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When Idelia, a sophomore from California University of Pennsylvania, spoke at the annual golf and tennis fundraising event for CASA of Westmoreland last year, tears flowed in the audience—because they knew just how much work it had taken to get to this moment.
“This young woman was rescued from some very dangerous circumstances,” said Carol Black of Evergreen Insurance, the event co-sponsor and longtime CASA supporter. “Her story was transformed by the existence of this organization.”
Advocates for the abused and neglected
CASA’s purpose is to advocate for children like Idelia who are abused or neglected in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, providing a voice in the courts on their behalf. These court-appointed special advocates (hence the CASA name) help facilitate each child’s well-being in care, and ultimately, permanent placement in a safe, nurturing home.
“In a perfect world, all children would be nurtured and loved,” said Karen Burns, the organization’s executive director. “Unfortunately, this is decidedly not the experience of all children—here, we have 400+ children in foster care annually.”
That’s why CASA recruits, trains, and supervises volunteer advocates who are appointed by courts for foster children with challenging cases. Advocates ensure that all needs are met, court orders for care are executed in a timely manner, independent recommendations for the child’s future interests are presented to the court, and health and development resources are provided.
‘We are honored to help this vibrant program advocate for the most vulnerable members of our society.’
—Carol Black, Evergreen Insurance
11 years, more than $400,000 raised
Evergreen Insurance, located in Westmoreland’s county seat of Greensburg, has been involved with CASA for more than a decade. It all began when agency principal Joe Imler was introduced to the organization by a board member—and became a board member himself. He now serves as a CASA ambassador, and in the 11 years since the relationship began, he has helped raise more than $400,000.
“Our annual golf and tennis even continues to grow,” Black said. “Today, it brings in about 11% of CASA’s net income for the year. We are honored to help this vibrant program advocate for the most vulnerable members of our society.”
Still serving, even during the pandemic
All of the children CASA serves have been removed from their birth homes due to abuse, neglect or abandonment and placed in foster, kinship or congregate care. Even with the impact of the pandemic, the organization expects to serve more than 175 children by year’s end.
Yet right now, Burns worries about the ones who have not yet been removed from their homes. “This time of quarantine is so dangerous for abused and neglected children,” she said. “Fewer caring eyes are upon them.”
A 2020 Make More Happen Award will help CASA add more of those caring eyes throughout Westmoreland County—the honor includes a donation of up to $10,000 from Liberty Mutual and Safeco on behalf of Evergreen Insurance.
“We can’t thank Evergreen enough for what they do to help kids in our community,” Burns said. “Carol recruits new advocates, while both attracting and keeping donors, year after year. Joe’s wisdom helped guide our early years and continues to this day. We are honored to have their support.”