Chaves County CASA’s fundraiser helps abused and neglected children
By Christina Stock
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) is having its 17th annual fundraiser Make Time for Kids at The Liberty Club, 312 N. Virginia Ave., on April 26 at 5 p.m.
CASA provides support and a powerful voice to the abused and neglected children along with their families. Advocates stand in the gap offering change. Services include play therapy, visitation, family support, alternative education programs, leadership programs, care support, a supervised visitation center and of course, the courthouse facility dogs who give comfort to the children at court.
Carrie-Leigh Cloutier, executive director of the Chaves County CASA program, is looking forward to the event, which will include a live and silent auction as well as the popular Make Time Market.
“This year, Make Time for Kids will be the best ever,” Cloutier said. “We have so many different and exciting ways to reach our donors to make the evening fun. As always, we are very grateful to Taylor Orthodontics for sponsoring our event and making it such a successful event. We put the fun back in fundraising: It is fun to come to, it’s fun to put it on and this year we have incredible auction items. The quality is mind-boggling.”
One of the auction items is a guitar signed by major country stars such as Brad Paisley, Thomas Rhett, Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban, Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Maddie + Tae, Lady Antebellum and Tyler Farr. Asked how they got the guitar, Cloutier said, “We have a good friend of the program, Ricky Stiles, who is a concert promoter and works on things. He got us that. We will also have a country music package from Isleta Pueblo, five country music concerts; we have a Santa Fe fun package; we have really nice purses, food, custom-made jewelry from Bullocks. They gave us diamonds and you get to design your piece of jewelry. The Bullocks have been sponsors for this event for a long time.
“We have a custom-made wine table with inset turquoise. J.T. Thomas made that. We’ll have our lottery tree again; we have spa packages, guns, concealed-carry classes to go with the guns, a gun safe and tool cabinets, alcohol packages, like high-class bourbon packages — Scotch package, a Martini package, boots from Roswell Livestock. It goes on and on, we’ll have hundreds of things,” Cloutier said. “A lot of different kinds of art. Artists have been very generous with us this year.”
All the profits will go to help children of Chaves County. “We are so grateful for the people coming and spending their money, which will go toward abused children,” Cloutier said. “Right now, we see a huge increase in cases, so people’s support is more important than ever.
“The growth in the oilfields are causing a lot of the increase, but we also are seeing increase in meth addiction that are meaning truly horrifying child abuse at the time right now. Physical, sexual, a lot of child rape that we are seeing. My staff is overwhelmed right now with the cases. We are at anytime serving 400 children just in Chaves County; we do some in Artesia, too. But through an entire year, we serve over 2,500 children. Families, all families in our community are at high risk at the moment. We are getting a lot of hotline calls and we’re dealing with a lot of suicide with kids right now. It really is heartrending. Life is hard. We are seeing an increase in drug use with kids, the vaping, they are putting drugs in the vape pens and getting away with more, so they are seeing a lot of bad drugs entering their systems. These are illegal drugs, not legal drugs. We are struggling right now with generational drug abuse; the kids getting the drugs from the parents. There are not enough resources, not enough places, not enough safe homes for these kids.”
Megan Cederberg of CASA has direct contact with the new generation of teenagers. Many do not know anymore how to communicate in a healthy way. She said, “A lot of teens are not talking but texting. Dating is texting; friendships are texting; you don’t really talk much. Social media makes it hard for teenagers, that’s one thing we are really struggling with. How do kids navigate the pressures of social media and that is adding to the cutting and suicides.”
“My team, the volunteers, my staff, they are really incredible people,” Cloutier said. “We are working hard, but it’s discouraging work that is at the same time exciting and rewarding work. It is a group of genuine people.
“It’s exciting when we can have our events, because I feel the whole community comes together to help put a stop to this, to make a difference,” Cloutier said. “People are so generous in this community. While we have free food and drinks there, we know that people will come to be part of our family and to help give back. People will be able to give in any level, we’re going to have $1 opportunities and thousands of dollars opportunities for people, so everybody of every ability can give.
“This year, we’ll have our Make Time Market out on the porch, so we’ll have things for sale and we’ll have fun stuff. Most things at our little store will be under $20. You don’t have to be rich to give. For the price of a couple of lattes you can come support us. Everybody can find something neat,” Cloutier said.
Asked what the organization’s biggest need is, Cloutier said, “Our biggest needs are CASA volunteers to help advocate for children in court, because the amount of cases coming in have increased in a proportion we haven’t seen in quite a few years. Any volunteer is very carefully screened and then trained for 30 hours before they can take a case. We have a huge support system for volunteers to get them through the process. It’s incredibly rewarding, but incredibly hard. It is the hardest volunteer work you will ever do. We don’t ever want to soft-sell it, because it is not. It is for people who want a challenge. They can go to our website, casakids.org and find all the information they need there.
“We always need diapers — diapers are so expensive. Carseats, hygiene products, anything that teenagers may need throughout the year. One thing we’re pushing are feminine hygiene products. They are expensive and girls don’t have access to them,” Cloutier said.
According to Cloutier, the meth addiction is a large factor in child abuse. “At the beginning, people said it is impossible, people could never overcome it, but you can,” she said. “We’ve seen it happen quite a bit, but it’s incredibly difficult. It takes at least 13 months to retrain the brain, so it takes a long time. Part of the problem is that New Mexico doesn’t have any rehab centers. Finding resources is super hard. We are seeing some heroine come back, it went down for a while. We are seeing an increase in human trafficking. We have 21 programs to reach all kids in the community.”
While private citizens can support the cause simply by donating, CASA is not standing alone. “Honestly, there is a tremendous amount of awareness and support,” Cloutier said. “We work very closely with our fellow law enforcement agencies, all of them. They are doing a darn good job. I would say more resources need to be put into it, especially in the rural areas. There are not enough therapists, there are not enough rehab and so we need to see more resources, more money coming out to help these families locally.”
For more information, visit casakids.org or call 575-625-0112.