CASA’s move to new site celebrated

FOLLANSBEE – On Wednesday, members of three local chambers of commerce and many others got to see progress made by staff and volunteers with A Child’s Place Court-Appointed Special Advocates in renovating their new location at 613 Main St.

Leaders of the Follansbee, Wellsburg and Weirton Area chambers of commerce helped the nonprofit group to celebrate the move with a ribbon-cutting event.

Follansbee Chamber President Tony Paesano also presented $300 to Rhonda Stubbs, the group’s executive director. The group is among several child-oriented groups that received money left from donations made for the chamber’s veterans appreciation dinner earlier this year.

He, Weirton Area Chamber President Brenda Mull and Jacie Ridgely, executive director of the Wellsburg chamber, praised the efforts of CASA, which trains volunteers to represent the interests of children involved in abuse and neglect cases in Brooke and Hancock counties.

Stubbs thanked many for helping CASA with its move. First on her list was J.J. Bernarbei, owner of the Tri-State Medical Group, who offered the group the two-story building, once the site of Tri-State Medical Supply, at 20 percent of its market value and agreed to a very flexible payment plan.

She noted Bernabei and the Tri-State Medical Group have been longtime financial supporters of CASA.

Next on Stubbs’ list was Pat Ford and the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle, who had arranged for the group to move into the Beech Bottom trailer once occupied by the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel credit union, when CASA was unable to make the rent for its Wellsburg office late last year.

Stubbs also expressed thanks to many volunteers who have been working to renovate the new site and Robinson and Son Construction, 84 Lumber, Danny Hukill Contracting and General Rental for donating building materials and equipment for the efforts.

She said Shawn Thompson, son of CASA board chairman Mike Thompson, has served as volunteer project manager for a group that has included teens from YouthWorks, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit group that has organized Christ-based missions to help individuals and groups in Steubenville and many other places.

While giving a tour of the new location, Stubbs revealed a newly painted room where the young volunteers were encouraged to leave their handprints and names.

“It’s been a lot of hands doing a lot of grunt work,” said Mike Thompson.

Stubbs said there’s still much work to do. While she donned a black party dress for the occasion, she would be changing into work clothes that afternoon.

“We’re hoping to hang some doors today,” she said.

Stubbs said Smitty’s Floors had offered to provide flooring for the main room on the first floor. But after much scraping, the volunteers discovered its original terazzo tile floor, so she will ask Smitty’s to provide the floor for another smaller room, she said.

Mike Thompson said much of the electrical wiring and plumbing must be replaced because it is outdated and volunteers with experience with such renovations would be appreciated.

Stubbs said at least one of the restrooms must be handicapped-accessible.

Vito’s 2 provided breakfast Tuesday for CASA and its guests at cost, and many gathered around a large wooden table Stubbs had purchased, with five chairs, for $5 at a garage sale.

Stubbs encouraged anyone interested in donating other furniture as well as labor, materials or money to call her at (304) 737-4444. She said the agency will retain its original phone number as well as its website and Facebook page.

“We are not a line item on any city, county, state or federal budget,” Stubbs said, adding the nonprofit group has relied instead on fundraising and grants.

The latest fundraiser is a Superhero Fun Walk to coincide with the Weirton Fourth of July Parade. Children and adults are invited to dress as their favorite superheroes and help lead the parade Saturday morning, with prizes awarded for the best children’s costumes.

For information, contact CASA at the above number or by e-mail at

Stubbs also has applied for grants from Wheeling-Nisshin Inc. and the Sisters of St. Joseph.

First Judicial Circuit Court Judge Martin Gaughan said because it’s not yet complete, the new location may appear humble, but A Child’s Place CASA has grown since it was established in 1999.

Gaughan has been involved from the beginning, administering oaths of confidentiality to volunteer advocates charged with helping to ensure children involved in abuse and neglect cases are in safe homes.

Stubbs acknowledged the group began with three advocates who served 18 children. It currently has 16 who serve 115 under the direction of Stubbs and Jennifer Reitter, its only paid staff.

Stubbs said a rise in drug abuse has been a major reason for the increase in child abuse and neglect.