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Large crowd turns out to hear about organization at annual luncheon
More than 250 influential members of the community were in attendance at the CASA Works Inc. luncheon Monday at the Winchester Church of Christ to learn about the organization and how it’s benefiting Franklin County.
Lynne Farrar, executive director of CASA Works Inc., which is based in Coffee County, explained the organization has been in existence since 2000, when it was formed to serve foster children in Coffee and Bedford Counties.
Then, in 2011, CASA Works staff made the decision to expand and start working with foster children in Franklin County’s juvenile court system.
“It makes me so excited to see everyone here today; it takes hundreds of volunteer hours to make this event happen,” Farrar said. “I hope what you learn today will inspire you to help in some way, because every child deserves the safe embrace of a loving family.”
She mentioned that every day on the news one hears awful stories of child abuse and neglect.
“Just a couple weeks ago it was reported that NFL player Adrian Peterson’s son was assaulted and killed by his mother’s boyfriend,” she said. “We hear these horror stories, but they don’t just happen in other parts of the country, in other states, they also occur right here in Franklin County.”
“Judge (Thomas) Farris and his staff listen to stories like these every week. It’s easy to let these stories get us depressed because they’re hard to listen to, but wouldn’t it be better if these stories served as a call to action instead?”
According to Farrar, the CASA volunteers are a vital part of the organization.
“Last year, we had six volunteers working on 33 cases,” Farrar said. “But right now there are 250 children in the juvenile court system for abuse or neglect.”
Therefore, many more CASA volunteers are needed to serve in the area.
“What CASA volunteers do is make sure the needs of children stay in the forefront of everyone’s mind,” she said. “Anyone who cares for children can become a CASA volunteer.”
To further showcase how important an organization like CASA can be to a community, a special guest speaker is invited to tell his or her personal story.
This year, 24-year-old Tawny Spinelli, a former foster youth, who now works professionally in children’s services, was invited to speak.
As those in attendance learned, Spinelli has faced many challenges throughout her life, having a home life that was, at best, less than stable.
However, she was able to overcome these obstacles with help from a few caring individuals she found along the way.
Spinelli commented when her mother attempted suicide during her senior year of high school, she stopped turning in homework for a class. Luckily, the teacher took time to come in before school and help Spinelli catch up on the work so she’d pass the class and be able to graduate with her peers.
Graduating from high school, it later became time to apply to colleges. This is when Spinneli realized she didn’t have all the paperwork that she needed.
“As a foster kid I moved around so much that all the medical and academic records before my seventh grade year had been lost,” she said.
So, Spinelli did the only thing she knew to do, which was to go and get all her vaccinations again.
“This is the type of thing that if I’d had a CASA volunteer, they could’ve helped me with,” she said.
Spinelli didn’t hear of CASA until college, but once she found out about what it was and did for children in foster care, she fell in love with the cause.
“It’s different than any other organization,” she said.
Spinelli mentioned when she had heard other former foster youth talk about CASA she’d once ask, “Why didn’t I have a CASA volunteer?”
“But later that question changed from ‘why don’t I have one?’ to ‘why doesn’t every foster youth have a CASA?” Spinelli said.
According to Spinelli, children in foster care often feel lost, and this changes once there’s a CASA volunteer in their life.
“I say that foster care is kind of like rolling dice, and the odds are always against you,” she said. “But CASA changes your odds.”
In addition to working with CASA, Spinelli volunteers regularly with Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, CASA and Nashville CARES.