WELLSBURG - Those interested in doing some low-stress Christmas shopping might try stopping by the office of A Child's Place Court-Appointed Special Advocate at 720 Charles St. Thursday.
Visitors will find assorted jewelry, purses, cosmetics, kitchen supplies and other items for sale and can help support the efforts during an open house for the group from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Rhonda Stubbs, executive director for A Child's Place CASA, said there also will be drawings for various gift baskets containing large assortments of food, beauty supplies and other items supplied by Jenna Boley of Advantage Sales and Marketing.
SPECIAL ATTENTION — Robert Campbell of Weirton, with his grandson Aiden Mercil, is among volunteers with A Child’s Place Court-Appointed Special Advocate program who have had pinwheels placed in their yards in recognition of their efforts for the group. -- Contributed
Stubbs said the annual event has been a fairly successfully fundraiser, netting about $374 last year, while also raising awareness of the group's purpose.
Visitors also may bring Christmas gifts for children aided by the group.
As the sole staff members for A Child's Place CASA, Stubbs and Jennifer Reitter prepare and guide volunteers to represent the interests of children involved in abuse and neglect cases in Brooke and Hancock counties.
Stubbs said it's a need that has grown dramatically this year. The group currently serves 113 children, the largest number since it was formed in 2000, and 52 other children haven't been assigned advocates because there aren't enough volunteers.
Stubbs explained courts may call for such children to be removed from their homes, but they also may order parents to undergo various types of counseling in an effort to keep families together, with the children's safety an overriding factor.
CASA volunteers visit the families at their homes to determine if the parents are following the court's orders and the environment is safe. They deliver written reports on their findings to a judge who must determine what's best for the children.
Stubbs said a rise in drug abuse, particularly of heroin, is largely to blame for the rise in child abuse and neglect cases. She said more family members and friends of drug users are turning to local police because they are concerned about the users' children.
Stubbs said it takes patience and dedication to be a CASA volunteer and the group's 16 advocates and other volunteers are being recognized in a unique way. Over the years the group has placed pinwheels outside the Mary H. Weir Public Library during Child Abuse Prevention Month.
This month pinwheels are being placed outside the homes of various volunteers to recognize them for their hard work and compassion. The pinwheels turn up overnight, without warning, and also may help to spark curiosity about A Child's Place CASA itself, Stubbs said.
Robert Campbell of Weirton, A Child's Place CASA's Volunteer of the Year, was a recent recipient of the pinwheels. Campbell has been assigned to 14 children since he became involved in the program two years ago.
The pinwheels were moved this weekend to the home of Dale Moore, also of Weirton. Moore has aided 10 children for the group over the last two years and helped to raise funds by collecting assorted Major League and Minor League baseball items for drawings benefiting the group.
Stubbs said on Thursday she will continue the tradition of presenting the Stick Your Neck Out award to a volunteer or volunteers who have gone above and beyond in their support of the program.
Fundraising always has been a major concern for the program, which has depended on federal grants and business sponsors among other donations.
But it's become even more of a concern because it and other court-appointed special advocate programs have been cut from federal grants issued through the West Virginia Juvenile Accountability Grant program.
As a result, Stubbs has been working without pay since September. She said she's looking into other funding sources while various people have stepped up to help her.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)