By Emily Witt
For Julie Long, a native Austinite of 28 years, becoming a CASA volunteer was a calling she could not ignore.
Julie discovered our mission during our annual CASAblanca Gala—though she’d heard a little bit about CASA before, she had no idea what to expect when a friend invited her to attend.
"As soon as dinner started, we began to watch videos about the work featuring volunteers and staff—stories of children they served, and the dedication of the CASA volunteer who stayed by the child’s side through every placement and school change."
“Walking into the gala, of course, the ballroom was beautiful. But as soon as dinner started, we began to watch videos about the work featuring volunteers and staff—stories of children they served, and the dedication of the CASA volunteer who stayed by the child’s side through every placement and school change. Knowing that this was the kind of difference someone could make as a volunteer just really tugged at my heartstrings.”
Though Julie didn’t yet know about our training requirements or all that it took to become a CASA volunteer, she applied and began training soon after the gala—feeling an undeniable pull to our mission.
It was in training that she really began to see the full scope of CASA's impact on volunteers and our community.
"I have learned more than I thought possible—this expansion is such a gift to me and to those that I am appointed to serve."
“I love CASA’s commitment to train volunteers and the promotion of diversity. CASA’s dedication to providing continuing education to volunteers as well as the community is the greatest thing. I have learned more than I thought possible—this expansion is such a gift to me and to those that I am appointed to serve.”
Julie’s commitment to volunteerism runs in the family, she says, as her parents are also avid volunteers!
“Over the past few years, my parents and I have done volunteering through Honor Flight Austin. Their mission is to transport veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit the memorials dedicated to honor their service and sacrifices and return them home to their families and loved ones. It puts a frog in my throat just thinking about it. I’ve seen how this work has softened my dad’s heart, and how happy volunteering has made him. I’m starting to share those same feelings in my experience with CASA. As hard as it is not knowing the outcome of my case, there’s so much hope in CASA’s mission.”
At home, Julie’s husband is incredibly supportive of her endeavors, from volunteering to trail running. She’s even placed in the top 3 of the last 10 trail races she’s competed in!
Julie loves spending time outdoors in the sunshine, “jogging around Lady Bird Lake, hiking the Barton Creek Greenbelt, and searching for seashells on Texas beaches.”
Like many Austinites, experiencing the great food in our city has also become a hobby—some of Julie’s favorites are Hula Hut and Guerro’s, along with a new discovery: Pool Burger.
Julie also has three “unique and amazing” children, and during the pandemic, she’s taken a break from her career in nursing to support them in virtual learning.
“I started my nursing career at a children’s hospital in the PICU (pediatric intensive care unit) department, shifted to surgical services a few years later, and settled in corporate healthcare as a Director of Quality and Risk Management for outpatient surgery centers for 10+ years. As a result of the pandemic, I decided to take a break from nursing and dedicate my time to my children,” says Julie.
This has been an experience that’s allowed Julie to more fully see the struggles that the parents we serve may be experiencing, as so many may not be able to physically be there for children during the school day. It’s also helped her understand the needs of the child on her own case.
"Had I not had my own children that were going through that, I might not have been as helpful or motivational for the CASA child that I’m advocating for."
“Had I not had my own children that were going through that, I might not have been as helpful or motivational for the CASA child that I’m advocating for. He’s in an environment that can be hectic, so finding a way of learning that works for him has been a goal this year, as well as educational advocacy in general. I’ve spent a lot of time connecting with teachers to make sure he has the right support.”
In the three years since Julie became a volunteer, the hope she saw sweep through everyone in the ballroom during CASAblanca has not left her heart.
"Volunteering with CASA is absolutely the best thing I’ve done. It is worth every second of the time."
“CASA is hope! I thought that I was volunteering to help someone else, and I am doing that. But I’ve gained just as much, if not more, than the child that I’m advocating for. CASA has had such an impact on the way I choose to view life, what success and happiness mean to me, and the belief that every moment is an opportunity. I’m becoming a better version of myself! Volunteering with CASA is absolutely the best thing I’ve done. It is worth every second of the time.”
You can join Julie in being a source of hope for a child who needs you! Learn more about becoming an advocate on our Volunteer page, apply now, or RSVP for an upcoming Volunteer Info Session over Zoom!
Featured Volunteer Story Volunteer Profiles January 2022