By Shannon Contreras
“I think we’re all meant to be here for a reason, to make the world better.” - Karen Manson, 19-year CASA volunteer
As a longtime CASA volunteer and supporter, Karen Manson knows a thing or two about tenacity. Nineteen years ago, when she retired from a storied career in the computer industry, Karen knew she wanted to use the skills she had gained through her life and career to make a difference.
“Not long after we were married, my husband asked me, ‘Why don’t you put your time into giving back to the community?’ I found out about CASA when I looked into volunteer opportunities. I’ve always loved children, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with children, but I looked it up and thought it could be a good fit for me. That was over 19 years ago. I’ve had lots of cases, and some incredible outcomes.”
During her professional career, Karen used her grit and determination to climb the corporate ladder, working her way up from an entry-level admin position to managing a 200-person team. Before she was advocating for children, she worked hard to advocate for her employees, even when it was difficult. Upon hearing the division she managed would close just weeks before Christmas, refused to accept her employees would lose their jobs. She worked through back channels to get them hired at Dell, then started a consulting branch for a new firm.
"If something needs to be done for children, don't tell me it can't be done. I will get it done. I’ll make it happen.”
In each of her cases, Karen brings that same willpower and tenacity to the table for the children she’s serving. "If something needs to be done for children, don't tell me it can't be done. I will get it done," she explains. “Whether climbing corporate ladders or digging through adoption home studies to find a family for children deemed ‘unadoptable’, I’ll make it happen.”
During her career as a CASA volunteer, she has advocated for children from many different backgrounds and family situations, from multiple large sibling groups to newborn babies. She’s worked hard to find safe and supportive relative placements, reunified families, and helped to find adoptive homes for kids in need.
“I’ve never had a job that was anywhere close to being as rewarding as what I did these last 19 years, that my husband encouraged me to do.”
Karen never gives up and is a strong voice for each child that she serves. In the past 19 years, she’s advocated for over 25 children, and though there have been some struggles along the way, she’s found her experience with CASA incredibly rewarding. “I’ve never had a job that was anywhere close to being as rewarding as what I did these last 19 years, that my husband encouraged me to do.”
We asked Karen what she’d give a keynote speech on if she had the chance, and loved her response:
“I’d love to go down to the legislature and show them the day in the life of a child in foster care, CPS workers, and these families that are so broken. We need to be able to stop and address these issues before we just take children away. Unless you walk in those shoes and see it firsthand, it’s hard to believe that it even exists, what these children are going through. Don’t just throw money at it.”
“When you look at your life, you look to see how you made a difference, and I know with each of these kids I made a difference."
As Karen moves into the next chapter in her life and closes out her “second” career as a CASA volunteer, we know she’ll continue to make a difference, wherever she lands. “When you look at your life, you look to see how you made a difference, and I know with each of these kids I made a difference. Now that I’m retiring from CASA I’ve got to find a new volunteering job. Maybe I’ll fill my time cleaning the baseboards, I don’t know,” she jokes.
Interested in becoming a volunteer advocate? You can get started with our online Info Sessions and online Volunteer Training right now! Learn more on our Volunteer page or RSVP for an upcoming Volunteer Info Session over Zoom!
2020 Featured Volunteer Story Volunteer Profiles August