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CASA of Lea County names Volunteer of the Year

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CASA of Lea County names Volunteer of the Year

Rhonda Phillips, a resident of Lovington, was named CASA of Lea County’s 2017 Ursula Wilcox Volunteer of the Year at CASA’s Annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner.

CASA of Lea County strives to make Lea County a safer environment for abused and neglected children through trained volunteer advocacy and other child centered programs. All activities and efforts are designed to result in safe, permanent, nurturing homes for every child CASA encounters. The criteria set for the Volunteer of the Year is a volunteer who clearly demonstrates the understanding of the CASA role in representing the best interest of the child; commits to continued training and personal development; establishes a quality working relationship with collaterals; is diligent to complete court reports and monthly time sheets in a timely manner; and seeks creative solutions to obstacles and barriers.

Phillips has been a CASA Volunteer Advocate for seven years. She has had four cases with 12 children. She has had one case for five years. She has spent 302 hours working her cases and has 208 hours of continuing education, according to Ann Murdock, Volunteer Coordinator for CASA.

“Rhonda is steady as she goes,” said Murdock. “She knows her kids and she knows what they need. She quietly keeps jabbing until she gets someone’s attention.”

“Rhonda is passionate about meeting the child’s best interests. On one particular case, there were four children and the youngest was much younger than her siblings. Rhonda fought to have a sibling split so this little one could be adopted and have a forever home. She has been happily adopted for a couple of years now,” Murdock said. “There is one child left in this case and Rhonda still advocates for him just like he is the only child in the world.”

Phillips is also active in helping with CASA events and fundraisers. “She even gets her husband, Lou, involved in our projects!” Murdock pointed out.

“Rhonda is one of the most upbeat, outgoing, friendly and happy people you will ever meet,” said Hope Hennessy, Community Liaison for CASA of Lea County. “She truly embodies the meaning of having a helping heart and a servant’s hands. We are so blessed by her contributions to CASA and to the children in our community.”

CASA of Lea County’s Volunteer of the Year Award was renamed the Ursula Wilcox Volunteer of the Year Award in honor of CASA volunteer advocate and Hobbs resident, Ursula Wilcox who passed away in October 2012. Wilcox was the recipient of the CASA of Lea County Volunteer of the Year Award in 2010.

Hobbs resident Peggy Lackey was honored with the Extra Mile Award and Frances Shaw of Lovington was the recipient of the Rookie-of-the-Year Award.

At this year’s event, a special award, named the CASA Guardian Award, was presented to Becky Cousins of Hobbs for her part in ensuring that the CASA program is held in high regard in the community; for embodying the spirit of CASA; and going beyond the scope of the role of being an advocate.

In addition to serving as a CASA Volunteer Advocate for the past seven years, Cousins also serves as the Drug Court Liaison for CASA and attends Family Reunification Court on CASA’s behalf every month.

Cousins has served on the Annual Boots & Bling Gala Event committee and has lovingly made quilts for the live auction at Boots and Bling each year. Recently, she has begun assisting with new volunteer training.

“Her assistance has been amazing and deeply appreciated,” said Murdock. “Becky is always ready to help with any project. Becky is truly like part of the staff. We appreciate all of her help and support over the years, not only with CASA, but in all that she does in Lea County.”

Murdock paid tribute to all of CASA of Lea County’s volunteer advocates: “One of the most beautiful things that happens every year at CASA is the training of new volunteers. They come in as unique individuals with different backgrounds and experiences but they all share a common purpose, to help children. Then, after a few weeks, each new CASA finds their own voice in the unique landscape of our organization and are able to piece together their own ideas which will allow them to serve the children that will need them the most. It is a deeply rewarding experience and truly an illumination of the idea that we are individuals, but together, we create something spectacular.”

“Your work is indispensable,” said Murdock. “The cases you all see are infinitely complex and it can be difficult to know which piece of the puzzle to begin working with. But time after time, you all lay out the workings of a case that will change the life of a child forever. Volunteers are truly the backbone of CASA and without you there would be no CASA.”

For further information about CASA of Lea County or becoming a volunteer advocate, please call the CASA of Lea County office at 393-0015 or go to www.casaofleacounty.org.

Burkett Shaw
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