The Ottawa County Court Appointed Special Advocates Program (CASA) honored its volunteers August 20, with a reception at the home of board member Linda O’Brian and her husband Wade.
CASA volunteers act as advocates for children in the court system due to abuse, neglect, and dependency. They act as “fact finders” to provide the court with accurate, unbiased information, and advocate on behalf of the children’s best interests. The volunteers must complete 30 hours of pre-service training and then 12 hours of in-service training annually. They commit a great deal of time and energy to the program, and to the children they serve.
In 2004, Judge Kathleen L. Giesler partnered with Erie County CASA to bring the volunteer program to Ottawa County. In January 2008, Ottawa County CASA became its own program and now has 19 volunteers and has served hundreds of children.
Executive Director Connie Cornett thanked each volunteer and presented them with gift bags including a generous gift of a gas card provided by Beck Suppliers. CASA volunteers do a great deal of traveling visiting with children and families. Special recognition was given to several volunteers for their outstanding service and dedication over the past year. JoAnn Behlke of Marblehead received the Esther W. Sutton Volunteer of the Year Award and Kathy Ohlemacher of Oak Harbor received the Rising Star Award, both for excellence in child advocacy.
A new class of volunteers is forming right now for those that have a few hours a month to help out a child in need. For more information on volunteer opportunities or other ways to help with Ottawa County CASA, call 419.301.0225.