CASA program moves into new building

Joshua Kellogg
From left, Amy O’Neill, program director of the San Juan County Court Appointed Special Advocate program, and CASA volunteer Teri Roper speak on Tuesday at CASA’s office on Apache Street in Farmington.

FARMINGTON >> The San Juan County Court Appointed Special Advocate program has moved into its own building and is hosting an open house to recruit new volunteers.

Staff with the CASA program, which is run by the nonprofit Childhaven, were working out of a room inside an office at 811 W. Apache St. until they moved next door into their own building, said Amy O’Neill, the program director.

The building previously housed Childhaven administrators, and staff have spent the last six months renovating the structure.

During San Juan United Way’s Day of Caring on Sept. 17, volunteers pressure washed the exterior of the building before painting, moved office furniture and repaired the stairs for the back entrance, O’Neill said.

“We had a lot of wonderful volunteers get the house ready for us,” O’Neill said.

The new building houses the office for O’Neill and Volunteer Supervisor Alysha Shipley, a desk and computer for volunteers. The additional space will help the program provide more training for its 47 active volunteers.

“It’s very nice to have room for all of us to work together and have more opportunities to train and meet with volunteers,” O’Neill said.

The program currently provides support for 105 children, ranging from infants to 18-year-olds, who have been abused or neglected.

Right now, 21 children in San Juan County are awaiting advocates for their cases, O’Neill said, and the program is looking for more volunteers.

To recruit volunteers, CASA is hosting an open house and ribbon cutting for its new building on Thursday. Refreshments, like pizza and root beer floats, will be served, and people interested in volunteering can ask questions about the program.

A volunteer is asked to spent eight to 10 hours a month with the children, and additional hours may be required as a worker starts a new case.

The staff will sign up people for pre-service training starting on Oct. 20.

Volunteer Helena Begay has been working with one group of children for three years and said while the work can be tiring at times, it can be very rewarding.

“I think the rewarding thing is to really see the children in a safe environment,” Begay said. “I think we are a lot of times the only constant in their lives. ... I think they do like that. It’s needed.”

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He may be reached at 505-564-4627.

If you go
What: San Juan County CASA Program open house and ribbon cutting
When: Noon to 2 p.m. Thursday
Where: CASA building, 815 W. Apache St. in Farmington
More information: Call 325-5358, extension 181.