Must! Charities and CASA: Children like Angie

Must’s quarter million dollar collaboration with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of San Luis Obispo County is providing more advocates for abused and neglected children within the court system

In 2016, must! charities entered into a quarter-million dollar collaboration with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of San Luis Obispo County to address un-met needs in San Luis Obispo’s North County. The four-year plan ensures CASA will not only be able to help more children in the North County find safe, nurturing, and permanent homes, but also sustain this program after support from must! charities is complete.

“Less than two years into our collaboration with CASA, we are inspired by the stories of children like Angie whose lives are positively impacted by CASA,” said Becky Gray, Executive Director of must! charities. “When we began our partnership with CASA, there were 60 children being served in the North County, now we have 110 children who have a CASA advocating for them.  CASA is training new volunteers and by the end of this year, we will have two supervisors managing caseloads in Northern SLO County – the impact is growing!”

Today, there are over 385 abused and neglected children in our county who are under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court and need a CASA to make recommendations to the court, based on the best interest of the children. CASAs are trained advocates who listen to the children, research their situation, then give recommendations to the court on what they feel is in the best interest of the children.

Children like Angie.

Angie had been removed from her parents’ care because her needs were being neglected and she was being abused.  When she left her home, Angie carried a secret that made her avoid people, especially people who were nice to her.

One day Angie was introduced to Michelle. Michelle was different.  She wasn’t a teacher or a social worker or a therapist – Michelle didn’t get paid to spend time with Angie, she was a CASA volunteer. After many hours spent together, Michelle had shown Angie that she was really there for her and Angie knew this was someone she could trust.

Angie told Michelle her secret one day when they were driving out to get a frozen yogurt. Angie trusted Michelle and when she said, “Honey, this is not your fault, you are not bad and you are not to blame,” Angie believed her and the terrible burden she had carried with her secret went away.

Today, Angie has friends, goes on play dates, has fun in school and believes there is hope. She is in specialized therapy to help her overcome past, all because one person came into her life and opened the door enough that Angie trusted her – that person is her CASA volunteer.

“We cannot thank must! charities enough for allowing us to serve more abused and neglected children over the past year! What a wonderful feeling to be able to provide caring, consistent, local advocates to the children right here in our community who so desperately need them,” said Melanie Barket, North County Program Manager.  “We could not have expanded without the financial boost from must! Charities and feel very lucky to have this wonderful organization by our side.”

Must! Charities Gets a Workout

Kennedy Club Fitness Paso Robles and Atascadero recently offered a series of classes that encouraged members to ‘sweat’ and raise funds for must! charities.   A total of $700 was raised for must! charities.  What a creative way to raise awareness, while also getting a workout in!

Says Barb Kennedy, of Kennedy Club Fitness, “The focus of must! charities resonates with our members and they were so excited to take on the challenges offered to raise funds for must! We look forward to doing more in the future.”

Be a Kid Again: Greta and Karen

Greta, at 10 years old, had been dealing with adult-sized anxieties and responsibilities. When her family lost their housing, she worried about where they would live. When her dad started hitting, Greta was the one who decided whether or not to call the police. When her mom cried, Greta was the one who helped her feel better.

Greta was living a very stressful life and missing out on just being a child.

With Big Sister Karen, Greta is excited and grateful to just have fun and forget her concerns for a while. They make Halloween costumes and Valentines. Karen, a musician, is teaching Greta to play guitar.

The family has a safe home now, and a counselor who helps them heal from their past. Greta’s time with Karen is helping her imagine and prepare for a safe and happy future.

This is just one life, one family impacted by Big Brothers Big Sisters.

*Names and identifying details have been changed to protect the identity of both the child and volunteer