HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Will you be a voice for a child in court? Would you give just a few hours to change the path of child's life or help reunite a family?
For two years now, that's what CASA volunteers have done for close to 500 Harrison County children in the DHS system.
With Judge Margaret Alphonso's leadership and the support of the Board of Supervisors these court appointed special advocates or CASA's are protecting South Mississippi's greatest asset, its children.
Five-year-old Michael had a Court Appointed Special Advocate looking out for him during some very difficult times. He was finally removed from an abusive home, followed through foster care and is now a happy, thriving child in a loving home, thanks to a CASA volunteer.
Jeannie Herrin said, "My hats off to all of the volunteers, and we need more volunteers."
Herrin said they have 72 wonderful volunteers who care so much for children they give their love and their time to be that innocent child's voice. Mario Avery has worked with children for 30 years and is now a proud CASA volunteer.
"I worked with residential treatment in Los Angeles with the gang children, so I have a lot of experience working with children," Mario Avery said. "I've always wanted to be a CASA worker and didn't find time 'til I moved to Mississippi. I had no family, so I devoted my time to working with children."
He is a strong male role model, and a real gift to so many struggling families in our community.
"There's children out here and there's families that need people to support them and just be that person to help be that somebody they can lean on for guidance."
Cecelia Pakron of Gulfport also has a passion for protecting children. She is one of CASA's first volunteers who started two years ago when they opened their doors.
"It doesn't require any special college degree or training, you just have to care about your community and love children," Pakron said.
Their goal for the end of this year is to have 100 volunteer CASAs to speak up for our society's most precious gifts.
"A healthy community is only as healthy as the children in it and it takes so many people to make the community better for children," Pakron said. "Get involved with CASA."
"Each child deserves a CASA, each child deserves a voice in court," Herrin said.
To become a Harrison County CASA volunteer, stop by their little yellow trailer next to Youth Court on Pass Road in Gulfport behind Pass Road Elementary.
There are also wonderful CASA organizations in Hancock and Jackson Counties and volunteers are always needed there as well.