Just a couple of months ago Misty Kelsey was sworn in a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) in Daviess County. Little did she know how volunteering with CASA would open her eyes to the needs of the children in the court systems in Daviess and the surrounding counties.
“A friend of mine, Amber Cates, became a foster parent several months ago,” said Kelsey. “She really encouraged me to become a CASA volunteer.”
Shortly after she became a CASA, Kelsey said she began receiving emails from other CASAs as well as from the Department of Child Services. “It was just a list of children’s ages, sizes and needs,” said Kelsey. “When you get an email like that about a child in your own community, you move pretty fast.”
Cates and her husband received their foster license last year and it wasn’t long until the couple were placed with their first foster child, a newborn.
”We had absolutely nothing for a newborn,” said Cates. “We made a few calls and then made a mad dash to Walmart to buy the necessities. Three hours and a lot of help later, we were holding this precious baby in a fully-stocked nursery.”
The need for items for a child of any age on the spot was one of the driving forces behind the creating a organization that could help supply children with items they needed on the spot. Cates, Kelsey and their friend Natalee Woodward joined forces to create “Gabriel’s Mark,” an organization that collects both gently used and new toys, clothing, and baby items in Greene, Sullivan, Daviess and Martin counties.
While the state pays a per diem to foster families, Kelsey said it isn’t much and large purchases such as car seats and strollers have to be approved. “It just takes time,” she said.
Kelsey said that by the time the news of child neglect gets in the news, the child has already been placed in a foster home or in the home of relatives and sometimes but the child still has needs. “Many children are living with relatives that are struggling to keep their family together. I think we can all relate to that,” said Kelsey.
Officially launched on Facebook Oct. 3, Gabriel’s Mark provided clothing to five children in need during its first two weeks without even promoting the website.
“We hope to work with DCS, CASA and anyone else and anyone who may be aware of a need,” said Kelsey. “Put yourself in the shoes of a child, teenager or parent and think about the things you use everyday.”
Clothing, hygiene items, shoes, beds, bedding, toys and baby items are among some of the most commonly needed items but Kelsey said travel items such as suitcases are also needed. “So many of the kids move with their belongings thrown in a trash bag.”
Not only is there a growing need for clothing and other items for children in the area but there is also a need for more CASA volunteers. Kelsey said that Fall CASA training begins soon and volunteering with the program is worthwhile.
“If anyone is interested in donating their time and voice to the children, they should consider becoming a CASA,” said Kelsey. “There is always a need.”
For more information on Gabriel’s Mark or to make a donation, find them of Facebook at www.facebook.com/gabrielsmark or email firstname.lastname@example.org. More information on becoming a CASA volunteer can be obtained by contacting Shelby McDannald at 812-698-2861.
for More information For more information on Gabriel's Mark or to make a donation, find them of Facebook at www.facebook.com/gabrielsmark or email email@example.com. More information on becoming a CASA volunteer can be obtained by contacting Shelby McDannald at 698-2861.