By: Annalisa Ciro, Follow South Jersey Writer
BRIDGETON, N.J. — It was November of 1995. TV screens lit up across the nation retelling the utter tragedy that befell inside closed doors along the Lower East Side of Manhattan. After the sudden death of her loving father, six-year-old Elisa Izquierdo was placed in the custody of her mother. Little Elisa suffered unspeakable horrors for months at the hands of her mother and step-father while in their care, the abuse and neglect eventually leading to her heartbreaking death on November 22, 1995. Her shocking story quickly spread nationwide as one of the worst cases of child abuse the city had ever seen, and a case that highlighted the failings of the city’s child welfare system at the time.
Elisa’s death gripped the nation. For many, it was a wake-up call to what is undoubtedly happening in the lives of children and families in their very own neighborhoods across the country. For others, a call to action to get involved, give back, and do whatever they can to advocate for children in their communities. For some, the story stuck with them forever, reminding them of their purpose and influencing their decisions for years to come. For Arthur Horn, Elisa’s story did exactly that.
A leader in his community, Arthur Horn has left a lasting impact on countless lives across South Jersey. From working at the Kintock re-entry and treatment home to teaching at the Rowan College of South Jersey, creating the Board of Directors for CompleteCare, and developing his own business as a personal consultant, Horn innovates the ways in which he can give back to his community. And after a fateful encounter in 2007, he became dedicated to giving back to local youth in foster care when he joined the Board of Directors for the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem counties.
Nearly fifteen years ago, while participating in the Cumberland County Leadership Program, Horn was approached by a woman in his cohort. She was the then-Director of the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem counties (CASA of CGS), a nonprofit that trains volunteers to advocate on behalf of the best interests of youth in foster care. That day she offered a proposition: to join the CASA of CGS Board of Directors. He instantly thought back to Elisa’s story and the mark it left on him, and he knew this opportunity was destined to become part of his journey.
“That particular case connected it all for me. I never forgot about it–I still have the TIME Magazine,” says Horn. “It’s great that I can now give back to my community in this way.”
CASA of CGS has expanded, evolved, and innovated tremendously over the past decade since Horn joined the Board. His influence is unparalleled: he was on the team that hired Melissa Helmbrecht, the Executive Director of CASA of CGS; he introduced Program Director Jennifer Henderson to CASA of CGS back when she was his student at the Rowan College of South Jersey; and he continues to connect his students and community members to CASA of CGS for volunteer opportunities.
His years of experience have influenced his mantra: If it doesn’t exist, then create it — a mantra that has fueled his motivation to uplift his community by filling the gaps however he can. And in those years of experience he has learned that there is no better way to bolster a community than to give back with others.
“Everyone brings different information, talents, and skills back to their community, and a lot of times people don’t recognize their own talents, skills, and knowledge,” Horn says. “Volunteering with others is the best way you can get communities to thrive.”
As a CASA of CGS Board Member, Horn and his colleagues have been able to contribute to a growing movement that enacts real, tangible change in the lives of children who have experienced abuse and neglect throughout Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem counties. They are a part of a network of community changers committed to advocating for the best interests of the youth they serve. And although the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may have changed the way CASA does business — from introducing a new and completely virtual training course to transitioning to online swear-ins and court proceedings — it has not changed CASA’s commitment to providing passionate volunteers, both on the Board and as advocates, to stand up for youth in foster care across the three counties they serve.
“I think CASA of CGS is one of the most innovative CASAs and nonprofits in New Jersey,” Horn insists. “No matter the circumstance, we are able to continue to create and connect our youth with different avenues and networks in our community. Above all, there is a strong commitment to create a better tomorrow for our communities in Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem counties.”
CASA of CGS is calling for community members to give back, get involved, and join their team as a member of their Board of Directors to make a difference in the lives of youth in the foster care system in Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem counties — youth who now, more than ever — need the support of their community. With so much uncertainty in the world, CASA of CGS is dedicated to ensuring that the youth they serve have peace of mind, stability, safety, and connection–that they have people on their team looking out for their best interests.
If you’ve been looking for a lasting way to make a positive difference and pay it forward to your community, then there’s no better time to get involved with CASA. The volunteer position requires no prior experience and minimal time commitment of quarterly meetings–a small obligation for a big difference. Learn more about how you can change a child’s story in your community as a CASA of CGS Board Member and apply by visiting www.wespeakupforchildren.org/casaboard. Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
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