New Building, New Future

Thanks to generous funding from the Charity League of Corpus Christi and H-E-B’s Tournament of Champions, CASA of the Coastal Bend is finally giving foster children a room of their own.

By: Trista Martinez

Not many people understand exactly what CASA of the Coastal Bend does in the community. And that’s OK, as it takes some time even for staff members to fully understand all of the moving parts that make CASA the influential organization that it is. To start, an abridged description of CASA from its beginnings in Corpus Christi to its current goings-on is appropriate.

Back in December 1991, the Junior League of Corpus Christi established CASA of Nueces County. By May 1992, CASA volunteers took their first cases. In June 2000, CASA of Nueces County became CASA of the Coastal Bend by serving children in Nueces, Aransas and San Patricio Counties.

As CASA expanded its volunteer and staff teams, each office was filled to capacity – leaving two staff members working without an office. It was at this point that the property at 2602 Prescott was purchased; this was an exciting milestone, and the location is still CASA’s home today. This property contained two buildings. Renovation started by constructing 10 office spaces and a 500-square-foot conference room within the larger building.

With room for further growth and an onsite training facility, leadership staff and CASA’s board of directors devised an exciting plan to renovate the second building on the property. Shell Olympus helped in the form of a grant and volunteer labor. CASA staff and Shell employees gutted the building – a huge undertaking on everyone’s part.

Shell Olympus’ grant provided funds for demolition of one-third of the building and the structural buildout of the remaining portion. This made for quite an awesome opportunity to continue the organization’s mission for CASA volunteers to advocate for foster children in court and help them find loving, permanent homes.

But back to the second building facelift: Demolition was completed in 2013, and the building was ready for renovation. It wasn’t until 2015 that the Charity League of Corpus Christi and H-E-B’s Tournament of Champions provided CASA a grant and generous funding. This allowed CASA to not just renovate the second building, but also create the kids’ room that was always just a dream. Now complete, the second building houses seven offices solely for CASA’s program team who support CASA’s volunteers and casework. The long-awaited kids’ room is not to be forgotten – because it is, after all, the best part of the building. Let’s talk about why.

Often, CASA volunteers find themselves in more McDonalds,’ Peter Piper Pizzas and bookstores than they’d like to admit, trying to talk to their CASA “kiddos” about their foster home, medical issues, school or overall feelings. This hasn’t always been easy, given the circumstances foster children are living. Court hearings are inevitable, with judgements made concerning where the children should go and what’s happening with parents and sometimes siblings.

Typically, you see CASA volunteers in the hallways of the bustling courthouse, explaining to their foster child or children what just happened in the courtroom and why. These are scenarios CASA wishes to avoid. One-on-one conversations are expected to be had in privacy, with 100 percent full attention on the foster children. How are CASA volunteers supposed to do their job correctly and give foster children the hope and understanding they deserve? How will they be able to hug the children with the sound of arcade games or other children around them?

This is where the kids’ room comes into play – both figuratively and literally. And so much is going on in that kids’ room, it’s great. There’s custom shelving, appliances, game consoles, furniture, books, interactive learning tools – just name it. This is a room that will both have a comforting effect and allow foster children to just be children – anything and everything CASA’s foster children need to feel comfortable.

No more McDonalds,’ Peter Piper Pizzas and bookstores. Not that these aren’t great places – Peter Piper’s pizza is pretty tasty, and everyone loves a whipped cream-topped Frappuccino from a bookstore. But with so much community support and consideration for what goes on, CASA’s dreams are finally coming true. Because of that, CASA can continue to make foster children’s dreams come true.

For more information on CASA of the Coastal Bend, visit www.coastalbendcasa.org.

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