Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers attended an awards luncheon Friday, held by the Lake Country CASA Board of Directors, to receive presidential honors for the service they donate to children.
Gina Law (left) was teary-eyed when Sulphur Springs Ranch Rodeo production manager Susan Lennon presented a $3,000 donation from the Ranch Rodeo.
Staff Photos By Angela Pitts

CASA volunteers earn presidential awards

By FAITH HUFFMAN, News-Telegram News Editor

May 5, 2008 - More than two dozen volunteers recently received presidential honors for their service to abused and neglected children in Hopkins and other counties, a fitting tribute during National Volunteer Week.

Lake Country Court Appointed Special Advocates held an awards luncheon Friday for the 26 volunteers, whose ages, backgrounds and case loads are as varied as the youngsters they represent. But they all have one thing in common: A special love for children, especially those needing a compassionate voice to speak for them.

"You have incredible dedication and speak out for those who are unable to, in order to give these children a better life," said Cheri Barnett, president of Lake Country CASA's Board of Directors, during the luncheon at First United Methodist Church. "You give of your time, efforts and talents. You cry, pray, agonize and high five right along with them. Your have character, commitment and self-dedication to community."

Those receiving Presidential Volunteer Service Awards dedicated at least 100 hours to the children they serve. Some have upwards of 2,000 hours of service with CASA, and one has represented 39 children.

In 2003, President George W. Bush created the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation to find ways to recognize the valuable contributions volunteers are making in our Nation. The council created the awards to thank and honor Americans who inspire others to engage in volunteer service.

Ten people received gold awards for volunteering at least 500 hours on their cases to ensure the educational, emotional and physical needs of the children they are entrusted to represent in court are met. Five received silver awards (250-499 hours), and 11 got bronze awards (100-249 hours).

CASAs last year represented 207 children in a four-county service area, and 158 children through March of this year, according to Lake Country CASA Executive Director Gina Law. She said each of CASA's volunteers is a shining star for the children they are assigned to, as well the community.

The name of each advocate was placed inside a sta, along with the number of children each serves. They ranged from a whopping 39 children to 27, 20, 10 and 15, 12, down to 7 and even one or two marked new.

The luncheon ended with a presentation by Susan Lennon, who for the last four years has been the driving force behind the annual Sulphur Springs Ranch Rodeo.

Like the many volunteers who give so much of themselves for CASA and its kids, Lennon's tireless championing of Sulphur Springs Ranch Rodeo for the last four years has raised thousands of dollars for the children of Hopkins and surrounding counties in rodeo proceeds.

"Ranch Rodeo is proud to support a great charitable group like Lake Country CASA," said Lennon, who presented Law and Barnett with a $3,000 check, the proceeds from this year's rodeo, during the luncheon.

Law said funding like the Ranch Rodeo donation that helps pay the bills and keeps the program going through financially slender months. The board of directors -- which also includes Jake Caddell, Kerry Wright, Diana McDonald, Kevin Monk, Tim Elliott, James Kennon, Cappy Payne, Robert Cody, Michelle Blackmon, M.J. Dougherty, Kim Hufstetler, Frankie Cooper and Laura Kosub -- oversees the program.

But it is the volunteers who "breath" for the program, Law said.

"You are the breath that makes it live, makes it go," she said. "That's why you are all here. Everyone here has a special star. I thank you all for all you do."

For more information or to make donations, call the Lake Country CASA office at 903-885-1173.

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