LAKEWOOD – Court Appointed Special Advocates of Ocean County recently honored two people who make a difference to the organization.
CASA honored volunteer Barbara Brenner and Ocean County Freeholder Joseph Vicari at CASA’s eighth annual Dining for a Cause at the Woodlake Country Club.
Brenner was named CASA’s advocate of the year, by unanimous decision.
“Between our advocates, our supervisors…if you met her, you wouldn’t even ask that question,” CASA executive director Ariane Yazdan said.
Barone added that Brenner leads with her heart while maintaining some dispassion, to care and get the job done. “She does everything with a smile. You can’t not be around her and not just want to hug her and be happy.”
Brenner started volunteering with children about 35 years ago when her own son grew up and moved away. She has worked almost exclusively with teenagers.
“I just like teenagers. And I was just going through, looking for a job in Ocean County, and up popped CASA volunteers. And it mentioned children and I said, ‘That’s where I’m going.’”
Brenner said a “CASA kid” has told her she changed his life.
“When I first met him, he was 16 years old. He was a young man who had contemplated suicide. And in September he’s starting Ocean County College,” Brenner said. “I believe everybody should give back. Nobody is an ornament on the face of the earth here. Do something.”
CASA is always looking for volunteers.
“The CASA volunteer is the one and only person that stays with the child the entire time they’re in the system. We are their voice,” Yazdan said. CASA volunteers ensure children are getting all services they are entitled to, and that their needs are being met. “They let them know they’re not alone, the most important thing.”
“It’s not instant gratification. Some volunteers come into it, or potential volunteers, thinking it’s like Big Brother Big Sister where you have instant gratification. This is a commitment. A volunteer’s gratification is usually at the end when some kind of resolution is brought about,” Barone said.
Vicari was honored for his work supporting CASA and youth in general.
“He’s done so much for the children and for the residents of Ocean County over the years,” CASA board president Heather Barone said. “He was an educator, a superintendent of schools. He is somebody who does a lot with Ocean County library system. He really promotes Ocean County the way it should be promoted.”
“I’ve been an educator for 39 years, and I realize the importance of children. That’s one of the reasons why I went into education many years ago,” Vicari said. “One reason why I got involved in politics, especially being a county freeholder for 36 years, is we help protect our greatest natural resource in Ocean County, and that’s our children. One of the things I’ve been sensitive about is the protection of children.
“One reason I’m involved [in CASA] and why it’s so important is, is it does more. Children get into trouble. But it’s not forever. We pick them up, we help them out,” Vicari said. “A troubled child, if you don’t take care of them, will be a broken child, and they wind up eventually in our jails.”
He said children should never get that far. That’s where CASA steps in.
“They speak for those who can’t speak for themselves,” the freeholder said.
For more information, visit casaofoceancounty.org.