By Sara Blake
"The reward is having an impact on the life of a child," says CASA volunteer Richard Allen. "Being able to give them a sense that they are worth being taken care of."
Richard credits his late wife of almost 21 years, Floriene, for his commitment to CASA today. 13 years ago, the Allens had just moved to Austin, and Floriene was looking for a way to get involved in the Austin community. After discovering CASA and going through the first training class, Floriene decided she would feel more comfortable if she could co-CASA with her husband. Richard joined her soon after, and their first case ended a year later in a successful reunification.
Richard's background is primarily in technology, including long stints at IBM and Fuji Film. After studying computer science in college, he began his career as an IBM technician in Philadelphia. Richard’s occupation gave him a front row seat to massive technological changes, including the development of the personal computer.
After moving to California with IBM in his early 20s, Richard met the woman who would become his wife, Floriene; a Sr. Systems Analyst. Richard and Floriene, along with their son and daughter from prior marriages, made a home on the West Coast for 30 years—while still making time to visit new places. "My wife and I loved to travel," Richard shares. "We visited multiple continents together."
In December 2006, the Allens moved to Austin and became involved with CASA, as well as their place of worship, Life Austin Church. Richard still volunteers with his church in their teen ministry.
In 2016, Floriene passed away after a battle with cancer. “Floriene was a pioneer,” remembers Richard. “She loved taking on new challenges.” In the wake of this loss, Richard took a well-deserved break from CASA, but soon found that he wanted to continue the work that he and his wife had started together. His first case after returning was with a child who had lost her mother.
"The fact that I'm a male volunteer can make a major difference in the way that a relationship is developed with the child—that kind of interaction matters. Hopefully they can relate to someone who is a male in a positive away."
Today, Richard is a volunteer with CASA's TAPP (Teen Advocacy and Permanency Project) Team, working with a teen boy. Richard is particularly passionate about working with young men, and believes they need to have older men in their lives as role models. "The fact that I'm a male volunteer can make a major difference in the way that a relationship is developed with the child—that kind of interaction matters. Hopefully they can relate to someone who is a male in a positive away."
According to Richard, one of the biggest eye-openers about his work with CASA was how pervasive and extensive child neglect can be. "You hear about these things, but I didn't see it firsthand until I started this work," says Richard. "But I also saw the amount of time and devotion that CASA staff puts in to care for these kids. The dedication from CASA volunteers and staff, as well as the partnership with CPS and the court has resulted in many positive outcomes."
"I would say [my work with CASA] has allowed me to grow into my own recognition of purpose."
For Richard, it all comes back to relationships. When asked the question about what he would give a keynote speech on, his answer was simple: “the importance of positive relationships in all of our lives. Relationships go two ways—sometimes I'm getting more out of it than they are!" Richard goes on to share that because of his experiences as a young boy growing up, he can relate to some of what these kids have encountered, and it taught him just how important healthy relationships between kids and adults can are.
"I would say [my work with CASA] has allowed me to grow into my own recognition of purpose," muses Richard. "It's only a small amount of my day that’s associated with this, but the impact that that small amount of time has is significant. It makes a difference:”
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