FORSYTH COUNTY — Each April, one local nonprofit recognizes National Child Abuse Prevention Month by honoring adults who help it give voiceless children the support they need in the face of abuse and neglect.
Those honored Thursday night by Court Appointed Special Advocates of Forsyth County ranged from school social workers to foster parents.
“We believe protecting and supporting children requires a community effort,” Paula Gault, who chairs CASA’s board, told the audience during the Light of Hope banquet at Lambert High School.
“We know it takes selfless, compassionate individuals who provide children a ‘light of hope’ to help ensure they become strong, successful adults.”
CASA aims to ensure a “qualified, compassionate adult will fight for and protect a child’s right to be safe, to be treated with dignity and respect, and to learn and grow in the safe embrace of a loving family.”
As honorees took the stage, they passed rows of 235 candles, each flame representing a child in Forsyth County who suffered abuse of neglect at the hands of his or her parent or caregiver in 2014.
“[Last year,] more than 92 CASA volunteers advocated for 235 children, donating 5,700 hours and driving more than 56,000 miles to meet the needs of the children we serve,” said Janet Walden, executive director of the local branch of the state and national nonprofit.
The 2015 Light of Hope recipients included: Julie Brennan; Dianna Delaney; Amy Gamez; Kathy Goodberlet; Maureen Headrick; Kathy Jolly; Michelle Miltz; Cathy Morse; Adam and Whitney Rodes; Stacy and Todd Staley; and Kenya Wooden.
Mentor. Teacher. Social worker. Christmas angel. Cheerleader. Parent involvement coordinator. Troop leader. Foster parent. Social services supervisor. They fill an array of spots in the community, and they all have affected children’s lives for the better.
In addition to these designations — for which family members and friends stood in support for each recipient — Harriet Holland was deemed the year’s volunteer of the year, chosen from nearly 100 people.
“She reminds others to keep the child’s best interest at the forefront and encourages work towards reunification by remaining open and honest about the steps needed to ensure the child or children are returned to a safe and stable home,” said Chief Forsyth County Juvenile Court Judge J. Russell Jackson. “In the past seven years, Harriet has advocated for 16 children in seven cases.
“She seems to almost always receive cases with not only complex issues but also with large sibling groups. The amount of work she puts in on these cases would be impressive if she were getting paid, but becomes more impressive when you remember that she is volunteering her time.”