Kelly Meyer is Executive Director of First Judicial District CASA Association.

Kelly Meyer is Executive Director of First Judicial District CASA Association.

1. Many not-for-profit organizations in the community are dealing with budget cuts due to various cuts in grants or the state budget. What is the situation with CASA of Leavenworth County?

We are certainly not excluded from this shift in funding and funding streams. We have experienced slow but steady declines in funding from our grant sources, but I must say, considering the climate of our economy and the funds available to grant reliant agencies we are also fortunate. We continue to have the remarkable support of local grant sources such as Leavenworth County, the United Way and we receive rent assistance from the City of Leavenworth by way of the Community Development Block Grant. Although we have seen a decline in a couple of those funding sources over the years, it was not a surprise. We have anticipated these declines and as an agency we have put a great deal of effort into finding other ways to raise funds and to do more with less.

2. What options do you have locally in dealing with the budget shortfall? Will you have to make corresponding cuts in services or staff, or are you trying to raise more funds?

As a non-profit agency we are always in fund-raising mode. We have done a few things over the past few years to increase our ability to raise funds. For instance, we hosted our first annual Sweet Heart Dinner Dance in February and it was a success. We also have a BBQ and Barn Dance in the fall and of course the Nite at the Races.
Our races is our largest fundraiser and we rely on funds raised from it to keep our doors open and our staff paid. In the past few years we have seen our annual budget decline or remain pretty steady despite the increase in case loads, we are very pleased that we are finding ways to be more efficient and to do more with less. For the past two year we have served more children than ever before and we are doing so with a declining budget, and we have not cut staff.
Actually, last year we were able to increase one staff person from 25 hours to 30 hours per week. Don't get me wrong, we are not without the need for funds, however, we are resourceful. We use every pencil to the eraser and get the most of every penny we have.

3. What can local citizens do to help with the situation?

So much! If you have time, volunteer! We don't just need volunteers to be child advocates, we need volunteers to help in the office, assist in fundraising, walk in parades, clean and sanitize our visitation center rooms.
Because we are a very small staff (I am the only full time staff person and we have 2 part time staff that work 30 hours per week each), you can imagine how much we rely on volunteers.
Volunteers are truly what CASA is, without them we could not do half of what we do. If folks don't have time to volunteer but they believe in our cause and want to help, donations are key to our mission.
As I mentioned, every penny counts so donations in any amount are greatly appreciated.

4. Nite at the Races is at 5:30 p.m. Friday and is one of your big fundraisers on the year. For people who have not attended this before, tell us a little about the event, and is it too late to get tickets?

Nite at the Races is a blast. It is pre-recorded actual horse races professionally taped and narrated.
Guests receive race packets that include "funny" money which they use to bet on the horse races and at the end of the night use their "funny" money winnings to bid on live auction baskets.
A barbeque buffet from All Slabbed up will be served and FouCakes and Sis's Sweets are providing all of our desserts.
We also have a silent auction which is for "real" money which includes roughly 70 baskets, we are sure there is something for everybody.
Unfortunately, it is too late to purchase tickets. This is the third year we have sold out the event.
But for those who have tickets, you are in for a treat.
We have added a few small things to this year's event which we hope everyone will find fun and enjoyable.
And ladies…don't forget your big hats!! It's almost race time!

5. For readers who aren't sure what CASA does, can you tell us about the important role the organization serves in the community?

CASA is a wonderful organization and I consider myself blessed to be involved with it.
CASA recruits, trains and certifies volunteers to advocate for abused and neglected children in the court system. Our two main objectives are to ensure children are safe and that they achieve a forever home.
CASAs are a Childs voice in court. We are appointed to cases only by the presiding Judge and we report to the court everything we do, see and hear.
CASAs meet with everyone involved in the child's life, parents, social workers, teachers, doctors, relatives, etc.
CASAs are so vital to the children they advocate for because they have time to get to really know them, listen to their dreams and their fears.
To assure them they are not alone in the scary world of courts, attorney's and foster care and to remind them just how special they are.

— Dale Brendel