Through the tireless work of Executive Director Leslie Hendricks, combined with the stout efforts of volunteers, staff, and the entire Marion community, CASA of Grant County has been able to serve its long-standing purpose since 1988 – to be a voice for the children of Grant County who are in need of one.
Since becoming Executive Director 12 years ago, Hendricks has known that the work of CASA of Grant County is a collective effort, one that starts with Judge Dana Kenworthy and works down through multiple other channels in between.
All of those moving parts are crucial to CASA of Grant County’s success, and one that will continue to carry them in the future.
“It starts with our leader at the bench – Judge Kenworthy,” Hendricks said. “The passionate heart that she has and [her] love of this work [is inspiring.] When you have a leader like that who’s directing the entire work that we all do, it raises the bar for each one of our agencies to provide her the best possible information. It increases our desire to do so well because we are all so incredibly respectful of her on the bench.”
In a field that can be heartbreaking at times, measuring success can be difficult. But for Hendricks and CASA of Grant County, it’s all about the children and serving them to the best of their ability regardless of the situation.
“On the surface, we want to ensure that we are serving more children each and every year,” Hendricks said. “If you picture the child welfare system as a funnel, we don’t control the input. We don’t have any control over or say in how many children come into the system. So, our concentration must be the output and how many children we are serving coming through that funnel.
“Our goal is to increase the number of children served versus the previous calendar year. In the 12 years I’ve been here, we have been able to accomplish that goal.”
Along with all of the success inside the organization itself, Hendricks credits the Marion community who has steadfastly supported CASA of Grant County throughout its history. CASA is never short of volunteers looking to make a difference in children’s lives, and that is a testament to the mission they continue to follow.
“Another way [we] have measured success is the belief in the community and the support that we consistently get through volunteers continually walking through our doors. In the 12 years, I have never had a time where there hasn’t been someone in our pipeline wanting to do this work. That, to me, is one of the greatest measures of success.
“We have remained a constant presence in our community for these vulnerable children. While the leadership changes and the funding changes and the situations that bring children into the system change, the heart of our community has not, and that is a huge way that I can say we’ve been successful.”
While CASA is looking to continue to find sources of funding and remain true to its mission, Hendricks also stated that social media will be the key to CASA’s continued growth. In a world that is continually becoming more driven by technology and the Internet, Hendricks plans to regularly update CASA’s social media accounts in order to gain more engagement from a more wired- in audience.
“We need to be willing and open to spending time making sure that our social media platform is relevant,” Hendricks said. “I have been working in this last week countless hours updating our website, making sure we are streaming the right things…making it fresh and not stale. In the past months, we have been taking a strong focus on understanding that if we want to reach today’s population of volunteers and potential volunteers, we have to be present in that realm, and we have to be relevant.
“While our mission will remain the same, the way we are reaching people needs to be fresh and new.”
Despite all that, word of mouth, and that personal connection, will continue to be a large part of CASA’s mission. Hendricks believes that it is important to encourage community members to take the time to learn about CASA, and to talk to those in the community who may not know about the organization.
Now, with eyes toward the future, Hendricks plans to keep herself, and the organization, moving forward in order to keep serving children in need.
“I challenge my staff and my board and our volunteers that they truly are our best advertisement,” Hendricks said. “The personal connection, the personal story, the personal conversation is what truly will bring someone to put their foot in this realm. While we can’t discuss specifics of cases, we can certainly talk about the role, and we can talk about the need.
“The best way to support us is to talk about us, and to make sure that people in our circles and in our tribes know that we exist and know why we are here.”