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 would like to introduce you to Gina Danos. Gina is the Fire Chief of the Montegut Fire Department. She is the first female fire chief in Terrebonne Parish. Although she has no children of her own, she has many amazing kiddos that call her Nanny or Taunt G. Gina does share her home with her loveable furry roommate Coco Puff, a senior pup she rescued a year ago. She was immediately drawn to Coco Puff because her description was “social, independent, and likes naps” which Gina says is the puppy version of herself.
A native of Montegut, Gina is active in her community by serving in youth ministry at her church, coaching T-Ball in the summer, cooking, crabbing, and enjoying family game nights with her cousins. Whether she’s in court, church, or on the T-Ball field, you can bet she is wearing her trusty Crocs. Gina is a huge fan of Crocs and has a pair for any occasion. “If you ain’t Croc'n you ain’t rock’n” is something she often says.
Gina has been active with CASA since 2019. She became interested in the organization when she began to read information on the role of a volunteer. After a lot of reading and praying she applied and started her training. In the past three years, she has advocated on three cases all of which have closed. When one of her cases reopened recently she was ready to take it on and reconnect with the children. Gina encourages anyone interested in the CASA organization to share their time, talents and treasures with those in need. It truly takes a village. When asked for something to share, she wrote:
“I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.”
~ St Mother Teresa
This month we would like to introduce you to Jonathan Russo. Jon came to CASA of Terrebonne back in 2013. His training was a bit rocky due to some staff changes going on right in the middle of it all. However, Jon came through and has been soaring ever since. In 2015 Jon was named our Advocate of the Year. He fought some very tough battles and advocated for his CASA kids in uncharted waters. In total, he has worked six cases for seven children. All of these are just a bit better for having known Jon. Jon is no stranger to the service field. He has been involved in numerous organizations throughout the years, including Institutional Review Board at TGMC, the Leadership team at First United Methodist Church, MacDonell Children’s Services, Vice President for Krewe of Terreanians, and many others.
Jonathan Russo is married to Pamela DeRoche Russo. They have been married for 38 years. They raised twin girls here in Terrebonne Parish. Ashley Russo Meche and Nicole Russo McGee are now adults with their own families. Jon and Pam enjoy spending time with their four grandchildren Sidney 6, Allie 4, KJ 5, and Noah 2. They also have a 10-year-old shih tzu named Harley. When Jon isn’t chasing grandbabies, he enjoys growing orchids and gardening. He and Pam also make some of THE BEST pepper jellies I have ever tasted! Jon also enjoys brewing beer and enjoying a cigar out of his large collection. Jon and Pam are owners of local businesses including Express Glass Inc, DeRoche Homes and DeRusso Properties. He personally has worked in the glass business for over 50 years.
Jon first became aware of CASA through a newspaper article. He and his wife had been talking about how blessed they were and that they needed to give back to the community. Jon shared, “CASA has been a lifetime experience for me, they have taught me empathy, compassion, patience and love. I am a better person today because of the fundamentals they have instilled in me. Just remember that God gave us each the talents and skills we have. Embrace them and use them.”
Thank you, Jonathan, for all you do for CASA and the children you serve.
Allison Eschete was born in New Orleans, LA, and raised in Houma, LA. For about 17 years she ventured out of Louisiana and become a resident of Mississippi where she graduated from Magnolia School of Cosmetology and worked at a Nissan Plant on the assembly line. When she moved back to Houma she met her now husband of 10 years, Kevin P. Eschete at a football party. Today Allison is a branch manager at First American Bank and Trust. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, fishing, sewing and baking. However, if there is a football game going on, know she is watching, especially if the saints are playing.
Allison first heard about CASA at First United Methodist Church of Houma. Being a CASA volunteer was an easy decision to make because the thought of helping another human being and knowing that she could make a difference was something that she knew would be possible.Allison has been with CASA for three years. She was assigned to her first CASA child in July 2019 and that adoption was finalized in December 2020. She had the privilege of seeing her CASA child develop in a healthy and loving environment. Upon completion of that case, Allison took a small break and then decided to advocate for another child. She has been on her second case for over a year. Allison believes that “Small changes can make a big impact” and we can not agree more! Thank you, Allison, for all that you do for your CASA children and for us!
This month we would like to introduce you to Cathy Duet. She has been a CASA volunteer for a year. She accepted a case shortly after being sworn in and is still assigned to the same case. Cathy graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University in 1985 with a degree in nursing. She worked for 30 years at Chabert Medical Center and states that she was blessed with a rewarding career. She retired in 2018 and was able to care for her mother until she died later that year.
Cathy has been married to her best friend, Jody, for 33 years. They were both nurses and met in Baton Rouge while working at Earl K. Long Hospital. After they married in 1988, Cathy and Jody moved to Houma. They have two children who are both 25 years old. Catherine and Matthew were both adopted in 2002 from Kazakhstan. They have two canine kids, Molly, a two-year-old Golden and Chiwee, a 10-year-old Chihuahua. As an animal rescue family, they have had as many as five dogs and three cats at one time. Mrs. Cathy believes “they could have been the crazy family you read about in the paper!” She does say she is the happiest just spending time with Jody and the dogs. They enjoy finding good places to eat and taking Molly to the park.
Since retirement, Cathy spends most of her time doing volunteer work. She is rooted in the Catholic faith and very active in practicing and doing the work of the faith; thus most of her volunteer work is centered on activities within her church. She helps by doing office work, teaching CCD classes and the sacraments, participating in the nursing home ministry, coordinating special giving projects and whatever else may be needed. She also volunteers at the St. Vincent Pharmacy. When she is not doing volunteer work, she travels to Reserve several times a week to care for her handicapped niece.
Cathy loves to craft, and garden and is a huge fan of DIY; although she often gets in over her head. She admired her dad because he could fix just about anything that broke around their house. A few years ago when the heating element went out in her dryer she found the schematic for the dryer, ordered the parts, and successfully changed the heating element all by herself. She loves teasing her husband about how lucky he is to have her around.
Years ago, Cathy had a neighbor who was a CASA and she knew then that when she had time she would pursue this volunteer opportunity. Cathy’s CASA child is special needs. Since being appointed to her case she has watched not only the child make great progress but also has noticed true growth from the biological mother. She states that “it’s a feel-good story and I am filled knowing that at some point they may be reunited and both will be better versions of their prior selves.” Cathy states that if you want to become a volunteer,” it does take time, effort and commitment, yet so worth it!” As a nurse, she experienced the biggest rewards when she knew that she had taken the opportunity to help/guide someone. As a CASA, she gets that same reward. She concludes by saying, "Whether you are a trusted adult that a child can be open with or a change agent that ensures the safety and provides hope…you will make a difference. "
This month we would like to introduce you to one of our most interesting volunteers. Molly Arrington became a CASA about a year and a half ago and has advocated on two cases with a total of three children. She is a very active member of the community and wanted to make a difference in Houma. While Houma is not her original hometown, she considers this her home. She believes the people here are some of the kindest and most open people anywhere she has lived. That is saying A LOT!! Molly was born in Iowa, lived in Alaska, moved to an hour outside of New York City then joined the army and moved around with them. She did spend a large portion of her service in Fort Hood, Tx, and did one tour in Iraq. Molly served four and a half years in the US Army. After her time in the Army, she went to college and flight school to become a helicopter pilot. She has been flying helicopters for the last 20 years. She is currently flying the S-92 for oil and gas. For about 11 years Molly would commute to the area from Austin, New Orleans, Orlando, and Kansas City. She decided to make Houma “home” a little over three years ago. She states she enjoys living close to where she works and being able to create a community in Houma and she has become passionate about improving Houma’s community.
Molly has three dogs. Titan is a four-year-old rescue. He has the best eyeliner and best demeanor of any dog she's ever met. Jazzy aka Betty White is four-years-old. She came from a hoarding situation with over 100 dogs. She has made leaps and bounds with some love and with trust. She makes her laugh all the time and is the cutest 13-pounder I know. Micky is almost one-year-old and is incredibly smart and very handsome.
In her spare time, Molly enjoys spending time with her dogs, friends and family, doing cross-fit, cycling, kayaking, hiking, traveling, and learning new things. One of the many amazing things about Molly is that she has competed in numerous triathlons and plans to hike a 14,000-foot mountain in Colorado this year.
Molly states, “My advice to someone thinking about being a volunteer for CASA is to just do it. There are children and families right now that will appreciate your time and love more than you will ever know. The love you give to someone cannot be measured and will never be forgotten. We all need a support system and we all can be part of someone else’s support system. The amount of joy it brings to spend time with my CASA children is amazing. I want them to know that there is someone out there that has their back and helps make them feel cared for and understood. I can help them today and hopefully help to make them have a better future too “. Molly, we thank you for your service and for all that you do for CASA and the Houma community and all those around you. You are an absolute treasure and a joy to be around.
This month, we would like for you to meet CASA volunteer, Ann Williams. Ann has served on a single child case since swearing-in almost a year ago. She has three children who are 43, 41, and 34, and is a grandmother to 10 grandchildren! Ann is a retired US Postal Servicewoman and fills her time with knitting, creating floral arrangements, and decorating for weddings/parties. She enjoys spending time with the elderly population and coloring when she can. Something unique about Ann is that she is a licensed minister/elder which is a driving force in her wanting to serve people.
Ann first learned about CASA through a postcard mailing campaign and she considers her advocacy a part of her ministry. She recalls a gospel song that speaks to the sentiments of her heart. It says, “If I can help somebody as I pass along, then my living shall not be in vain.” Ann considers it a joy to advocate, to be a voice on behalf of a child. She believes that all children deserve a chance to be heard. They deserve a chance to be raised in a stable loving environment. All children deserve a good childhood in spite of the situations that they have been a victim of. Ann states, “I advise any who has a love and concern for children to consider being a part of CASA, it’s a heavenly reward.”
This month, we would like to introduce a CASA volunteer who has been with our program since March 2019, Leah Voisin. Leah has been on one case and shares the case with her sister, Kristy Ledford. Leah is from Dularge/Theriot but now lives in Houma with her husband, Kevan Boudreaux. Kevan and Leah will be celebrating their first wedding anniversary on June 12th. As an animal lover, Leah has two dogs, Pierre and Lafitte, and three cats; Suchi, Mochi, and Maki. Kristy is Deputy Clerk at the Clerk of Court’s Office. She earned her undergraduate degree from SLU and her graduate degree from LSU. After college, she worked at Disney World for a short period. Leah enjoys playing board games, video games, and reading. She likes to travel and has ziplined through the Costa Rican rainforest.
While she was in Grad School, Leah worked at United Way/211Info and that is where she first heard about CASA. She said she wanted to become a CASA because she “wanted to make a positive change in a child’s life and in our community.” When asked what advice she would give about becoming a CASA, Leah said that new volunteers should be patient, “remember that you are doing this for the kids, even if the adults can be frustrating.”
This month we would like to introduce our community to one of our newer CASA Volunteers, Tiffany Guy. Tiffany swore in approximately six months ago and has been advocating for two children in her current case. Tiffany attributes her interest in CASA to her aunt Celeste, who was a CASA when Tiffany was just a teenager. She then connected with Sulma, our Training/Outreach Coordinator, at our outreach booth during Southdown Market Place. Tiffany is the mother of one daughter Paislynn Rose and two doggies, Stella and Addie. Tiffany was born and raised in Montegut and is a South Terrebonne High School graduate. She currently resides in Thibodaux but works in Houma. In her professional life, she is the Human Resource Position Control Specialist for Terrebonne Parish School District’s central office. In her spare time, she enjoys shopping, learning, fishing, traveling, camping, cooking, and enjoying time with friends and family. Something that is unusual about Tiffany is that even though she is 29 years old, she cannot whistle! Tiffany stated, “You don’t have to be wealthy to give back to your community. Meaningful time with others is more expensive than money.” What a true statement! Time is the most valuable thing that we have in our possession. How do you spend your extra time?
Tiffany chooses CASA because of her love and compassion for children. She also recognized the tremendous needs of our community. She also stated, “Dogs at the shelter get more attention and publicity than our own human babies and I wanted to do my part at shining light into a child’s life so they know that their story is heard and they are cared for.”
We are looking for everyday citizens to shine a light in a child’s direction, give them a voice and help them in their time of need. We each have a part to play so that the load isn’t so heavy to carry.
Christine "Tina" Evans
This month, CASA would like for you to meet Christine “Tina” Evans. She has been a CASA volunteer since 2013. She has worked on three cases and has made a difference in the lives of each of those children. She found out about CASA through working for Timothy Ellender, Jr. She would walk past the CASA office when the office was on Goode St. and eventually called and got some information then signed up for the class. We are so glad that she did. Tina states that she chose CASA because it is so hard to believe that we have so many children in our parish suffering and she wanted to be part of the solution to fix it. Her heart for the children is apparent whenever she talks about the issues involving the kids. She would like to see changes in the law to better protect the youth of our parish.
Tina is the mother of three children Catherine, Thomas, and Caroline. As a professional, she is a legislative assistant to Representative Jerome Zeringue. She also does the end-of-the-month reporting for a local business, Heavenly Scent. In her spare time, she enjoys being outdoors with her beau Craig, fishing, hunting, running, or anything outside. Tina is a native of Houma. She was born and raised here. She did move to Georgia for a while but feels so blessed to be back home. Something fun about Tina is that when she was 20 years old she worked for Gary Seacrest, Ryan Seacrest’s father. She also met Hank Aaron, but she didn’t know who he was and her excuse, was their TV only played Saints football! And YES, she did tell him that.
When asked what advice she would give to someone thinking about being a CASA she said, “Take one day at a time. We have the most amazing supervisors to help with everything.” CASA of Terrebonne is blessed to have Tina as a CASA volunteer. Her passion is contagious! Her drive will be a factor in getting laws, policies and procedures changed.
This month we want to introduce you to Elaine Beyer. She has been with CASA for almost a year. She started CASA as one of our CASA Tutors and then went through the training to become an advocate. She was sworn in on March 25, 2021 and accepted her first case in July. Since then, she has worked hard through the trials of this year to advocate for the best interest of her CASA child. Elaine was inspired to become involved with CASA by her niece, Jade, who was once a foster child. She wanted to make a difference in the lives of children who were treated unfairly.
Elaine Beyer has been married to Dr. Matthew Beyer for 29 years. She has six daughters and one BRAND NEW granddaughter!! She has been a resident of Houma for approximately 23 years. She was born in Georgia and raised in Gonzales, La. If her name sounds familiar that is because she is a teacher at Vandebilt Catholic School and is involved in many different activities. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading, and traveling. She also thoroughly enjoys a good conversation.
Elaine is such a joy to work with. Her personality is full of fun, love and wisdom. She is a treasure to CASA of Terrebonne. When asked what advice she would give to someone who was thinking about becoming a CASA volunteer, she said, “I would share what I learned from Jade: it doesn’t have to be the perfect time and you don’t have to be the perfect person. What matters is that you are willing to love. The most important gift that you can give to any child is the knowledge that they are loved by someone – that they matter.” What a perfect explanation of what it takes to be a CASA volunteer. Elaine then went on to say that she is so glad that she didn’t allow fear to hold her back from being a CASA volunteer. Being a CASA has been one of the most meaningful experiences of her life.
Meet Meagan Verret. She has been a CASA volunteer for 2 years. She has advocated on behalf of 2 children. Meagan is a pre-k teacher at Bourg Elementary. Her love for children and the happiness it brings her shines through in all that she does. Meagan has a strong faith in God; it is her guide in troubling times. Meagan is currently engaged. Unfortunately, her wedding was pushed back due to Hurricane Ida; but, she will be married on February 12, 2022 to her fiancé Hunter Hasler. She has one son, Colton, and three dogs, Chester, Mickey, and Beau. When not at work or tending to mommy duties she most enjoys spending time with family and friends. She loves taking road trips, going fishing, and going camping.
Meagan is a lifelong resident of Houma. She is an only child and grew up in a typical Louisiana home. Meagan first heard about CASA through a friend in college. Meagan thought about being a volunteer for several years but felt like she didn’t have the time. Then one day she stumbled upon a flyer for training held in the summer. She felt this was God opening the window of opportunity to finally be a CASA volunteer. She was able to complete the training during the summer months while out of school.
When asked what advice she would give to someone thinking about becoming a CASA she said, “Being a CASA is so truly rewarding. Our children need that consistent person in their life to bring love and happiness to them. Let your light shine and be a CASA! Meagan quotes the bible, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven.” – Matthew 5:16
Let me introduce you to our volunteer advocate Jennifer Bonvillian. She is a mother to triplets, Chris, Kate, and John. They are in 3 different colleges in 3 different states. To say they keep Jennifer busy is an understatement. She also has a dog named Scout at home to keep her company while the kids are away. She is a retired speech-language pathologist who worked with the Early Steps Program. She was born in Houma and lived in Natchez, MS during high school. She returned to the Houma area after graduating from Ole Miss and LSUMC. In her spare time, she enjoys volunteering, doing Pilates, reading, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.
Jennifer has been a CASA for a little over a year. She is currently on her first case with two children. She is doing BEAUTIFULLY! She is forming relationships with all involved parties even though it has been a chaotic year. She learned about CASA through her time working with Early Steps. She stated she always knew she wanted to volunteer but waited until her children graduated from high school. She loves being a voice for those who are too young to speak up for themselves. She says another perk to CASA is the new friendships that you form with other advocates and the staff. We do say that once you are a CASA you become family, and we truly mean that.
When asked what advice she would give to anyone thinking of becoming a CASA she said, “Just go for it - there will never be a perfect season in your life to become a CASA. The time and energy you put into the program will be returned to you tenfold through the relationships you form with these children and their biological and foster families. Always have an open mind - just because some families live differently than the way you do doesn’t mean they are wrong.”
Let us introduce you to Terri Brown this month. She was born and raised here in Houma in a close-knit family. Her mother instilled in her and her siblings the importance of helping and serving others. She feels her childhood prepared her to remain grounded and focused through all of life’s adversities. To this day she speaks to her siblings daily and they remain committed to supporting one another; which is a rare trait in today’s society. Terri is a proud mother to a daughter, Dr. Tiffany Jones-Wilkins, a pharmacy supervisor in Houston and a son-in-love, Marques Wilkins, an account executive for a major insurance firm and an investment broker. She states she is patiently waiting for a grandbaby so that she can become the “Grand T”. We believe she will be one of the best!
Terri has an extensive and diverse professional past. She enlisted and served 6 years in the United States Air Force. She was stationed in California, Korea, and the United Kingdom. Being an active member of the military gave her the opportunity to travel and visit several countries. After leaving the military and returning to Houma, Terri graduated from New Orleans Regional Technical College in Practical Nursing. After passing all licensing tests she worked at Terrebonne General for over 18 years. She then worked at local assisted living homes and nursing homes. She retired from nursing and in 2006 she became a veteran’s counselor for the state of Louisiana. She served the veteran population in helping veterans and their families obtain the federal benefits that they rightfully deserved. She is currently working on her masters in Social Work. She will be graduating May 7, 2022! We are so proud of her!
When Terri visits the office, the staff truly enjoys her visit. We may not get much done because she loves to talk and entertain us. She is a devout Christian and an active member of her church. She serves as a senior usher and helps with the youth ushers. Her caring and loving heart shows through in anything and everything she does.
Terri has been with CASA for nearly a year and is still actively working on her first case. She has gone out of her way to ensure that her CASA child has everything that she needs, especially since Hurricane Ida. Terri was drawn to CASA by a flyer that she received and she wanted to make a difference in the life of a child. She states that helping a child is so rewarding.
Terri, we appreciate you and your loving, giving heart so much. Thank you for your service to our country and currently to your CASA child.
This month’s CASA, Amber Berry, has been with us for a year and is currently working on her second case with her CASA co-partner, Emily Gilmore. Amber grew up in Southwest Missouri and was a traveling nurse. She lived in several places before meeting her husband Dr. Chris Berry. They have resided in Houma for 16 years. Amber has three children; Neal Grace is 14, Caraway is 11 and Pierce is nine. The family has one dog, Iris that they rescued four years ago.
After 20 years of working in the medical field, Amber is taking a break as a nurse practitioner to be home with her children and be available for more volunteer activities. Her favorite thing to do is Bible study. She enjoys running, participating in triathlons, and teaching fitness classes at Twisted Fitness. She also spends time coaching her kids’ sports like volleyball and cross country. A fun fact about Amber is that she can wiggle her ears. An interesting fact about Amber is that she had a stroke at birth, was paralyzed on her right side until she completed physical therapy at three years old and then had seizures until the age of 17. Amber is now completely recovered without any further residual problems and says, “I feel so blessed and grateful for my health and recovery.”
Amber shared that she was fortunate to have a foster brother and foster sister growing up. Her parents became certified foster parents when she was in junior high and it left a huge impression on her. Amber and her husband are in the process of completing their foster care certification through DCFS Lafourche. Before becoming a CASA herself, Amber had serval friends who were advocates. Amber believes that “we are called as Christians to advocate and defend the most vulnerable.” With that belief, Amber also believes that with all of her heart, “God called me to do this.” Amber says that being a CASA is hard, but we can do hard things. She states, “These children have to do very hard things through no fault of their own, so dig in and get messy and stay focused on the goal of loving others.” Amber says she feels like she is really doing something meaningful as a CASA and again “feels blessed and grateful to have met these wonderful children.”
Our advocate we are introducing you to this month has been a CASA volunteer for about 6 months. Darlene Naquin swore in March of 2021. She was quickly assigned to a 9-year-old little girl and has worked hard to form relationships as this was an established case that she took over. Darlene was encouraged to join CASA by her daughter Ashley who is currently fostering. She is married to James Naquin and has 3 daughters, Alisha, Ashley, and Andrea along with 3 sons-in-law, Bradley, Brad, and Derek. She also has 11 grandchildren and 2 foster grandchildren- 6 girls and 7 boys. She says that grandkids genuinely make life grand! She and her husband also have a tiny poodle name Phoebe. She is 7 ½ years old and loves to travel in her very own car seat. Darlene retired from her job as a financial management/advisor after 16 years. She also spent 12 years in the medical field. She chose to take early retirement to care of her mother until she passed away. She is thankful for the time she was able to spend with her.
Darlene was born in Port Sulphur, La but soon moved to Waynesboro, MS where she lived until she was 11 ½. She then moved to Houma, where she still resides. In her free time, Darlene enjoys gardening, traveling and learning about new cultures including cuisine, music and art. She loves to try new things including recipes and teas. She can often be found in their pool along with her grandchildren, shopping with her daughters or granddaughters, reading or attending bible study. One of her favorites is spending time with her “grands”.
Darlene is very tied to family traditions. One of these traditions is collecting clocks, including coo coo, rhythm motion, and grandmother (shorter than grandfather). She remembers growing up with the chimes and coo coo birds and wishes to pass that on to her “grands”. She is also big on Christmas traditions. She believes in lots of decorations both inside and out. And what would Christmas be without a large family gathering? Darlene’s grandmother’s birthday was Christmas Eve, so it is always a bit more special to the family.
When talking about her CASA case, Darlene states that she chose CASA because of her soft heart towards children and her daughter’s encouragement. She says “When you first meet your child, it’s such a heartfelt experience! Just listening to them talk and smiling makes the training all worth it.” She was nervous about going through the training but realized that there are lots of people always willing to help guide her when needed. And it doesn’t hurt that CASA feeds our trainees well.
“Anyone can volunteer to become a CASA! I was oblivious on what to expect but my trainer was incredible and patient. There are so many children that need a CASA and it doesn’t take up much of your time. It is worth all the effort because the importance of being a CASA outweighs the fear.”
The CASA Volunteer we are introducing you to this month has been volunteering with us for seven years. Tim Hitt has served on four cases and has advocated for nine children. He is a Houma native and is currently the business manager at the Houma-Terrebonne Civic Center. In his free time, Tim enjoys creating stained glass artwork, loves to cook, and likes to entertain friends and family when they are available. Tim likes to deliver his delicious delicacies right to their front door when his friends aren't available. When he tries new dishes, Tim’s neighbors are his taste testers and he will bring piping hot plates to the fence for them to try.
Tim is single but he is a super proud uncle. He prides himself on being the fun, goofy uncle to four nephews, one niece a great-niece, and a great-nephew. Tim said the hardest thing he has ever had to go through was losing a nephew and a niece. He said he always reminds himself of all the fun times they had together and all the stories of being together.
Not only is he the fun and goofy uncle, but Tim also enjoys being goofy with his friends. He enjoys telling stories and no one knows if he is being truthful or not. Although Tim doesn’t have pets of his own, he takes care of the neighbor’s dogs when they are gone. They are spoiled by Tim and will sit in front of him and wait for the treats that they know he will have for them.
Tim initially became a CASA because a close friend encouraged him to. Tim said “she forced him to”, but he admits there wasn’t too much resistance. Even though he was nervous about becoming a CASA volunteer, Tim expresses that he doesn’t regret the decision because there is such a need in the community.
To those who are considering becoming a CASA Tim recommends just do the training, you won’t regret it. You get to meet the children and they will melt your heart. They get to the point they look forward to seeing you on monthly visits. They want you to be a part of each aspect of their lives, from home life to extracurricular activities to showing you their new-found skill or talent. He states that CASA staff is always there when you need help. You can also collaborate with other volunteers so that you are never alone. You can partner up to get started then eventually venture out on your own. Tim was able to push past his fear and anxiety and claims it becomes easier as time passes.
Edward "Eddie" Olivier
Edward “Eddie” Olivier is our CASA to meet this month. He has been an active CASA advocate for 10 years. In this time, he has changed the lives of 9 children from six cases. He has been active in recruiting for CASA, participating in pre-training to inform incoming CASA’s of what to expect, and extremely active in his casework. Prior to being an active advocate, Eddie was CASA of Terrebonne’s AFLAC insurance agent. When he would come by for accounts, the staff would encourage him to become a volunteer. He promised that when his twins (Andre and Beth) were finally driving and he wasn’t running around with them for carpool he would join. He swore in as an advocate in 2010.
Eddie has been married to his wife Dana for 28 years. His twins are now 26 years old. Eddie enjoys running and tending to his backyard garden. He is so knowledgeable about flowers and plants that he often reminds us when our office plants aren’t doing so well. Another one of his passions is Mardi Gras. He rides in the Krewe of Terreanians in Houma. He admits that it is almost an obsession. Eddie was born and raised in Houma, Louisiana. He grew up in the Barrios subdivision. He was the only boy with 4 sisters. He was raised by a single mother after his father passed away when he was 4 years old. Something interesting about Eddie is that he was a stay-at-home dad to his twins from birth until they entered Kindergarten. Even then he still made sure he was able to put them on the bus in the morning and get them off the bus in the afternoon.
Eddie suggests that if you are thinking about possibly being a CASA advocate,to meet with the supervisors and veteran CASA advocates to get a feel of the need and also the reward it brings.
When asked about his CASA experience Eddie shared “One of the 'ah ha' moments that you have when you have been a CASA as long as I have is when you see the adoptive family of one of your CASA children at the grocery store or in a restaurant, and they are laughing and having a good time. It gives you a warm feeling that you helped to put that family together.”
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!