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New CASA volunteers sworn in

by Merrie Leininger

Nine new Court-Appointed Special Advocates were sworn in Tuesday in a ceremony presided over by district judges, Michael Gibbons and David Gamble.

CASA Director Jenean Clement said she was happy such a large group graduated from her first CASA class. Clement was made director in the fall of last year.

“I’m really excited about this first graduation ceremony. I’m very proud of the program in Douglas County, mostly because of you guys,” Clement said to the volunteers. “We are indeed fortunate to have such wonderful judges who appreciate the CASAs as they do.”

The volunteers had to go through 40 hours of training over six weeks. For the last two weeks, they have had to observe court cases. They also have been taking night classes at Family Support Council.

“As much as I love you guys, I will be glad to get my Monday nights back,” Clement joked after the group presented her with a card and a gift certificate.

Both judges expressed their thanks to the CASAs for volunteering so much time and energy to help them.

“I want to thank all of you for helping make it into a real program instead of catch-as-catch can. It’s critical in the lives of children to have CASAs who don’t have an ax to grind,” Gamble said.

Gibbons said a lot of the credit went to Clement, who brought the program into the courthouse, when it was handled by Family Support Council in the past. There are now 32 active CASAs, Clement said.

The judges swore in the CASAs by reading the oath and handing out CASA pins. The current CASA members served a lunch buffet for the group.

New CASA Denise Llewellyn said she dealt with a CASA when she was adopting her son.

She said she has learned a lot in the past month.

“I don’t know much about the courts. I had to learn a lot. I learned how children come into the court system and how to get along with all the parties and how to be a detective. I think it will require quite a lot of that,” Llewellyn said.

Sandra Draper said she volunteered because looking at her grandson inspired her to help other children.

“A lot of children don’t have the really good home my grandson has. If I can help even one, it will be worth it. Children are very special and I think we don’t realize that a lot when they are younger,” Draper said.

Jean Brown, Brian Cassidy, Sandra Draper, Pat Goslin, Louise Lajti, Denise Llewellyn, Jim Shirk, Claudia Varin and Cymon Whalin were all sworn in Tuesday.