Letter from Beth Dessem, Executive Director of the Missouri CASA Association
The CASA network has been an important part of my life for over 12 years. While recovering from pneumonia in 1995, I checked a book out of our public library: I Speak for this Child by Gay Courter. Ms. Courter is a best-selling novelist who became a volunteer advocate and writes very movingly about her experiences. As an elementary school teacher, I had seen the evidence of child abuse and neglect in my students, but had never seen what happened after my hotline calls. I was intrigued by Ms. Courter’s description of the role of the CASA volunteer and what a difference having an advocate could make in a child’s life. I wrote a letter to National CASA asking how I could be involved that same week.
Fast forward to today! I’ve been a CASA volunteer, program director and now state director. I believe strongly that CASA volunteers play a vital role across our state, working directly with children who are involved in the courts and the child welfare system. I’ve seen the dedicated work of our volunteers, staff and boards. I love being in court and seeing the impact of a volunteer’s report and their voice in court, bringing the child’s needs to life for the judge. Our volunteers, all of them, are remarkable people and it’s a privilege to be a small part of the efforts our wonderful programs make to support them. Our volunteers are currently serving over 3,000 children—but there are over 11,000 children on average per month in foster care in Missouri. We have lots of work to do in order to serve these children.
Please consider joining me in statewide advocacy for Missouri CASA. Share your story with friends, family and your legislator! CASA at the Capitol Day on April 24, 2013, is a great way for you to tell your elected officials about the children you know so well and the work you do to ensure they have a chance at their best possible life. Join us for the 2013 Volunteer Conference November 8th-9th where there will be many opportunities for training and networking. The Volunteer of the Year for each program will be honored; the description of these heroic individuals’ amazing work always moves me to tears. The National CASA Conference, held annually each spring, is also wonderfully enriching and I hope you will be able to attend.
Please let me know if there are ways our state association can support your efforts. Your work matters profoundly and all of us in the state office thank you.
I hope to see you soon!
About our Executive Director:
Beth Dessem serves as Executive Director of the Missouri CASA Association. A graduate of Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, Ms. Dessem taught elementary school before becoming the Director of the Central Georgia CASA Program in Macon, Georgia in 1997. After moving to Missouri in 2002, she accepted the position with Missouri CASA and established the state office in Columbia. She serves on the Children’s Justice Act Task Force, the Juvenile Court Improvement Project, the Children’s Division Program Improvement Plan and the Supreme Court Rules Committee for Juvenile Court.
Leanne Reese is the Deputy Director and has been an integral part of Missouri CASA for over five years. She works very closely with Missouri’s affiliate programs providing support with various funding sources. E-mail Leanne or call her at (573) 256-1445.
Kalei Holder is the Community Relations Director and her passion for CASA began when she volunteered for an affiliate program. Kalei works on marketing and development for Missouri CASA and would love to speak to you about how you can make a difference by being a sponsor, donating or volunteering for an event! E-mail Kalei or call her at (573) 256-1445.
Marilee Fischer is the Operations Manager and comes to Missouri CASA with years of experience in customer relations. Marilee is new to CASA, but her dedication to the mission is evident in all of her work, and she will be happy to help direct you to the answers you are seeking about the Missouri CASA Association. E-mail Marilee or call her at (573) 256-1445.
The Missouri CASA Association is located at:
1000 West Nifong Boulevard
Building One, Suite 200
Columbia, MO 65203
Phone number: (573) 256-1445
Fax number: (573) 256-1452
For more information, please contact Kalei Holder, Community Relations Director.