By: Annalisa Ciro, Follow South Jersey Writer
BRIDGETON, N.J. – Twenty-four hours. Whether you are Beyonce or a freshman in college, we all have the same twenty-four hours to make the most of our day. But how do we quantify what makes any given day a “success”? For Katie Halpin, a good day is any day that she is able to put a smile on someone’s face–and her advocacy does just that for the four children she serves as a CASA of CGS volunteer.
Born and raised upstate, Katie moved to South Jersey ten years ago and has spent the last decade doing everything from serving as a nurse on a renal transplant floor to working in a residential facility for mothers with substance abuse issues to opening a taco joint with her family. But through all that she does, in her heart she is committed above all to one thing: service.
Katie’s passion for giving back to her community sparked as a young girl. While other kids her age might have preferred spending their time playing video games, Katie found solace in service, and could often be found caroling or volunteering at her local hospital in hopes of spreading some joy to those who might need it most.
As the years passed her commitment only grew stronger, and she continued to do good in her community by volunteering with Meals on Wheels, becoming a resource parent for children in foster care, going back to school for Social Work to pursue a career in Individual Counseling, and even founding her own outreach program–CB Local–through Crossbridge Community Church. And it was through her friend at church that Katie discovered the perfect opportunity to fuse her experience in social work with her love for giving back: CASA of CGS.
“When I first met Katie, I was instantly welcomed by her gentle spirit,” said CASA of CGS Program Director Jennifer Henderson. “She was donating 70 filled duffle bags for our CASA children and was also in the process of becoming a CASA volunteer. She joined our team a short time later and has been nothing but layer upon layer of hard work, incredible work ethic, determination, and outstanding professionalism. I am in awe of how she balances all of the important things in her life: Her family, school, work, advocating for children in foster care, and even making sure she takes time to read! Katie’s amazing and we are so grateful for the impact she is making.”
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.
It has only been one short year since Katie joined our team at CASA of CGS, and she has already made such an undeniable impact on the lives of the children and families she serves.
“Katie has brought such amazing service to the children in Salem County,” said Salem County Advocate Coordinator Cara Zoppina. “I would describe Katie as a unicorn because she is full of magic, joy, and is limitless with her abilities. She is meticulous with her court reports, investigation, collaboration, and communication to ensure that no detail is left behind. She manages to do all of this while being a student, employer, mother, friend, and a remarkable humanitarian. She is serving four children and has only started her CASA journey with us a little over a year ago. Thank you, Katie, for sharing your magic and for making things possible for children!”
Aside from the hard work she pours into investigating and advocating for the best interests of the children she serves, Katie never forgets to cherish the time she spends with her CASA youth. Whether it’s shooting hoops or tossing around a baseball, she always makes sure to find out what it is that makes her CASA youth happy. By investing in the activities that they love to do, she has built such strong bonds with her CASA youth and has become a person they feel comfortable to open up to and rely on for support.
Anyone interested in becoming a CASA of CGS volunteer advocate, visit their website at www.wespeakupforchildren.org, or stay up-to-date on all things CASA of CGS by following them on Facebook and Instagram.
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