FROM STAFF REPORTS
KINGSLAND — CASA for the Highland Lakes Area recently honored a number of people who have worked tirelessly on behalf of abused and neglected children over a five-county area.
Court Appointed Special Advocates step in on behalf of children after law enforcement and/or Child Protective Services removes them from their home due to neglect or abuse. The children are often placed in foster care if a non-offending family member cannot care for them. During the next year, as the child’s case winds its way through the court system, a CASA advocate, backed by a host of others, becomes the voice for that child through all the proceedings. The CASA volunteer also serves as the eyes and the ears of the court regarding the child.
It takes a great deal of work and dedication by CASA staff and volunteers, but their efforts make a difference in children’s lives across the Highland Lakes.
According to CASA for the Highland Lakes Area officials, the hours advocates, who are volunteers, put in on their cases along with the miles they drove in 2016 added up to more than a $195,000 in value.
CASA for the Highland Lakes Area recognized several volunteers and stockholders in June for their work. Texas State Rep. Terry Wilson (R-Granite Shoals) assisted in honoring them.
The first service award went to Judge Cheryll Mabray, associate judge to the Texas Child Protective Court of the Hill Country. Mabray has devoted her 30-plus-year legal career to helping children who have been abused or neglected. She was the Llano County attorney for 20 years before becoming the TCPC associate judge in 2013.
As associate judge, Mabray covers Burnet, Blanco, Lampasas, Llano, San Saba, Mills, Brown, Coryell, and Gillespie counties — an enormous caseload, CASA officials stated in a news release.
CASA for the Highland Lakes Area named Julie Gilson as Volunteer of the Year.
“Julie has been advocating for children in the CPS system for over seven years,” CASA officials stated. “Julie spends a great amount of time to get to know the children of her cases so that she can present what she believes is in the child’s best interest.”
The Board Member of the Year award went to Faye Payne.
“Faye works with our entire board to raise money for CASA,” officials said.
Payne found herself heading up the 2016 benefit golf tournament for CASA when the original chairperson had to move, but everything went off without a hitch.
CASA handed out Angels Among Us awards to attorney Natalie Bennett and Dorinda Duzan, supervisor of the conservatorship unit at the Burnet CPS office.
The Big Picture award went to Dave Johnson, who took up the challenge of following the legislative session and how it would impact CASA.
Other awards were: Big Heart to Dave Hartig; Butt in Chair to Sandra Chapman; and Dynamic Duo to Leo and Janelle Boutte.
CASA for the Highland Lakes Area officials also thanked all their volunteers and stakeholders.
The organization is always in need of more volunteers. A new training session begins the week of Aug. 1. Volunteers must be 21 years or older. Go to highlandlakescasa.com, email email@example.com, or call (325) 388-3440 for more information.