CASA volunteers historical photo

A photograph that was salvaged from the flood-damaged CASA of North Texas office in 2007 shows one of the first groups of CASA volunteers being sworn in. From left: in front, Loyd East, Jim Lemming, Jane Walker,  Peggy Carpenter, Sonya Gavitt; in back, then-Judge Jerry W. Woodlock, Sam Mmaitsi, Kim Wiese and Carmen Karston.

CASA of North Texas reaches its 20th anniversary as an agency Sunday, Sept. 1.

The agency was established in Cooke County by the efforts of two women, Sheila Gawne and Gloria Johnson, who each saw the need for children in foster care to have someone who was not a part of “the system” looking out for them, according to a Friday, Aug. 30, press release from CASA of North Texas.

According to Gawne, “all we wanted was for kids in Cooke and Wise counties to have a voice in court.” The women teamed up after getting a green light from then-Judge Jerry W. Woodlock, working for almost two years to set up a steering committee and later a board of directors before funding was obtained to make their goal a reality.

The agency opened its doors Sept. 1, 1999, with two employees — the founding director, Cathy Cason, and case manager Radawn Ely — in a very small office at 701 E. California St. in Gainesville. The two set out to train volunteers to advocate for children. The first year, the program had 12 volunteers and served 33 children, according to the release.

In the succeeding years, CASA of North Texas has grown to serve more than 200 children per year with a volunteer base of around 90 and a staff of six, the release indicated.

“We’re thankful to the people who saw the need and worked to bring along others to make things better for children in foster care”, Executive Director Vicki Robertson said in the release. “We’ve built on the foundation that they laid and Cooke County children in foster care have been safer because CASA has been here. More than 200 CASA volunteers, our volunteers, have served more than 2,000 children in these 20 years. My hope is that we’ve made them proud of their work and proud of what we’ve become.”

Robertson said in the release that CASA will be marking the anniversary of several firsts in its 20th year, beginning with an appreciation get-together for past and present volunteers, board members and others who have played a part the organization.

“For us, this is a time of looking back and thanking those who’ve been a part of bringing and keeping CASA here for the children and hopefully showing them the difference that their time, their efforts and their support has made,” Robertson said in the release.

“Later, we’ll mark the 20th anniversary of other firsts this year from the swearing-in of our first advocates and beyond,” she added. “I look forward to telling the story of our CASA program and the amazing people who’ve been a part of making children safer in these 20 years.”

CASA of North Texas is a member of National CASA, Texas CASA and is supported by the United Way of Cooke County as well as other individuals and groups.

For information about becoming a CASA volunteer, call the organization at 940-665-2244.

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