Since February, I have been busying myself with getting to know the Children First Board and expanding that dynamic group of committed program advocates. I have begun to learn more extensively the ins and outs of our main funding grants. There have been hours of grant applications and maintenance, which includes data collection and documentation to our funders. These funding sources make it possible for the wonderful staff and volunteers at Children First to continue to do the hard work for these families on a daily basis.
In March, Athens-Oconee CASA staff, volunteers and Peer Coordinators attended the Georgia CASA Conference in Stone Mountain where we were honored to receive the 2016 Innovative Affiliate Award. This award recognized the implementation of the Peer Coordination program, where trained volunteers support and coach in-coming CASA volunteers. The Peer Coordinator Model is used around the country, supported by National CASA and is being utilized by many other CASA programs. Athens-Oconee CASA is the first to initiate and sustain this program in Georgia.
We held three large events in April and May. First was the Children First Volunteer Appreciation held at the University of Georgia Kappa Alpha Theta house, where we honored Board Members, Peer Coordinators, Children First Volunteers. Interns and CASA Volunteers. CASA is Kappa Alpha Thetas’ National philanthropy. The Athens-Oconee CASA program and our local Kappa Alpha Theta chapter have a wonderful longstanding relationship. Each year, they are actively involved with our program throughout the year through hands-on volunteering in the office, fundraising and local events. We were pleased to be hosted by them again this year.
In April, we held our Administrative Luncheon event at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia. Thanks to Trumps Catering for the wonderful food. We had a great showing of many local businesses and agencies from Clarke and Oconee Counties. As always, we had a wonderful array of door prizes collected by Dr. Pat Morrison, a previous Children First Board Member. In May 2016, we had our first annual Over the Edge fundraiser. This fundraiser, allowed “Edgers” to raise $1000 each and then to rappel over the edge of the SPARC building on Broad Street. This event was in collaboration with the Nancy Travis Childcare Project and the Interfaith Hospitality Network. This was a great initial event for something we hope to be a part of for many years.
As summer arrived in Athens, bright and warm, several of our CASA staff headed to Washington, DC for the annual National CASA Conference. We were able to present with other CASA programs about the Peer Coordinator Model, as well as get some new ideas for recruiting and retaining volunteers and share time and space with several thousand CASA volunteers from across the United States. I was even able to meet a few Congress members and thank them for their commitment to CASA.