By Sara Blake
"It's what our trainers told us from the beginning—time and again, we are some of the people who know these children the best," says CASA volunteer Tina Hart. "We know how they feel and what their obstacles are. We can spend time with them that's just time. Not always asking questions, just paying direct attention to the children. Just listening, not always needing something from them. That's magical for a child."
Tina grew up in a military family as the youngest of four children. Born in Columbia, South Carolina, her family moved around often, but settled back in South Carolina when her father retired, allowing Tina to attend both high school and college in her hometown. After studying the French horn in college, Tina moved to Mexico City to play classical music professionally. Three years later, she moved back to the United States and worked in the book business in both New York City and St. Louis. She then got married, became a mother of two, and settled her family in Austin. “Because who doesn’t want to live in Austin!”
In addition to falling in love with the breakfast taco, Tina started her second career as an audiologist. Audiology gave Tina extensive experience in working with children with disabilities, as well as how to work effectively with schools and teachers. Tina believes that both these skills have proven helpful in her casework with CASA.
"It's just fun to spend time with the kids—I wonder if people realize how fun it can be!"
After her two children went to college, Tina found herself with more time and decided to spend it volunteering. "I felt like CASA was a good fit because of a few things. The first thing was how hands-on CASA is with kids and families. Secondly, the professional training that makes it clear what the guidelines are and what's expected of you. Thirdly, I love the support of my supervisor. I can call text or email her anytime and she's there. And lastly, it's just fun to spend time with the kids—I wonder if people realize how fun it can be!"
Not a public speaker by nature, one of the things Tina was nervous about was presenting in court. "I'm better one on one," she admits. "But the good news about court is that you prepare beforehand, your supervisor is there to stand next to and practice with, and [the courtroom] is surprisingly a very natural sort of environment. It's a conversation."
Tina has also seen the resilience of families, and how often family members step up to take care of each other. "I've seen families go through such difficult times and still come together in the end," she shares. "I've been so impressed by how people show up and do the work and are there for the children."
"I've been so impressed by how people show up and do the work and are there for the children."
When we asked Tina what topic she could give a keynote speech on, she creatively framed it around her family's love of toast. "It's a simple pleasure in our house," Tina laughs. "Our new toaster has lots of buttons, but my favorite is the "a bit more" button. For those times that your toast is pretty good, but not quite perfect—you can choose to toast it a bit more! Of course I love this because it's hilarious, but it also made me think of how often 'a bit more' can propel us to go above and beyond in anything we do. Maybe I want to be kinder to people in my life. Why don't I start with who I interact with today? Or maybe you want to volunteer but don't know if you have time. Start with learning a bit more about the volunteer role you're interested in. You're probably already doing amazing things, so push yourself to do just a bit more!"
Featured Volunteer Story 2019 Volunteer Profiles July