By: Annalisa Ciro, Follow South Jersey Writer
BRIDGETON, N.J. – From South Jersey to California to Texas and back to the Garden State, Maria Pierantozzi has traveled coast to coast and in between in the 18 times she has moved since she was a young girl. But no matter where she settled, she brought with her a heart to give, a commitment to helping others, and a passion for revealing the inner beauty, worth, and potential of those around her.
For the past 14 years, Pierantozzi has made a home for herself in Pitman, N.J., where she juggles motherhood, four jobs in real estate, and zumba instructing (11 years strong!). And since 2020, in between her busy schedule, she made room for an opportunity that has changed the way she sees the world – volunteering for Court Appointed Special Advocates of Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem Counties (CASA of CGS).
“Being a CASA volunteer helps you open your eyes and refocus, taking the attention off of yourself,” Pierantozzi said. “You never know what someone is going through, and CASA allows you to realize that kids really need people, adults, and mentors to be there for them. It has definitely helped motivate me to make more connections with children and become a source of positivity and support for any child that I meet.”
Pierantozzi’s passion for helping others was sparked when she was younger by a family friend who was a resource parent. This woman was her biggest inspiration, and witnessing the unconditional love and support she gave to the children that she welcomed into her home was foundational in her outlook on life and service. Years later, as her eye caught the “Change a Child’s Story” tagline on a cork board in her local post office, she was brought back to how her passion for helping others was ignited and instantly knew that she wanted to make a difference as a CASA volunteer.
“Maria is persistent, intelligent and beautiful both inside and out,” Michele Musick, her Gloucester County Advocate Coordinator, said. “Upon completion of training she chose to work with adolescents, which is not an easy task. Her case has been a journey for the both of us, challenging with many twists. She accepts the challenges and pushes forward no matter what obstacle she will face. The most important part of advocating is the information given in reports and court testimony which is inspiring to me as she testifies with such conviction along with grace which is so effective. I am so happy she joined the CASA team and am proud to call her friend.”
Since Pierantozzi has joined CASA of CGS, she has made an undeniable impact on the lives of her CASA youth, her youth’s family, and our CASA team. Not only is she committed to supporting and advocating for her CASA youth, but she wholeheartedly believes in the importance of family and mending familial bonds through supportive resources, and that belief pushes her advocacy to the next level.
“Maria has proven time and time again to reflect the very word CASA represents: Consistency. She consistently provides thorough, fact-filled, reports that are faithfully supportive of her youth’s future and ability to self advocate,” said CASA of CGS Program Director Jennifer Henderson. “Maria also consistently uses our database which is a huge help when collaborating on a case. She’s been on her child’s case for a year and a half and I can see that Maria doesn’t plan on giving up. She’s really just an amazing advocate and I’m so grateful she made the decision to share her heart and time with CASA.”
Above all, what makes Pierantozzi such a standout advocate is her empathy and pure, abiding commitment to supporting children in all aspects of her life. Whether it’s her CASA youth, her Zumba kids, or her daughter, she always makes a concerted effort to listen, love, and help in any way that she can.
“Being a CASA has definitely helped me grow as a person. You only have one life, and I want to spend mine making sure people know that they matter and that they’re special.” said Pierantozzi. “The reward is coming from within, knowing that you’re helping somebody and seeing the effects of change. The joy of my CASA youth knowing that there is someone else that cares about her and is looking out for her is an amazing, beautiful experience. Knowing how much she has been struggling and that what I am doing is helping has made all the difference.”
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