Our CASAs make a difference in the lives of abused and neglected children every day. For your inspiration, we would like to spotlight our everyday heroes.
This month, CASA of Terrebonne would like to introduce CASA volunteer Tammy Brouillette. Tammy has been a resident of Houma since she was 12 years old. She has been married to her husband, Stan, for 27 years and they have one son, David, who is 24 years old. Sadly, their family recently lost their four-legged son, Andy Brouilette, a 17-year-old Jack Russell Terrier. Some of the hobbies Tammy takes joy in are shopping, traveling, and attending sporting events with her husband. One thing that may surprise most people about Tammy, is that she likes watching a good boxing match.
In May 2020, Tammy retired from teaching after 33 years in the system. She loved teaching and particularly loved teaching science. Tammy was named a state finalist for the Presidential Award of Excellence in Math and Science Teaching. She states that she misses working with her students and the joy she got when they had their “AHA” moment. Tammy knew she wanted to get involved and volunteer when she retired but didn’t know with which organization. While at the gym, she heard newly sworn-in CASA volunteers, Amber Berry and Nicole Reiss, speaking about CASA and asked them about their roles. After attending an information session, Tammy believed CASA was a good fit because of her educational background and experience with students.
Through the years of teaching, Tammy has come to believe that a person’s story can be an explanation for their choices and behaviors, but it can never be an excuse. As a CASA, Tammy hopes to help her CASA kids know “that they have the power to write their own future regardless of their past.” Tammy was sworn in November 2020 and has been assigned to her first case. She advises incoming volunteers to be prepared for your momma/papa bear instincts to come to the surface. She states, “I have realized that I will fight for my CASA kid until the very end as I would for my own flesh and blood.” She states, “I have grown to love the young man I work with and have gone to bat for him many times, particularly with his educational needs.” Tammy continues, “There are so few times in life when we get to be a champion for others. Being a CASA volunteer gives you that opportunity.” Thank you, Tammy, for the hard work for your CASA child. We appreciate you!
Meet CASA advocate, Traci Hawthorne. Traci has been an advocate at CASA since 2014. She has advocated on 3 cases, with a total of 8 children. Traci has been married to her husband, Randy Hawthorne, for 7 ½ years. They do not have any children, but they do have a little dog, Molle’, who they absolutely adore!! Traci is a retired French teacher (11 years). Her hobbies include the French culture and language, as well as scrapbooking and reading. Traci was born and raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan (how fun is that to say!). She moved here in 2007 for a teaching job and has been here ever since. Something almost no one knows about Traci, is that she had a job selling underground mining equipment.
Traci first heard about CASA from her friend Kristie Matherne Patrick, who is a former advocate. They met when Traci started attending her husband’s church. She states that “Knowing there are so many children out there that have not experienced unconditional love before, breaks my heart, and I could not turn away knowing that I could give unconditional love to at least a few of them. People often say that they wish things would change in the world. As a CASA volunteer, you can start that change with “changing the story” for one child at a time. Every child you advocate for will become a member of society. This is your chance to help that child grow into a productive and powerful member of society. What else is there to think about?”
When asked what she would like to share about her CASA experience Traci says, “I have never worked for or volunteered with another organization that recognizes the work of their volunteers as much as CASA does. The people that have come into my life because of CASA are relationships that I can’t imagine living without. You are never alone in your volunteer work at CASA. The staff and other CASA volunteers are always there to support you.”
At CASA we certainly do feel blessed to have Traci, not only as volunteer but as a friend. Thank you for all you continue to do for CASA and the community!
This month we would like to introduce you to Mrs. Kathleen Andrews. She has been a CASA since March 2020. She was one of the super troopers who swore in right before we all went into lockdown. She has been assigned to a six-year-old boy. Even though she has not been able to visit as often as she would like because of the pandemic, she has been able to form a bond with him.
Kathleen has been married to her husband, Howard Andrews, for 23 years. She has two sons from a previous marriage, Christopher and Kerry Quave. She also has four grandchildren; three grand-daughters aged 13, 10, and six, and one grandson age six. Kathleen was born and raised in New York state. She moved to Houma in 1976 at the age of 19. She was back and forth from New York to Houma during this time. She also spent time in Pawleys Island, South Carolina. She moved back to Houma permanently in 2007. She is currently working as a long-term substitute teacher at Bayou Blue Elementary.
In her spare time, she enjoys reading and solving word searches. A fun fact about Kathleen is that she enjoys singing and sometimes she writes music.
Kathleen states that she chose to volunteer for CASA because she wanted to volunteer and help children. She says, at first she was very nervous but with the help of Sulma, her supervisor, she developed more confidence in her role. Her greatest hope is that children are in homes where they are loved and the parents put them first. Thank you for your dedication to the CASA program Mrs. Kathleen!
CASA of Terrebonne would like to introduce CASA Volunteer, Emily Gilmore. Born and raised in Houma, LA, Emily attended Nicholls State University, where she and her husband met. Emily's husband served in the U.S. Army for 28 years and is now retired. She has been married for 30 years and has two children. Emily's son was recently married, and her daughter is a senior at LSU as an Animal Science/pre-vet major. Her family loves animals and has several animals at home.
As an elementary educator for 30 years, Emily has taught children from many walks of life and has lost sleep over the safety, health, and family-life of prior students through the years. Her heart always went out to the struggling families and their children. She stated that she found out about CASA from Facebook. After some research, she concluded that CASA was a productive outlet to advocate for the children and families she wanted to help at school.
Emily has been a CASA Volunteer for two and half years and is still advocating on her first case. She states that her CASA experience has been rewarding. She's traveled hours to maintain communication and in-person visits with her CASA child. She spent the evening in the hospital watching "Mrs. Doubtfire" when her CASA child had no other visitor. She answered the phone when there was no one else to answer. Advocating for her CASA child has brought tears of joy, as well as tears of sadness. Emily states, "she wouldn't trade her CASA experience for anything."
In January, Emily partnered with fellow CASA Volunteer Amber Berry for her second CASA case. The Co-CASAs partnered to advocate for a family with four children. Emily was inspired to take on another case by a student who is in foster care that did not have a CASA. Emily became a CASA after her children were mostly grown and felt she had more time to advocate for a CASA child. She states, "Looking back, I could have become a CASA earlier in my life." Emily continues, "doing something to make a difference in a child's life is always better than doing nothing to help a child."
Thank you, Emily, for being dedicated to your CASA children and all children. We appreciate you!
A polo shirt will be donated to this month's casa volunteer by Shelly Toups at Artistic Embroidery.
Kimberly “Kim” Eubanks is a CASA volunteer who swore in on May 17, 2019. Since that time, she has advocated on two separate cases for two different children. Kim is an absolute joy to be around! She is always looking for new educational opportunities to further her role as a CASA volunteer. She has attended conferences in the past and raves about all the “golden” information that she is able to obtain. When it comes to her case work, she is thorough and precise, and she is willing to go above and beyond for her CASA children.
Kim was born in Johnson City, Tennessee but grew up in Myfield, Kentucky. She has been in Houma for about 38 years. Kim is married to Sloan Eubanks. They have been in a relationship for 16 years and married for 7 of those years. Kim has two adult children: Aaren who is 33 and Ian who is 31. She is also the owner of a beloved basset hound and 3 cats. Kim is a self-proclaimed animal lover who volunteers for the Lafourche Parish Animal Shelter on Sundays to clean and play with the cats at Petsmart. In her spare time, she is an avid reader, loves music and loves traveling. Kim also enjoys spending time with her family and friends. When Kim is not busy volunteering or enjoying her past times, she also works fulltime as a clinical laboratory scientist at Ochsner St. Mary in Morgan City. Even during this past year of uncertainty and being on the frontlines, she continued to make CASA a top priority. For that we honor and thank her!
Kim says that she became a CASA because she wanted to be proactive in helping the children of our community. She has known about CASA for many years and she felt that it was time for her to be “boots on the ground”.
She states: ” I never imagined how CASA would improve my own life. I treasure the education I have received, the camaraderie of all the outright heroes that play a part and I have come to the humbling understanding that one person can indeed make a difference in a child’s life.” Thank you Kim for being one of those heroes you speak about! You are an amazing asset to our CASA team. We are lucky to have you.
Kim will recieve a polo shirt donated by Shelly Toups at Artistic Embroidery.
Our volunteer we want to introduce you to this month is Ms. Penny Hebert. Penny has been a CASA volunteer for 5 years. She is currently on her sixth case and her 14th child! Penny has two adult sons and 4 grandchildren (1 girl and three boys). She has worked for SLECA as a Human Resource Administrator for the past 29 years. They are very supportive of her CASA work and allow her to take care of any meetings or issues that come up with her CASA children. Outside of office hours and CASA time, Penny enjoys cycling (like miles and miles), kayaking, and being outdoors. Her love of being outdoors is to be expected as she was born and raised here in Houma.
Penny came to CASA because she was looking for something to do in her spare time. She knew she wanted it to be child related as she loves being around children. She did some research and followed CASA for about 3 years. When her younger sister decided to go back to school to work with children, Penny encouraged her to join CASA, which she did. As soon as she finished, her sister talked her into signing up for the next class. Penny has done a phenomenal job on all of her cases. The best part is she now gets to advocate alongside her best friend, Carol Bergeron, on a sibling group with multiple children.
Penny’s advice for volunteers is that sometimes you may think that you are not doing anything special for the children, but in the end you see the collective good that you are doing.
To anyone who is thinking about becoming a CASA, just do it! It is very heartwarming to know that you are giving these children a chance at life.
we would like to introduce you to Alyssia Hay. She has been a CASA volunteer for approximately eight months. She is still working her very first case and doing very well. She has been happily married to Steve Crispino for four years. She has two biological children, Carter Hay (25) and Carlie Hay (19). She also has two bonus children, Kevin Crispino (28) and Kyle Crispino (23). They also have a sweet little cavipoo named Teddy. Alyssia is a licensed medical massage therapist and has spent the majority of the last 22 years working at Donahue and Trahan Physical Therapy. Not only does Alyssia hold a massage license, she is also a certified yoga instructor and has a degree in Dietetics. When not working, Alyssia spends her down time with her family. She enjoys yoga, reading, hiking, riding bikes, fishing and kayaking. She likes to be outdoors and active. Alyssia is not a native to Houma. She was born in Morgan City but she and her family moved to Houma when she was 8 years old for a better job opportunity and has been here ever since. Something that many people do not know about Alyssia is that her family of origin hosted many foreign exchange students throughout her life. She traveled to Europe to visit these students in Denmark, Germany, France, Spain and Italy.
Alyssia first heard of CASA due to having an office in the same building as CASA. Upon researching the organization, she discovered that this would be a great organization to become involved with. However, as many people do, she put off submitting her application because of self-doubt. “Not enough time”; “Can’t handle it”; “Not the ‘right’ person”. She finally decided to go through with the process after the passing of her dear friend, Gabrielle Hernandez, who was a CASA volunteer. It was her way of honoring Gabby’s legacy.
When asked what advice she would give to people contemplating becoming a CASA she said: “Don’t let fear stop you. Will you become attached to these beautiful kids? Yes, you will. That's the point. They need people who will be there for them, to always think of what is best for them, to love them. Don't let the fear stop you from being there for a child in need. You could be the one person, the one constant, the one reliable adult in that child's life that could be the reason they go on to become happy, healthy, successful, loving adults.”
Alyssia we are so grateful to have you. Thank you for all of your hard work.
Carl "Buddy" McNabb
This month’s meet a CASA is a little bit different than our average volunteer. Carl “Buddy” McNabb has been a board member for over 10 years and President for 5 of those years. He has been an influential part of everything CASA is and stands for. However, when he would try to get others to volunteer he was met with “Why don’t you?” So, a year ago, he took that leap and became a volunteer. Buddy has advocated for a total of 3 children, 2 of whom have been reunified with their mother and the third who is on her way to adoption.
Buddy has been married for 26 years to Claire McNabb. He has 3 adult children, Jenni, Mike and Zack, and 2 grandchildren, Marli and Grier. Buddy is a retired oilfield salesman who now manages multiple rent houses which keep him busy. Claire is still employed and works full time in the shipbuilding industry.
Buddy enjoys a little fishing, a little golf and a lot of cooking. He states he has always enjoyed cooking, so making sure his hard-working wife doesn’t go hungry is a chore he enjoys. Before 2020 and COVID, Claire and Buddy would spend many weekends in New Orleans, walking the city, enjoying great restaurants and occasional cocktails. They both love live music and dancing.
Buddy was born and raised in Houma. He believes that Houma is that perfect in between city - not too big, and not too small. He says, “It was a great place to raise my children. The people here are friendly, kind, and helpful for the most part. We have everything we need here without the hassles of big city life, not to mention that we are surrounded by a wildlife paradise.”
When asked what advice he would give to someone thinking about joining CASA, he said, “So many of us say that we want to make things better. Some do by donating or supporting causes. This is of course important and noteworthy, but time is such a valuable commodity, volunteers are hard to come by. Four to five hours a month of your time can make such a huge difference in a child's life. Please join us in helping make the world a little better place. There is plenty of room in heaven for CASA's.”
Thank you, Buddy McNabb, for ALL you do for the mission, the organization and the staff! We appreciate you!
This month we would like to introduce you to CASA Volunteer, Amanda Leblanc. Amanda was sworn in on July 17, 2018 and was assigned a case soon after. Even though she knew the case she was assigned to would entail a long term commitment, she readily agreed to it and is still working that same case to date.
Amanda was a CASA supporter before she ever decided to take the training class and become an advocate. She and her wife participated in the crawfish boil and 5K hosted by The Courville Foundation every year. Then one year she decided that being an advocate was something she could and would do. She wanted to be there for a young adult who felt they had no one to turn to.
Amanda has been married to Katelyn Leblanc since February 2018. They have 4 fur babies -Tyce, Arlo and Finn (dogs) and Minnie the cat. Amanda is the 8th grade girls P.E. teacher and volleyball coach at Evergreen Jr. High School. She loves anything Disney (notice the pet names) and enjoys cooking and spending time outdoors, camping and kayaking. For a good laugh, Amanda enjoys corny dad jokes. One day Amanda aspires to write a children’s book or a vegetarian/vegan Cajun cookbook.
When asked what advice she would give to someone thinking about becoming a CASA she said, “Advice I would give someone who wants to be a CASA would be to be as open and as positive as you can.”
This month we would like to introduce you to a fairly new volunteer, Beth Tabor. Beth was sworn in on March 12, 2020. She, along with the rest of that class, have had a unique CASA experience thus far as they swore in the day before Louisiana began going into lockdown for COVID-19. They accepted cases, were assigned and given the normal tasks -- see your child, talk to the case worker, reach out to teachers/counselors and report back. Unfortunately, within days of being assigned, the stay-at-home order was issued and all face-to-face visits ceased. Therefore, volunteers had to get really creative to get contacts and visits in with the children. They have had to balance their responsibility to the court with the family’s safety and comfort level. Building rapport can take some time and effort under normal circumstances but COVID-19 has made it even more difficult. Beth has done her very best to accomplish these tasks.
Beth Tabor has been in a domestic partnership for five and half years with Brian Elliott, who also went through the CASA training. Beth has a 13-year-old miniature schnauzer named Lorelai Josephine Tabor but they call her Rory. Yes, she is named after the “Gilmore Girls”. Beth states that was her favorite show when she got Rory. Her partner, Brian, has 3 adult children and a grandson who is 4 months old. Beth works for Rushing Media in sales to help local businesses grow through local advertising. Her job is actually what brought her to CASA when she was assigned to our account. When she researched how to best help CASA grow, she became inspired to join herself. She also got her partner involved and they both signed up for the training classes. Beth stated that she chose to become active in CASA because she felt it would give her an opportunity to do something for her community and make a difference in a young person’s life. She was concerned about the time commitment required. However, after she was assured it would be flexible and staff would be able to help accommodate her throughout, she took the plunge.
In her spare time Beth enjoys doing cross-fit 5-6 times a week usually at 5 am. She sometimes goes twice a day! For her it’s more than just working out, it’s a deep ingrained passion to push her body to its limits. She comes from a family that has battled heart disease, diabetes, and strokes so fitness and overall health is very important to her.
Beth was born in Bitburg, Germany when her father was stationed there while serving in the U.S. Air Force. Most of her childhood was spent moving around about every three years due to her father’s service. She and her family spent most of their time in Idaho which is where she attended and graduated high school. Beth has been “home” in Louisiana for about 15 years now. Both of her parents were born and raised in the Morgan City area.
When asked what advice she would give to anyone thinking about becoming a CASA, she said: “Just sign up for the training. I was super nervous that I was biting off more than I could chew when I signed up but really wanted to do it and just trusted that it was going to be as flexible as they were saying. By the end of the training course I was confident in being able to balance it and the fear of schedule conflicts with work and court went out the window when I learned how spread out the dates are. Also, when my coworkers found out what I was doing, they were all so supportive and proud. I knew I would be able to make it work.”
The CASA Advocate we would like you to meet this month is Mrs. Rushelle Fitzgerald. Rushelle was sworn-in April of 2016. Since that time, she has advocated for 6 children in 4 cases. She has been married for 37 years to Allan Fitzgerald and they have 2 children and 4 grandchildren who are the light of their world. Rushelle is not currently working, however her background is in accounting. She currently spends her time loving and playing with her grandchildren and advocating for children in foster care. Rushelle was born in Galliano, Louisiana but has been a resident of Houma since she was 10 years old.
Rushelle first heard about CASA due to her niece and niece-in-law being CASA advocates and them recognizing the tremendous difference she could make if she only made the commitment. However, due to working full time she did not feel she would have the time to commit to volunteering. Several years later, when she decided to quit working, she wanted to give back to the community by volunteering with children. She began seeing CASA billboards around town and after multiple “glances” she decided that CASA would be the organization to join.
Rushelle almost didn’t make it through training though. Multiple times she wanted to give up. When court report writing came around her anxiety almost got the best of her. She could not fathom having to write a report that would be submitted as evidence in a court of law. She was on her way to the office to drop out when she noticed a billboard with a CASA child and her “big brown eyes staring at her” which caused her to change her mind. This made her even more determined to push through and finish what she started. Thankfully, Rushelle reports that she has no regrets in pushing herself to finish training and take a case. She also says that CASA has opened her eyes to the reality of the cruel world that is right in our own backyards -- that parents are causing severe harm to their own children. But, if she is able to make the difference in the life of one child, it was all worth it.
When asked what advice she would give to anyone thinking of joining CASA, she said, “You are so desperately needed. Your heart will be broken by the stories that you will hear about and even more so by the stories that you become a part of. You have to be prepared to become an emotional wreck at times. You will cry yourself to sleep at times. You will sometimes cry your eyes out when you leave your visits. You will wonder if you are actually making a difference. Then the day will come when your CASA child gives you the hello hugs or the goodbye hugs that will make it all worthwhile. You will then realize that you are making a difference in their lives. They melt into your heart the way that I thought only my children or grandchildren could.”
Thank you so much for all of your hard work Mrs. Rushelle Fitzgerald! We appreciate all that you do!
Meet Mary Guidry. Mary has been married to Leroy Guidry for 8 years. They have 4 children; Gracie 15 years old, Lily 21 years old, Emma 22 years old, and Alexis 27 years old. Even though Mary does not work outside of the home she does work extremely hard as a mom, a CASA and a volunteer for a number of other charitable organizations. In her free time, she and her husband enjoy attending live music concerts. Her favorite artist, as well as concert, is Tom Petty who she was able to see at Red Rock Amphitheater in Denver Colorado. She said it was AWESOME!!! Mary was not born in Houma, however, she has been living here since the 3rd grade.
Mary came to CASA initially as a board member. She has been a board member for four years and has been awarded Board Member of the Year twice. Yes, she is THAT GOOD! She also stepped into the role of Vice-President two years ago. She is instrumental in all of our events and her energy is contagious! She is enthusiastic, passionate and constantly striving to make CASA bigger and better! She has been a volunteer advocate for 2 years and still on her first case which is finally wrapping up. Since swearing in, she has advocated for a sibling group consisting of a boy (age 6) and a girl (age 2). Mary has spent numerous hours in visits, research and travel for the best interest of these children. When asked, she stated that: “the best feeling is to be loved unconditionally by someone who is not related to you. It is amazing to see the excitement when they see you coming down the driveway.” Mary feels that the best part of her case is seeing these two children adopted and knowing that they have a chance to live up to their full potential.
We are thrilled and blessed to have Mary Guidry on our team! She brings a unique element to CASA of Terrebonne. Thank you Mary for being who you are and doing what you do!