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.
Amanda Leblanc - September 2020
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.”
Beth Tabor - August 2020
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.”
Rushelle Fitzgerald - July 2020
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!
Mary Guidry - June 2020
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!