Apr 17 2019

How CASA Staff Give Back to the Community

by Diana McCue

At CASA of Travis County, the value of volunteerism is a given. Staff at CASA know that we could not accomplish our vision of providing a trained advocate for every child who needs one without each and every one of our incredible volunteers. The volunteer model is proof that our community cares about children and families whose lives are disrupted by abuse and neglect. The example our volunteers set energizes staff and reminds us that the social fabric of Austin is strong. There is even a new dating app created in Austin that connects singles through shared volunteer opportunities—helping out is clearly part of this city’s DNA.

“Doing service in the community allows you to feel a part of the community. It takes a lot of heart to volunteer.”

In addition to focusing their paid time on training and supervising volunteers, many of our staff members contribute to this social fabric by being active in volunteer organizations around Austin in their spare time. The breadth of organizations our staff members volunteer for illustrates that the diverse ways to give back in Austin range from serious to lighthearted. From fostering dogs to leading Girl Scout troops, from organizing festivals to celebrate LGBTQ pride to leading church ministries, from educating the community about child protection to serving on the board of a residential community, CASA staff are all-in for our community. As Child Advocacy Specialist Marjorie Villafranco says, “Doing service in the community allows you to feel a part of the community. It takes a lot of heart to volunteer.”

Chief Administrative Officer Kathleen Schneeman, the veritable “Leslie Knope” of the CASA office got involved with volunteering to make our city more beautiful when she worked on creating a pocket park in the Barton Hills neighborhood. Schneeman currently serves as finance chair on the board of Pease Park and is the District Five Community Engagement Volunteer for the Austin Parks and Rec Department. Kathleen says that volunteering is “a great way to be closer to the happenings in our world and [to] mitigate bias. Rubbing elbows together helps build empathy.” Kathleen values getting outside and wants to model volunteerism for her three children. IMG_0377.jpg

Volunteer Relations Specialist Bree Taylor also spends her volunteer hours outside. She is active in her sorority, Delta Gamma, and serves as a Spotter for the Austin Blackhawks, a Beep Baseball team in Austin. Beep Baseball is a form of baseball for people who are blind and visually impaired, and sighted spotters are needed to facilitate play. The Austin Blackhawks compete against other Beep Baseball teams from all over Texas and the rest of the country. Please check out this wonderful YouTube video to see how this innovative sport is played.

“Not a lot of people are willing to give up their time to do work for which they are not thanked or appreciated, especially if it is not in their self-interest.”

A number of CASA staff members offer the skills they’ve developed in the workplace to organizations around the communities. For  example, Alejandro Victoria, Director of Volunteer Admissions, served for three years on the board of Austin Pride, which is theIMG_0940.jpg second largest Pride festival in the state of Texas and which attracted 400,000 festivalgoers in 2018. Alejandro has championed diversity and inclusion at CASA and is a strong advocate for LGBTQ teens on our caseloads. The PRIDE festival exemplifies the joy and acceptance that Alejandro brings to his work at CASA. Schneeman also serves as a volunteer coach to help small local nonprofits grow strategically with the organization Mission Capital. Director of Communications Callie Langford donates her expertise in communications to assist a local arts organization, Esquina Tango, with fundraising. As Director of Grants and Contracts Laura Carter says, “Not a lot of people are willing to give up their time to do work for which they are not thanked or appreciated, especially if it is not in their self-interest.” CASA staff know that our volunteers are special, and we endeavor to continue the chain of giving that ties our community together. 

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