Three new volunteers with Douglass Community Services’ Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) have completed their training and are ready to serve.

Three new volunteers with Douglass Community Services’ Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) have completed their training and are ready to serve.

Kelly Gaddis, Melissa Laramore and Shana Franklin  were administered their oath of office by Judge Rachel Bringer Shepherd on Monday, June 9, at the Marion County Courthouse in Hannibal.

Samantha Gilland, the new CASA program director, explained the volunteers work with abused and neglected children and promote the child’s right to a safe, permanent and nurturing home.


Gaddis hopes to make a difference in children’s lives, explaining, “If I could be a good memory in one child’s life and 20 years from now, they say, ‘I’ll never forget Kelly, how she helped me when I was younger,’ then my life would be complete.”

Laramore has children and one grandchild.


Reporting why she became a CASA volunteer, Franklin said, “I want to help give these children a voice and to help empower them.” The mother of three children, Franklin formerly operated a day care center.


Laramore said, “I want to be a CASA volunteer because I believe every child deserves to have someone on their side.” A former special education teacher, she is now employed at Hannibal-LaGrange University.

Gilland reported the new volunteers have completed more than 30 hours of pre-service training. They had an advantage over some of the previous volunteers, Gilland explained, because with the new “flex learning training program,” half of their 30 hours of training can be done on the Internet.

Laramore said this made it possible for her to complete her training while also working.

Franklin said this new training program means that, “people who think they can’t do it and work, can.”



volunteers needed


Even with the new members, the local CASA organization needs more volunteers, Gilland said.

“We had 62 children (with CASA volunteers) in 2013,” she said, which was a record number. She reported two-thirds of the children needing a CASA volunteer do not have one.

CASA volunteers agree to serve for one year or until their case is finished, which could be several years, she explained.

Gilland added that the children are receiving help from other agencies, and CASA works “on a team” with the Children’s Division, the Juvenile Office and attorneys on each case. They provide valuable information to the judge regarding the child’s well-being and best interests.

Judge Bringer Shepherd expressed her appreciation to the new volunteers, telling them, “I’m just really thankful for these individuals who are willing to volunteer so much time to help children in need in the 10th Circuit.”

The local CASA agency was organized in 1998. Members of the CASA Advisory Council are (state Rep.) Lindell Shumake, J.C. Weyand, Kirsten Hildahl-Dewey, Eddie Bogue, Nikki Lyng, Ceann Hess and Linda Dinges.

Shumake, who was among the people attending the June 9 ceremony, said organizations such as CASA “could not function without volunteers. We need more.”

He added, “their pay is knowing what you are doing is making a difference in the lives of children. I commend all of you.’”

Dave Dexheimer, DCS executive director, introduced Gilland as the new CASA program director, replacing Pam Adkison, who recently moved to the state of Florida. He said Gilland first joined CASA as a VISTA volunteer.

Dexheimer also commended the CASA volunteers, adding a challenge for more people to help. “We need to continue to grow. We still are not able to provide CASAs for all the children in the 10th Judicial Circuit. We encourage others to check out the program and see if it might be a fit for them to be involved in.”

For more details about CASA call (573) 221-3890, Ext. 227, or email