Productive Summer Visits
Development Direction
Van Zandt County 
Tornado Relief
Advocate News
Warm Welcome
Superhero Spotlight
Newest Superheroes
Justice is Served 
Caught Doing Good Event 

Productive Summer Time Visits
by Jackie Cannon, Executive Director Champions for Children

Visiting your foster child during the summer months is vital to the relationship bond that you want to develop. It is essential to provide an atmosphere for your child to openly talk, but it is also important for the child to have a good, memorable time. Here are some ideas for plans that will help facilitate open communication without breaking the bank. Of course, choose ones that are developmentally appropriate for
your child.
  • Junk Drawer Creation - Provide a box or "drawer" full of stuff you might find in a junk drawer (e.g., pennies, buttons, paper clips, sticky notes, pens, glue, tape, etc.) and a sturdy piece of cardboard for your child. Allow your child to make a Junk Drawer Creation using the supplies and discuss the completed project.
  • Nature Walk & Collection - Have a large sack for you and your child. As you both take a walk outside, collect items from nature to put in the sack. Encourage your child to choose a variety of objects (e.g., rocks, leaves, twigs, acorns, etc.). Discuss the uniqueness and attributes of the various objects.
  • Menchie's Frozen Yogurt & a Game - Go to Menchie's for yogurt and play one of the board games they have available for customer use.
  • Dollar Store - Give your child a dollar or two and go to the Dollar Store. You will both enjoy looking at the possible ways to spend the money and your child will have a souvenir of your time together.
  • Splash Water Playground at Faulkner Park - Take your child to the free playgrounds at Faulkner Park. You will both enjoy the built in water guns and various water sprinklers as well as the dry playground equipment. You can bring your lunch for a picnic as well.
  • Charades - Take turns acting out book titles, animals, etc. There are apps for your phone that provide Charade games or the two of you can think of your own words.
  • Farmers Market - Visit a local Farmers Market and purchase a new fruit or vegetable to try together.
  • Bubbles - Purchase a couple of bottles of bubbles and go to a new place to blow them. Possible locations could be a park or the Tyler square.
  • Puppet Show - Write a play including 4 characters of a well-known fairy tale or other children's book and make sack puppets of the 4 characters. You and your child can perform the puppet show.
  • Garage Sale - Give your child a few dollars and visit some garage sales.
  • Local Stores or Businesses - Go to local stores that offer activities/fun for kids (e.g., Michael's, Public Library, Pet Store, Book Store, etc.).
T alking with your child is important. By enjoying some of these activities during your visits, your child will be more relaxed and the opportunity for meaningful communication will be possible.

*Reminder that CASA has a few gift cards available for "experiences" with your child.  Contact your Case Supervisor for more information.  
Development Direction
by Kathy Elliott, Development Director

In February of 2015, I received an email from the General Manager of Jersey Mike's Subs in Tyler, inviting our CASA program to "partner" with Jersey Mike's in their annual Give Back campaign for that year. I never dreamed that this partnership would grow and eventually culminate into the mutual respect and friendship that we share today. 

Jersey Mike's is an awesome donor, supporter, and overall cheerleader for us.  Whether they are filling our individual lunch orders, catering a meal for us, helping us honor our awesome volunteer advocates, or sharing our story during their annual campaign - Jersey Mike's employees are always ready with a smile, a pat on the back and a cheerful attitude.   
This positive outlook begins with the General Manager, Jeff Gerhardt, and trickles down to the rest of the staff at both stores. His enthusiasm and "can do" attitude never ceases to amaze me. He has made it his personal goal to share our story and mission with others.  When asked, he will tell you that most of us are not rich enough to do a lot at one time; but if we all give a little, it will eventually add up. He is always quick to say, "After all, we are doing it for the kids" - and he truly believes that! With that belief, Jersey Mike's has increased their annual Give Back nearly twice what they gave their first year in 2015. 

We appreciate the corporate, management, and store staff of J ersey Mike's and we hope our friendship continues to flourish for many years to come! 
Van Zandt County Tornado Relief
Thank you to all who donated to our tornado relief collection.  Through the generosity of our volunteers and community business partner, Genesis, our staff took two carloads of supplies to help tornado victims in Van Zandt County.  

Some of our staff were able to work in Canton with the relief efforts.  They had the honor of working at the warehouse and sorting the donations that came in.  Laci Murray said she was amazed at the amount of people that came out to help, and was especially
Tornado Relief Donations
moved by the two busloads of high school students that joined them.  Kathy Fergueson was humbled by those who came in f
or help, still in shock.  They weren't even sure what to ask for.  

Essentials were given through pre-assembled boxes filled with basic needs for families.  We are grateful to all who helped in these efforts, and continue to remember this community, especially our CASA volunteers who were personally affected.  

ADVOCATE NEWS: Our Heroes!  
By Amy McDonald, Program Director

Recently, our CASA program reached an all-time high ratio of Volunteer Advocates serving our CASA children.  On June 1 st  of this year, our overall ratio for all three counties was 85%!  Eighty five percent of our CASA children have their very own CASA assigned!  For the first time, our assignment ratio for Smith County reached 90%!  Van Zandt County has also increased to 84%.  I would like to thank each of our Volunteer Advocates for their commitment to our children.  These are remarkable numbers that I have never before seen in my tenure at CASA. 
While we only have a few cases without CASA advocates, most of those are placed well outside of our East Texas area.  We recently received information from Judge Clark indicating that only 38% of our Smith County children are placed within the county.  The other 62% of Smith County children are placed outside of Smith County and many outside of East Texas.  Our children from Wood, Van Zandt and Smith counties are placed across the state of Texas.  Our Outreach team has been recruiting volunteers that are willing to travel to be advocates for those children placed further away.  If you travel outside of East Texas to another part of Texas for work or visit family/friends and would be willing to incorporate a CASA visit to those places, please contact us.  We will reimburse mileage for visits at least 50 miles away.  
We have an exciting new opportunity!!  
 We are looking for "
expert" advocates !  Are you experienced in a specific topic that could be helpful to other advocates?  Would you like to complete continuing education on a topic to become the "expert" for other CASAs?  A few potential topics could be autism, teenagers, suicide prevention, self-harming behaviors, specific mental health diagnoses, ARD meetings, etc.  Specifically, we hope to find some of you that would be willing to help mentor advocates or train in the subject matter of knowledge. We are certainly open to any ideas for expertise!  Please contact the CASA office if you are interested in signing up. 
Warm Welcome to Janiece McClendon
Meet our newest staff member, Janiece McClendon.  She joins 
us as a part time Co mmunity Outreach Coordinator.  Janiece has 
been a dedicated volunteer since   2014 and has a heart for helping 
children in need.  She will put her marketing background to work as 
she focuses on recruitment in Van Zandt County.  Welcome, Janiece!  

CASA also wishes Office Manager Erin Miller a sad farewell as she leaves us for a new adventure in California.  Erin's sweet smile and skilled work will be missed!  
Cheryl Wood, Coordinator
SUPERHERO SPOTLIGHT:  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

One of our newest partners is the Whitehouse Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  The members of this ward have been instrumental in helping us accomplish several projects including donating items for CASA children, assembling the centerpieces and notecard packs for our Justice is Served fundraising event, providing meals for our new advocate trainings, cleaning up around the CASA property, decorating for Christmas, and more.  

They have also committed to working with us on our volunteer recognition event later in the year.  We appreciate their diligence and wonderful servant hearts.  They have served with smiles and a contagious enthusiasm.    We want to extend a special thank you to  Cheryl Wood,  their coordinator.  She has rallied the troops each time a need has arisen.  We are grateful to have this group on our team.   
Newest Superheroes

Please join us in welcoming our new CASA volunteer advocates:

Markey Organ Dennis Carey Jan Wycough
Anne Hembree David Doty Susan Smith
Vicki Ferguson Janie Cobun Grace Bowden
Simone Key Carrie King ShaRhonda Miles
Brandi Weaver Laura Miller Sharon Kline
Justice is Served 2017 "Everybody Needs a Hero" a Success!

CASA's key fundraiser each year is our Justice Is Served gala.  CASA hosted this year's event at the Community Crosswalk Center at Green Acres Baptist Church on Tuesday evening, April 4, 2017. Here are a few highlights:
  • Our theme for this year was Everybody Needs a Hero, and our decorations and even some of our "special" guest heroes proved this to be true. With over 300 in attendance, our Judges and Community leaders served up justice in a delicious way as they kicked off our evening with some awesome appetizers.
  • Everyone was captivated and amused by our special Celebrity Guest Auctioneer, Walt Cade, of Storage Wars Texas. Walt, along with his son Casey Cade, were very entertaining as they worked the crowds up into a bidding frenzy over the unique items that we had to offer. 
  • The amazing silent auction offered many treasures for our guests.  
  • Guests were entertained with Jazz music performed by the awesome Jazz Band from Chapel Hill High School during the All-American Superhero dinner.  
  • Our attendees were also able to test their luck by purchasing a gift bag, playing our heads or tails game, or winning a chance to open one of the treasure chests that held a special delight.
  • The highlight of our evening was our chance to share our mission.  Volunteer Advocate Don Self shared a little of his volunteer story to enlighten the audience as to the difficult work that our advocates face each day. The group was also allowed a peek into the lives of the children that we serve through a video testimony from former CASA children who shared their stories and their unique prospective on the importance of their "CASA" in their lives.
  • The evening was full of fun and it proved once again to be a rousing success! We have already begun to plan next year's event, so add Tuesday, April 11, 2018 to your calendar now.  You do not want to miss it!  

Caught Doing Good for Kids Event - September 29, 2017

I never thought that fishing could be so much fun, but I have found that it is great sport! Especially when you are fishing for a few, good people that are helping CASA further our mission to help the abused and neglected kids of Smith, Wood and Van Zandt Counties. 
Last December, we began a new event that we entitled, "Caught Doing Good for Kids", and guess how our day of fishing ended! Our nets reeled in a big group (Groupie) of awesome community supporters who in turn, called their school of friends to ensure we had a bumper crop (Croppies) of donations. We had normal people, giving normal donations big & small, to ensure our continued success. 
We had so much fun, that we have decided to make this an annual event. The only difference will be that we will start this year's fishing tournament a little earlier, because I have always heard that the fishing is not as good in the wintertime. We will also have teams competing this year. Our tourney will be on Friday, September 29, 2017.
If you see yourself as an angler and want to be on a team this year, then I want to hear from you!  Come on, and be a good "sport" and join the fun. Maybe you will win the Master Angler, the Catch of the Day trophy or your team could even win the Team award. All participants will also receive a coveted Caught t-shirt. I have heard that the secret to successful fishing is to lay out your bait ahead of time. We want to add you to the list of people Caught Doing Good for Kids!


Continuing Education
July 19           Normalcy, New Standards
July 31           Movie Night:  TBRI for Teens
August 16      Working with Your Team

Important Dates

July 18           5:00 - 9:00 p.m.

CASA Night at Twisted Root. Mention you are with CASA when placing your order and CASA gets 10% of the group sale!  


October 14    Grillin' & Chillin'

2nd annual volunteer and partner recognition family picnic.  Last year was a huge success!  You don't want to miss it.  Come enjoy the fun, food, awards, and prizes as we celebrate the hard work and accomplishments of our volunteers and partners.  Watch for more information in the coming months. 


Contact Laura Miller for more information. 

Kristi Boyett, Chair
Ashley Kutach, Chair-elect
Amanda Reagan, Treasurer
Jennifer Bane, Secretary

Management Team
Mary Jo Burgess, Executive Director
Amy McDonald, Program Director
Kathy Elliott, Development Director
Laura Miller, Community Outreach Director
Board Members
Jennifer Bane
Paula Brookshire
Tommy Brown
Kevin Burdette
Ann Fitzgerald
Dennis Granger
Shane McGuire
Ed Moore
Tom Mullins
Candace Porter-Condry
Marina Schroeder
CASA for Kids of East Texas | | 903-597-7725 | |


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