Court Appointed Special Advocates of Southwest Missouri — better known as CASA — announced plans and a capital campaign for new headquarters and a CASA Clubhouse with a playground.
The plans for the headquarters, clubhouse and playground were revealed at a press conference Wednesday morning at the new location: the current Council of Churches building at 627 N. Glenstone Ave., plus the building just north of the Council’s office space. (The Council of Churches is moving to 3055 E. Division St.)
CASA of Southwest Missouri is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to recruit, train and support community volunteers who assist the court in protecting the best interests of abused and neglected children in Greene and Christian counties.
Over the past four years, CASA has tripled in size and is now serving more than 400 children in foster care in this community. CASA’s current office space is overflowing and will not allow for additional staff to serve the remaining children without CASA support.
Laura Farmer, executive director of CASA, explained why moving to a bigger building is so important.
“Child abuse and neglect has been identified as a red flag issue in our community for numerous years now,” Farmer said at the press conference. “This year alone, we’ve had 38 children each month enter foster care in Greene County. If we compare that to 2017 data, there were 20 children a month on average coming into foster care in Greene County that year.”
Goal is to serve 100% of foster children in this community
Farmer went on to say that CASA’s goal is to serve 100 percent of foster children in this community by 2030.
“In order to do this, we need more space,” she said. “If you’ve ever visited our office across from Mercy Hospital, you will know that we have staff stacked on top of each other. Right now, we cannot add another staff member to recruit more volunteers and support more children in foster care.”
The new CASA Headquarters will house at least 20 CASA staff members.
The clubhouse will be the first of its kind in Missouri, according to information presented Wednesday. It is the product of years of collaborative research and work with Greene County Children’s Division, Greene County Juvenile Office, and Greene County Associate Circuit Judge Andy Hosmer, in addition to the expertise of CASA programs throughout the nation who have pioneered this programming.
According to Farmer, the pandemic caused many of the places that used to host family and sibling visitations to close or end those visitations.
“There are very limited spaces in our community that are available for kids in foster care to have confidential, safe and quality visits with their family members to support that reunification efforts,” she said.
CASA is under contract and will close on the two buildings currently owned by the Council of Churches at the end of August 2022, said Eric Gerke of SFC Bank. Gerke is serving as chair of the capital campaign and spoke at the press conference.
New space will allow foster children to visit with siblings, family
CASA will move into the new location after the necessary renovations are complete.
According to the plans revealed at the press conference, the buildings will be connected by a playground, specifically designed for all children. CASA has raised $2.1 million toward the $2.7 million campaign with lead gifts from Dan & Kim Piddington, the Risdal Family Foundation, the Sunderland Foundation, members of the O’Reilly family, and the Hulston Family Foundation.
The project design and renovations are being spearheaded by the teams at Esterly, Schneider, and Associates and Springfield Builders, Inc.
The clubhouse will not only be a place where foster children can visit with their siblings, parents and/or their CASA, but it will be a place where older youth can learn life skills such as cooking and laundry, Gerke said.
Farmer thanked the capital campaign committee members for their work and patience as she “dragged” them to look at potential new locations all over Springfield.
“So when I noticed Council of Churches was moving on from this space as well as the space north of here, I knew immediately this is where I wanted to plant CASA,” Farmer said. “With the purchase of this building and the clubhouse building, we’re going to be leaving a legacy that will impact thousands of lives for years to come in a positive way.
“Oftentimes our kids in foster care, they may not know that they matter,” she continued. “They may think that the community has forgotten about them or maybe that the community doesn’t even know they exist. … This is really, really important.”
To get involved
There are many ways to be involved with CASA and donation opportunities are still available. Email Laura Farmer or call 417-864-6202 for more information.