For many families, driving through the Festival of Lights on Christmas Day is an annual tradition. This Christmas, volunteers from CASA of Southern Oklahoma were on site to help direct traffic as visitors drove through.
CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates, and their volunteers advocate for the best interests of abused, neglected and deprived children in the court system. After a judge appoints a volunteer to a child or group of siblings, that person will work with that child until he or she is placed in a permanent home.
Valerie Bynum has been a volunteer with CASA for over two decades and she described the organization’s work.
“We help children when they are at their most vulnerable — when they’ve been removed from their homes, when they’ve been abused and when their families are falling apart,” Bynum said. “We’re there to help them weave their way to a better place. We’re with that child until they are permanently placed.”
She said she began volunteering after her own children had left home. She had previously volunteered as a classroom mentor, and she saw CASA as opportunity to help some of the area’s most vulnerable children.
Helping Bynum on Christmas night was new volunteer Yesenia Montano.
“I just started back in November,” Montano said. “I’d been wanting to do this since 2014, and I had called and got all of the information but decided it wasn’t the right time because I was working a lot. This year I’m not working as much, and when I read on Facebook that they needed volunteers I decided to get involved.”
Bynum said she enjoys her time working with the organization, the court system and the children.
“The community, the courts and the CASA office are all so supportive,” she said. “You couldn’t work with a better group, and they allow you to be flexible with your time. Other than an appointed court date every three to six months. You can really pick your own schedule and pick the times that work best for you and your CASA child.”
To find out more information about CASA including how to volunteer or donate to the organization, visit https://www.casaok.org.