Individuals with the Jackson County GAL/CASA program and American Bikers Aimed Toward Education Indiana Region 7 Jackson County are working like elves this year, determined to make a good Christmas for children in need.
The GAL/CASA program is a volunteer-powered program that provides advocacy to child victims of abuse and neglect to ensure they remain at the forefront of court proceedings and find a safe, permanent home as quickly as possible.
A court-appointed special advocate is carefully trained, appointed by the court and supported by professional program staff. The program mobilizes, trains and empowers volunteers who make a difference by being there for a child in a very confusing and traumatic time. They also help judges make more informed decisions about what is best for a child’s future.
A guardian ad litem is an attorney or a volunteer who is appointed by the court to represent the best interest of the child. A GAL who is not an attorney must complete the same court-approved training required for a court-appointed special advocate.
Each child has one or two volunteers to represent them. That can be individuals, couples or friends who work cases.
The primary sources of funding are the Jackson County Council and Indiana Supreme Court, while additional funding sources include grants, private donations, private foundations and fundraisers.
ABATE is a not-for-profit safety, education, charitable and advocacy motorcyclist organization that aims to promote safety, protect rights and help others.
This is the second year for ABATE to partner with the GAL/CASA program.
For more than 20 years, the local chapter collected donations to buy gifts for Jackson County Head Start kids and their families.
The group’s annual toy run, which began around 1990, has always been a huge fundraiser to put toward the gifts, and chapter members would spend a night shopping for age-appropriate presents. It became the Shari Stahl Memorial Toy Run in 1998 after Stahl’s death on Aug. 4, 1998. A member of ABATE, Stahl also was a telecommunications officer with the Seymour Police Department.
A couple of years ago, Don Boling, Jackson County representative for ABATE, said the chapter was excited to chip in and help when his daughter, who worked with GAL/CASA, came to one of the ABATE meetings to talk about the program.
“This is a great organization, and we will continue to support it for as long as we can,” Boling said.
On Nov. 15, the group presented a $3,141.75 check to Deena Personett, Jackson County GAL/CASA program manager, and Kate Garrity, executive director of Child Care Network, to put toward buying Christmas gifts for 73 kids.
Personett said each kid has made a list with a want and a need. On Saturday, CASA and ABATE members shopped for gifts, and they will come together to wrap them before the Christmas party.
“It’s a huge undertaking, but we have a lot of fun,” Personett said.
At 1 p.m. Dec. 9, the kids and families are invited to a Christmas celebration at Child Care Network in Seymour. Attendees will have lunch before Santa arrives with gifts for the children, and there also will be games and craft activities for kids to enjoy.
“We like to really help out these kids, and to see the smiles on their faces is priceless,” Boling said.
Personett said a popular item last year that many of the kids asked for was snow boots.
“With the kids able to pick a want and a need, it allows us to be able to personalize the gifts a little more,” she said. “It’s amazing what we are able to do for these families.”
Thanks to the partnership between ABATE and GAL/CASA, the kids are sure to have a holly, jolly, present-filled Christmas.