CA with tag line 

 525 N. State Street · Suite 4 · Alma, MI 48801 
(989) 463-1422

"A child who knows 
unconditional love has 
the greatest gift
the world can offer."

- anonymous -

In This Issue
About Us 
 Child Advocacy is a non-profit agency with a mission to improve the welfare of children and their families through education, training, and support for the prevention of substance abuse and child abuse and neglect.

 Our Staff
Audra Stahl 
Executive Director
Pam Mahin
Office Manager
Ty Warczinsky 
GCSAC Coordinator
 Richelle Davis 
Prevention Educator
Michelle Zombeck 
 CASA Coordinator
Heather Gardner  
 CAC Coordinator 

Heather Therrien  
CAC Case Coordinator
Staci Bigelow
Event/Volunteer Coordinator

Board of Directors  

Wes Wickes
Youth for Christ
Vice President 
Jennifer Leppien
Carolyn Studley
  Community Representative

 Kelly Piotrowski
Dept. of Human Services
Steve Benn
MI State Police

Sara Bonacci
Sara Bonacci Photography

Wendy Currie 
Mid MI District Health Dept

Colleen Davis
Prosecuting Attorney's Office 
Rob DuHadway
DuHadway Dance Dimensions 

David Justin
 Alma School Board
Mike Morris
Detective, Gratiot Co. Sheriff's Dept. 
Jamie Richardson
Doehring Schultz Insurance Agency

Matt Schooley
City of Alma Transportation

Jennifer Siefker
Tri Lakes Petroleum
Jennifer Stambaugh
DeafBlind Central CMU
Steve Vernon
 Gratiot Co. Comm. Mental Health 

Joe Yourchock
Community Representative


Seat Safety


Did you know that at Child Advocacy we can install and provide a safety inspection for your child safety seat?  Child Advocacy has a nationally certified safety seat technician available!
To make an appointment call
 or 800-552-4489

Permanent Prescription Drug Drop Off



Gratiot Co. Sheriff

226 E. Center


open 24 hrs./day

7 days/week


Alma Police Dept.

525 E. Superior St.


8:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m.

Monday - Friday


St. Louis Police Dept.

108 W. Saginaw St.


Mon. 7 - 3 

Tues. - Fri. 8 - 4 

The sites accept

prescription pills, liquids, and patches.

Your Feedback!

Child Advocacy Crew,

       First off, I just wanted to thank you for such a great opportunity. It has been a pleasure working with all of you! This opportunity allowed me to gain insight on many different things that I would not have recieved by just sitting in the classroom. I believe that I learned a lot from this experience and that is all thanks to each and every one of you. It was great watching everyone work as a team to benefit children and families. I really enjoyed being apart of the Trivia night and other smaller project. I appreciate that you guys went above and beyond to make me feel welcome and included. I know we only have two weeks left working together, but feel free to contact me if you ever need an extra hand!!!

Thanks again,
Amanda Kerley

CMU Intern 

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Merry Christmas! 

As we work our way through the busy holiday season and gather with our loved ones, we can work to practice lessons we have begun to teach our little ones. This month we are featuring an article about not forcing your children to hug loved ones.

Please remember to donate to your local Toys for Tots when doing your holiday shopping. 



Child Advocacy Staff

Check out our website

Upcoming Events

Free Family Carnival & Expo
Saturday, January 30, 2015
10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Central Michigan Youth for Christ 
2550 W. Cheesman Road - Alma  

Heart & Sole 5K Run/Walk
Saturday, February 6
His Place - Alma
Half of the proceeds will be donated to Child Advocacy.
Welcome Heather Therrien
Case Coordinator

My name is Heather Therrien and I am thrilled to be back in Gratiot County - joining the Child Advocacy team as Case Coordinator for the Children's Advocacy Center.

A loud and proud Spartan for life, I graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor's degree in Communication. After 13 years in the private sector, I jumped on a plane headed to the Middle East and joined an international non-profit organization. For nearly a decade, I lived in Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon working with legislatures, political parties, women's organizations and youth groups on issues ranging from tribal conflict to child marriage. 

Those experiences made me realize the critical role local organizations play in communities that thrive; even when those communities are centered in the most challenging places. When the time came to return home to the US, "going local" topped my priority list as I considered the next chapter in my career.

I have long admired the role Child Advocacy plays in Gratiot County. In fact, I often used it as a "best practice" example when training fledgling organizations overseas. So I am excited about the opportunity to work with a team that impacts our community in such a meaningful way and I am, very much, looking forward to new challenges ahead.
Why Your Child Should Not 
be Forced to Hug a Relative
By Richelle Davis
Prevention Coordinator
As we head into the holiday season and into visits with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, there's one awkward situation that will arise in many families that most parents will be unprepared to deal with: relatives who expect hugs and kisses from little ones - even when those little ones don't want to show them affection.

To spare a relative's feelings, many of us will urge a small child to endure or even return this unwanted physical contact. But should we? What messages are we sending to our kids about their body boundaries when we do this?

In Protect Yourself, children are taught that they are the boss of their own body. This means no one has the right to touch them in a way they do not like or that makes them uncomfortable. If we force our children to give hugs and kisses when they are not comfortable, we are confusing this issue. Instead these children are being sent the message that they don't have the right to withhold affection from anyone. These children have lost control of their bodies and the parents became the boss.

Protect Yourself also emphasizes children listening to their "gut" feeling, their safety whistle, that feeling we all have when something makes us uncomfortable. If children are forced to ignore this feeling when it comes to giving affection to relatives, this may confuse them into believing that feeling doesn't apply to all situations.

A good first step may be to explain your policy to relatives. Adults, even close relatives, should be able to respect your decision. Children should be polite and respectful while still being able to maintain their own personal boundaries.
Welcome Staci Bigelow
Event and Volunteer Coordinator
My name is Staci Bigelow, and I have been given the privilege of becoming Child Advocacy's new Event and Volunteer Coordinator. I am very enthusiastic about all the new people I will begin to encounter within the agency and out in the community as I begin to familiarize myself with the agency.
Just to share a little background about myself, I have a bachelor's degree in Family Studies from Central Michigan University, Go Chips! After a small venture with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Child Advocacy will be my first large career venture aside from my other roles as a wife and mom. I am looking forward to great things ahead.
Starting a New Journey
 by Michelle Zombeck
CASA Coordinator
CASA of Gratiot County is thrilled to introduce the newest members of our volunteer team Angela Gonzalez, Maya Dora-Laske and Morgan Roe. 
Angela Gonzalez has a background working with youth as a foster care specialist and as a foster parent.  For seven years Angela volunteered on the Youth Task Force Committee.  Angela is a proud parent and grandparent who feels strongly about the rights of children.  When Angela was asked why she wanted to be a CASA volunteer she shared that "I would love the opportunity to work closely with youth of all ages as I have always done throughout my life.  I know that there are many children involved in the child welfare system and I wish to be able to be a voice to as many as I may."
Maya Dora-Laskey has spent the last 15 years educating people at the college and university level.  Currently Maya is a professor at Alma College.  Maya has a passion for social justice and literature. Maya enjoys working with children and is a devoted parent of two.  When Maya was asked why she wanted to be a CASA volunteer she shared that she wanted "to advocate for children, their rights and their well-being."
Morgan Roe is currently finishing up her bachelor's degree from Central Michigan University in Sociology with an emphasis on criminal and social justice.  Morgan is working as a solutions specialist for Verizon Wireless.  Morgan aspires to one day be a child forensic interviewer. When Morgan was asked why she wanted to be a CASA volunteer she shared that "I love kids.  Working with children is my passion and I want children to grow up in the best situation and environment as possible."
These ladies have made the commitment to embark on a journey that will be life changing and we thank them for their commitment to helping us reach the goal of having a volunteer for every child in need. 
CASA of Gratiot County is currently accepting applications for the next volunteer training that will begin in February of 2016.  Please contact Michelle Zombeck for more information at or 
(989) 463-1422.

Left to right Michelle Zombeck, Angela Gonzalez, Judge Kristin Bakker, Morgan Roe, and Maya Dora-Laskey.
S cheduled Classes
Foster/Adoptive/Relative Care Support Group
Tuesday, December 8
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. 
Central Michigan Youth for Christ - Alma

Please call our office at (989) 463-1422 to register for the class.

ACT Raising Safe Kids Program
January 11,13,18,20,25,27
5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Wilcox Non-Profit Center- Alma

Please call our office at (989) 463-1422 to register for the class.
Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative
What is MYOI?  

MYOI's goal is to ensure that young people in foster care have successful outcomes in housing, education, employment, social and community engagement, permanency, physical health and mental health. The Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative is a partnership between the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative and the Michigan Department of Human Services. The program was created to improve outcomes for youths transitioning from foster care to adulthood. It brings together community members, public and private agencies, and resources that are critical to enhancing the success of young adults who are transitioning or have transitioned from the foster care system.  For additional information, please
Happy Holidays!

It's been a joyful year here at Child Advocacy!  We give thanks to all of you for your support, partnerships, encouragement, and love.  We can't do all that we do without the help of our partner agencies, Board Members, coalition and committee members, families, this wonderful community, and our loved ones.  THANK YOU!!

With a heavy heart we say goodbye to Brenda Shafley.  Brenda has been our amazing Event and Volunteer Coordinator the past 5 years.  Brenda was hired as our Office Assistant and we quickly realized that she was so much more than just an assistant!  Brenda has coordinated so many wonderful events including our annual 5K race, Family Carnival and Expo, annual banquet, and Shop with a Hero event just to name a few.  She has also managed hundreds of interns and volunteers over the past 5 years. Brenda's work ethic and ability to accomplish an enormous work load in a few short hours is remarkable.  She will truly be missed by all of us!  We would all like to send Brenda off with best wishes and lots of luck in her future endeavors!  We love you Brenda!

Welcome Heather Therrien and Staci Bigelow to our team!!  We are so excited to have these ladies join our family here at Child Advocacy.  Both Heather and Staci bring wonderful qualities to the table and we all look forward to working with both of them.

Our family here at Child Advocacy would like to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! 

Audra Stahl
Executive Director