CASA lights first-ever Angel Tree in Lincoln County
Published 4:57 pm Wednesday, November 23, 2022
STANFORD – The community has a new way to help make sure the children in the Lincoln County family court system – many who have suffered abuse and neglect – have Christmas presents to open this year.
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The Angel Tree lighting event held Nov. 10 at Kentucky Soaps and Such kicked off the Court Appointed Special Advocates’ (CASA) annual effort to provide gifts to children in the Lincoln County family court system who might otherwise go gift-less this holiday season.
The Christmas tree, located at the front of the store, is covered in envelopes containing Christmas wish lists from Lincoln County children in the family court system.
Family Court Judge Jane Adams Venters was first to take an envelope and speak about the important role that CASA volunteers have in the family court system.
“It’s a wonderful program and it does wonderful things for the children in Lincoln County and is so helpful to Judge (Marcus) Vanover and I in looking at cases and knowing what to do to maximize the children’s best interests,” Venters said. “We really appreciate all of the volunteers.”
Melynda Jamison, Executive Director of CASA of Lexington, provided an overview of the CASA volunteer program, which appoints volunteers to family court cases to advocate for children and find them safe and permanent homes.
Stanford Mayor Dalton Miller, who was a long-time social worker prior to becoming mayor, said the envelopes on the tree represent what could be the first or only Christmas for some of the kids in the family court system.
“I know of kids who said the only time they got Christmas presents was when they came to the foster system,” he said. “It’s special to me because I know what these kids go through. There is nothing harder than having a child and the only thing they have with their belongings is a trash bag, and they move from home to home with a trash bag. It will break your heart when you see that.”
For many children, this could be the only Christmas they ever have, Miller said.
“It’s so important that the community gets behind this Angel Tree and helps these kids and gives them that one Christmas that they can remember forever,” he said.
Jamison said CASA volunteers help children navigate the family court system and find permanent homes.
“Think about our children who move from placement to placement – a different family setting, a different school system, a different teacher, a different attempt at making friends, potentially a different culture…,” Jamison said. “The CASA volunteer helps to minimize those changes and also to look to find what is a safe and permanent option for these children.”
Jamison said in this community there are over 100 kids, victims of abuse and neglect, entering the family court system each year.
The Angel Tree aims to bring Christmas to those children wherever they may be placed at the time.
Once the gifts are purchased for the child, they are returned unwrapped to CASA. CASA volunteers will deliver the gifts to the current caretakers of the children in early December, giving families enough time to wrap the gifts before the holidays arrive.
Julie Cox, Vice President of Hospitality for the Wilderness Road Hospitality Group, said she was honored to partner with CASA for the first Angel Tree event.
“Our organization really values humans flourishing and the people’s impact in the community,” Cox said. “I’ve personally been impacted by CASA. I have been a CASA volunteer…that experience has probably been one of the most impactful experiences in my life.”
CASA gives a voice to children, she said.
Cox officially lit the Angel Tree as attendees received information about the envelopes covering the tree.
Jamison said each envelope on the tree has the child’s first name and their age and inside there is a Christmas wish list as well as instructions for the shopper. The envelopes with green ribbons are for girls and red ribbons are for boys.
“Inside they have listed their clothing sizes, their needs, maybe they need socks or a warm winter coat, as well as their holiday desires,” she said.
The tree also features ornaments colored by the kids with the CASA mailing address on the back. Christmas donations can be made to CASA to help support a child. There are also dog bones on the tree, which feature Christmas wishes from Matilda, the courthouse facility dog.
“We hope that this becomes an annual event,” Jamison said.
For more information or to learn how to become a CASA volunteer, visit casaoflexington.org.