By: Annalisa Ciro, Follow South Jersey Writer
GLOUCESTER, N.J.–A new year welcomes new habits, new outlooks, and new ways of giving. Across our country and across the world, people commit to “starting fresh” with the flip of a calendar page. But year in and year out, we can trust this to remain constant: no matter where you are from–no matter what your background–your voice matters, and your voice can change the world.
A little over a decade ago, Renata Giers moved from her home in Poland to Gloucester county and hit the ground running. From mall management to Polish wedding officiation to arts therapy, Renata keeps her plate full with work that aligns with her talents and passions (she even worked as a former Theater Director!). But even while juggling three jobs and a family, Renata makes time in her busy schedule to do whatever she can to help others.
An active volunteer in her community in Poland, Renata participated heavily in food distribution to local school children; and when she moved to America, she wanted to continue feeding her spirit of giving. She had a longtime interest in fostering children, and upon learning about the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem counties (CASA of CGS) from a fellow CASA volunteer, she knew in her heart that this was what she was meant to do.
“For me, it is so important to give back to those who are voiceless,” said Renata. “We have to help them so they are heard.”
Part of a national network, CASA of CGS is a local nonprofit organization that trains community volunteers to speak up on behalf of the best interests of abused and neglected children in court. Once trained and sworn in by a Family Court Judge, CASA volunteers begin advocating for youth in foster care by investigating their cases and recommending resources for the children and their families. CASA volunteers serve as critical support systems for their CASA youth, ensuring that they are placed in safe, permanent homes as quickly as possible.
Renata has now been a part of the CASA of CGS family for over two years, and she has made an undeniable impact with her quality of advocacy and commitment to speaking up on behalf of the best interests of her four CASA youth.
“I’ve read a lot of court reports over the years and Renata’s reports often leave me speechless,” said CASA of CGS Program Director Jennifer Henderson. “The seemingly endless amount of effort she puts in to ensure the children she represents are cared for is angelic. Renata consistently provides detailed and objective information, and is always supportive of the best interests of the children she advocates for. Renata’s advocacy style is strong, yet graceful. She truly holds herself to a higher standard to ensure she is providing the children she serves with all she has.”
Throughout her time with CASA of CGS, Renata’s steadfast advocacy and strong recommendations to the court have been consistently heard and implemented by the Judge, which has continued to encourage her invaluable work as a volunteer.
“It is so meaningful to be heard and taken into consideration,” Renata said. “It shows that the work you do really is worth it.”
And Renata’s work has been nothing short of stellar.
“Renata has been on a case of four children in two different placements for approximately two years,” said Michele Musick, Gloucester County Advocate Coordinator. “She is an inspiration to me, a woman with a humble yet fierce demeanor, unafraid to say what needs to be said for the safety and well-being of her CASA children. Her reports submitted to the Court are jam-packed with information supporting every one of her much-needed recommendations, which is one of the many reasons her advocacy is so successful. I’ve learned so much from Renata and am so grateful she chose CASA. I am a better coordinator because of her.”
Beyond her advocacy, the connection Renata has built with her CASA youth is heartwarming.
“Everytime I visit the kids they recognize me, they draw pictures for me, they sit on my lap,” she said. “They accept me as a positive person in their life and seeing them happier and more stable is so rewarding and such a great satisfaction.”
Above all, Renata’s passion is for people. She loves working with others, and she is dedicated to creating a positive impact, however she can. And she has done just that as a CASA volunteer.
If you are interested in using your voice to speak up for children who need it most, learn more about volunteering with CASA of CGS by visiting their website and following them on Facebook and Instagram. Their next virtual training course begins on February 22nd and applications can be found on their website. Reach out to CASA of CGS Training & Outreach Coordinator Julia Shulzhenko at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions on volunteering.
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