“The power of your light cannot be underestimated. Your light creates big, huge, jump up and down and cry wins, and small little wins you find in the face of sorrow. We want to celebrate them all and continue to pass our light to others. That's what it's all about,” commented Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of South Central Missouri board of directors president Becky Smith.

Smith welcomed the attendees from the four-county 25th Judicial Circuit who gathered in Houston, MO for the 2019 CASA Volunteer Appreciation event hosted by the Texas County Advisory Board. The Gentry Residential Treatment Center provided the dinner for the event.


“Wow! This has been a year almost beyond words for CASA of SCMO. With a new Executive Director Matthew Evans hired in the latter part of 2017, we kicked off 2018 on the heels of our first Festival of Trees touting a brand new #onelight campaign focused on the impact each of us can have in the lives of others, especially those children so desperately in need of love, care, concern, and a voice,” she continued.


Smith reported that the volunteer numbers reached record heights in 2018. CASA has more than 100 active volunteers for the first time since the existence of the South Central organization. “We served almost 100 more children in 2018 than 2017, moving the percentage of those children in care that are served from 30 percent to an astounding 46 percent in just one year,” Smith said.


“Your work has created a bonfire of light the likes of which would make Texas County proud, and I am truly amazed at what you are doing each day in the lives of others,” she said. 


Nine individuals were recognized for their contributions to the not-for-profit organization. 


Receiving awards were: Extra Mile Award - Carol Sanborn; Rising Star - Mullin Evans and Tina Goforth; Volunteer Choice Award Taylor Schwartz, Phelps County Volunteer Supervisor; Hope Award - Tanya Kittelson, Texas Co Juvenile Office;  Board Member of the Year - Lonna Sowers; Volunteer of the Year of Phelps - Frank Jurotich, Sr; of Pulaski - Ariadne Howell; and of Texas - Juanita Epperson  

A special birthday recognition for Emma Lou Brent, one of the organization’s founding board members. The life of CASA volunteer Wanda Pruitt who passed away last fall was also remembered.


CASA will host the Ninth Annual Justice IS Served! event from 7 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 4 at the Havener Center on the Missouri University of Science and Technology campus. Judges from the 25th Judicial Circuit will be serving breakfast to the attendees. Sponsorships are now being sought and tickets are now available.


For more information, contact Janece Martin at 573-426-5437 or email to janece.martin@casascmo.org.