PRESTON — CASA of Caroline, a Caroline County child advocacy group, kicked off its Dine for a Child dining series, Thursday, July 11, to raise money for the continuation and improvement of its services.
CASA of Caroline, which stands for court appointed special advocate, ensures children who have been abused, neglected and placed in foster care are represented in the court system. This gives affected children a higher chance of finding safe and stable homes.
The advocacy program has served more than 150 children during the past 15 years and has put tens of thousands of hours into bettering the lives of children in need.
The first Dine for a Child fundraiser of the series was hosted at Katie Mae’s restaurant in Preston. Katie Mae’s offered to give 10% of its earnings from the entire day to support CASA.
CASA Outreach Coordinator Amy Horne-Rowe said the funds raised during the dining series will go toward advocate recruitment and training, background checks and other program costs.
But the fundraiser doesn’t just serve as a way to collect funds, Horne-Rowe said. It’s also a time for the program to make itself known to the community, both as a resource and as a volunteer opportunity.
“We want to make sure that every child who comes into the foster care system in Caroline County has a court appointed special advocate,” she said. “Because very often that CASA is the only stability that child has. It’s the only stable person in their lives.”
Horne-Rowe said finding people in the community who are willing to commit their time to helping children in need is crucial to the CASA operation.
“This Dine for a Child series is also a way for us to get out into the community and meet people who want to volunteer,” she said. “By getting out into the community, we hope to find people who are willing to give their time.”
CASA of Caroline has special importance to Horne-Rowe because she strongly believes “every child deserves a voice,” she said.
The organization chose Katie Mae’s as its first fundraising venue because many families dine there, and one of the program’s longtime volunteers strongly recommended it.
Horne-Rowe said the restaurant has been great about helping out, and Katie Mae’s owner, Kate Frase, didn’t hesitate to open her doors for the fundraiser.
Frase said she tries to host a fundraiser at her restaurant at least once a month, because it’s important to her to give back to the community.
“I feel like in a small town like we have it’s important to give back to our community,” Frase said. “They’re the ones that keep me open, so I would like to be able to give back.”
But Frase said she has an exceptional respect for CASA of Caroline because some of her employees have benefited from the program’s services.
“I’ve actually had a couple of employees that have been foster kids, and CASA has been awesome advocates for them, for sure,” she said. “CASA is a very important organization.”
Frase said she scheduled extra staff to work during the fundraising night because she was expecting a big crowd to come out in support of the CASA program.
As of lunch time, Frase said the restaurant was “already busier than normal.” So she thought the program would be able to get a “decent amount of money,” she said.
CASA of Caroline currently serves 19 children and has 16 CASAs. The program is recruiting advocates for its fall training class, which begins Sept. 23.
The next fundraiser in the Dine for a Child series is set for Friday, Aug. 23, at Cohee’s 404 in Denton.
For more information about CASA of Caroline or the ongoing dining series, visit www.caroline casa.org.