Home News Vision Spotlight: CASA Winter Wonderland goes live

Spotlight: CASA Winter Wonderland goes live

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Christina Stock Photo Chaves County CASA CEO Carrie-Leigh Cloutier is seen here at First American Bank in the midst of decorated Christmas trees and donated items that ticket holders of the Winter Wonderland event can bid on.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Updates on Chaves County CASA programs and its annual fundraising auction

By Christina Stock

Vision Editor

The annual Chaves County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) will have its annual Winter Wonderland on Nov. 19. The event is a fundraising auction benefiting CASA’s work supporting abused children.

Longtime supporter and venue for the event is First American Bank. On the east side of the building, corner of East Fifth Street and North Virginia Avenue, the tent for the live event will be put up. The event starts at 5 p.m. Throughout the bank one-of-a-kind Christmas trees are waiting for new owners.

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“Adelina Mendez is the one who makes all of this possible, her incredible talent,” said Carrie-Leigh Cloutier, chief executive officer of Chaves County CASA.

Mendez faces a greater challenge this year in decorating the unique trees, Cloutier said. Global supply chain disruptions have reached Roswell, and decorations that were ordered still have not arrived.

More than 30 trees are decorated so far. Additionally there will be other items that were donated by supporters of the program. The big prize is a trip to a Colorado ski resort which will be raffled off.

“We’ll have about 70 live auction items in the end and about 150 silent auction items,” Cloutier said. “It’s as beautiful as ever. We have all sorts of fascinating things, like this fun collector’s edition of Barbies (“Wizard of Oz” theme). This is worth $1,000, if you leave them in the boxes.”

Other items will be put on CASA’s website to be auctioned online for those who can’t attend the event.

“First American Bank and Xcel Energy are our major sponsors, as they are every year. But we have also other generous sponsors and we’re pulling it off,” Cloutier said.

“Our First American Bank is very proud to be a sponsor for this event,” Vice President Kris Holloway said. “It’s been at the bank for a very long time and a lot of our community comes here and gathers. It’s kind of our kick off for the whole holiday season, and we’re just proud that we can help in any way possible. Of course, CASA does everything. We just pretty much do what they tell us to do and say, ‘Yes, ma’am, Carrie-Leigh,’ and we just go about. All the employees love this event, it’s a beautiful event.”

CASA Giving Trees also will be displayed at the bank. Businesses can request a Giving Tree in their places of business by calling 575-625-0112. The Giving Tree is part of the annual CASA program providing gifts for the children at risk.

The event will be different this year, Cloutier said. Due to the pandemic and safety concerns, there will be no walk-ins. Tickets have to be purchased ahead of the event.

“Safely, we maybe can have 200,” Cloutier said. “A really great menu is being catered by Peppers (Grill & Bar), with a carving station and really nice food and drink. That’s all included.”

An organization such as CASA has an insight few have into domestic disturbances involving children. The organization supports children at court and provides specially trained dogs to comfort these children who have to face the ones who hurt them. These children were abused, neglected, abandoned, sexually molested or are considered high risk.

Cloutier didn’t have good news about the last year. “This has been a very challenging year, obviously,” she said. “We are seeing that child abuse is more violent than it has ever been. The numbers are as high as they have ever been.”

On occasion, the organization is able to keep a family together. “Sometimes you have a heart for these parents who just are at their wits’ end, so we are trying to give support to these parents as well,” Cloutier said.

Thanks to sponsors, Cloutier said CASA recently expanded its program to create a drop-in center. The center answers a new need in the county concerning homeless children.

“We’re already finding kids — they are finding us — wandering the streets, and (they) have all kinds of different problems. So we’re giving them clothing and food, a shower and clothes and sleeping bags and make sure that they are safe, getting the resources they need,” Cloutier said.

Asked how old these children are, Cloutier said that the average age is 16. However, CASA is serving children from 12 to 25.

“A surprising number of kids get kicked out of their home when they turn 18. It’s hard to imagine. Now they no longer have support; they no longer have a home. They are couch-surfing. Kids that are couch-surfing often are trading themselves for sex in order to get food and a roof, which is a form of human trafficking. We’re working with a lot of those kids, and we don’t have shelters for those kids,” Cloutier said.

The drop-in center is located on the 10th floor of the Sunwest Centre Office Complex, 500 N. Main St. CASA moved its office to the first floor to Suite 102.

Cloutier said that the new program to give at-risk young adults job skills is doing great as well. CASA member Megan Cederberg spearheaded the program together with Stellar Coffee Co., which staffed a new coffee truck with at-risk youth. “Megan is a powerhouse. It’s really exciting, giving those kids business skills,” Cloutier said.

There are two more projects in the works. “We are going to do our Christmas toy drive and we can use anything — blankets, base heaters, shoes, diapers, toys. And, of course, we are raising money for our courthouse dogs. We’ve just been matched with a new dog, and Leprino’s helped us sponsoring that new dog.”

Ember is the name of the Labradoodle undergoing training. “In spring we’re hoping for two new dogs,” Cloutier said.

The reason for the new dogs is that trained dogs, such as the CASA Courthouse dogs, work six to eight years before retiring. “Already, my Zia is 8,” Cloutier said.

For more information about CASA’s Winter Wonderland event and on the organization’s program, visit casakids.org.

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