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Special to the News-Standard
HUNTSVILLE — One of the taglines of Court Appointed Special Advocates is helping children to find a “Safe, Permanent Home-As Quickly as Possible.”
In that same vein, CASA’s desire for permanency, in order to better serve the communities of Walker, San Jacinto, and Trinity counties, has led this organization to purchase a new home at 2515 Pine Shadows Drive, the former First Financial Bank Annex Building, in Huntsville.
Although it may seem on the surface that the decision to buy, the selection of the new location, and the move have happened quickly; the process began around five years ago with planning and resource development.
When Debbie Price became the CASA Board President in August 2022, she wanted the conversations to become intentional plans, investigate buildings, and have feet on the ground looking for an existing structure.
“Once the decision was made, Realtor Stacey Roberts joining the Board was pivotal,” Price said. “We had the knowledge; we had the person who could maneuver the process. Her wisdom was critical. That is when it started feeling the most real. We started talking about the investment and the finances.”
The contributions of so many friends of CASA throughout the community and the diligence of those within the CASA family brought the dream of this organization of a permanent Home to fruition.
The Facilities Committee consists of Russell Humphrey, Carlton Boaz, Stacey Roberts, Chris Supan, Pat Stephenson, Price, Jill Pagels, Mary Petron and Sharon Dieringer, and each impacted the process in a variety of ways.
Price said Humphrey and Boaz made it clear that building something was going to be too expensive.
“Carlton is doing the work on the building that we are buying, not just as a contractor but as a Board Associate,” she said. “He brings a totally different mindset to our Board. His perspective is very practical.”
The support of this project extended from within the program out to other entities in Walker County. The people of First Financial Bank (FFB) committed to CASA in a way that was critical.
“The $150,000 contribution from FFB was essential in making this purchase possible, and we are humbled by their evident commitment to CASA’s future success,” Executive Director Kim Weiser said.
Facilities Committee Chairman Ernie Smith said the bank was happy that CASA was in a position to buy the building, and were supportive of us growing and interested in helping the organization meet its needs.
While First National Bank will be losing CASA as a tenant, they also have been supportive of the organization’s desire to vacate and flexible with the timeline of this process.
Executive Assistant Emily O’Rear said she “is looking forward to people being able to come to our facility and staying, feeling at home. That is our mission, to make children feel safe. I love the correlation; we have found our forever home.”
Program Director Rachel Drake said that she is “most excited about the opportunity for growth. We will be able to grow into the ideas we have now; we will see more needs, and have more ideas implemented without having to move again.”
Chris Supan, a 10-year advocate, said he is thrilled for the staff.
“They will have sufficient room to conduct all of the trainings and the ability to serve the needs of the advocates in this location,” he said.
With the move, CASA gains greater visibility and exposure in the community.
Smith said, “With greater exposure, we will have a chance to tell what we’ve accomplished in our support of children in the three counties.”
The doors will be open for business on April 4; CASA invites the public to attend a ribbon cutting and grand opening to be held at 4:30 p.m. May 11,. Refreshments will be provided.
For more information about CASA and how to become involved with this organization, visit www.casaofwalkercounty.org or call 936-291-CASA.