.”

We hope that benefits like what Coming of Age offers will help more CASA volunteers commit to the 17 years and 21 cases that Nancy has. Her impact on children in Travis County has been profound, and whether you take 1 or 17 cases, you can have that impact as well.

Become a member of Coming of Age for free by completing their online application!

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Nancy Ellis and her husband enjoy a night at the Thinkery during CASA's annual Volunteer Appreciation Party.

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