There are more than a thousand children living in foster care in Atlantic and Cape May counties, according to Karen DeRosa. Due to a grant awarded to the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program, a few more of those children's needs will be represented in court.
DeRosa, of Somers Point, is the CASA Director of Community Development for children in Atlantic and Cape May counties. In July, the volunteer organization - which provides volunteers to advocate for the needs of children who reside in foster care - received a grant of $6,000 from the Ocean City Home Charitable Foundation, which is the charitable arm of Ocean City Home Bank.
"It's a competitive grant progress every year," DeRosa said. "(The Ocean City Home Charitable Foundation) accepts applications, and we wrote a grant and told them what we're going to do with the money."
The donation, DeRosa said, is going to benefit CASA's volunteer training program. The training is extensive and costly because the program teaches each volunteer how to advocate effectively for a child, or siblings, in court.
"They advocate for the children to get the services they receive," DeRosa said. "They're making sure (the children) are doing well in school. The children may need a tutor or eye glasses. They're the extra eyes and ears for that child."
Although the prospect of training to be a CASA volunteer might seem daunting, DeRosa said the experience is extremely rewarding. That is why the group boasts a 75 percent volunteer retention rate.
"Once people hear the stories of these children, it's hard to resist wanting to help them," she said.
Last year, CASA was able to represent 350 children in court. This year, the goal is to serve 400.
The volunteer program is intensive. It involves a 30-hour course that covers the laws concerning the children in foster care and various courtroom scenarios. The grant money awarded to CASA will allow the organization to train 80 to 100 new volunteers this year.
Jean Jacobson, of Margate, president of the Ocean City Home Charitable Foundation, said that her foundation continues to support CASA because of the good that it brings to the community.
"We have seen what CASA does, they have brought in people that have gone through the program successfully," Jacobson said. "We believe that it is a very worthy local organization. They do a lot of good work in Atlantic and Cape May counties."
Jacobson said the Home foundation gives more than $100,000 in grants each year to various local charities. Some of the other organizations that have benefited from the grants are the Boy Scouts, Friends of the Ocean City Pops, Faces 4 Autism, and Contact Cape-Atlantic.
"It's part of being a responsible public company," Jacobson said. "We try to help out the ones that will improve the quality of life in the community."
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