Saturday evening, the chocolate fountain will be flowing at Central Kansas CASA’s 8th Annual Chocolate Auction which starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Great Bend Knights of Columbus.
“It started as a small dream, and has grown into this fabulous event that we look forward to every February,” volunteer Angela Schepmann said.
The auction has become the single most important fundraiser for this group that trains and supports volunteers who become the eyes and ears of the judges in this district who deal with cases of the most heinous child abuse crimes. Proceeds from the evening are estimated to cover 70 percent of operating expenses, she said.
CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. Volunteers are assigned cases where they work with a child or children from a family who have been abused and have now entered the courts and foster care system as a result of that abuse.
“Because of the work we do, it’s always difficult to have any kind of an image in the community, which is what I really wanted to do the first year we started this auction process,” Donna Staab, a 20-plus year volunteer and one of the forces behind the event said. “We need to somehow get CASA in front of people who can help us.” Unlike volunteers with groups like Big Brothers and Big Sisters, who can go bowling and do other activities out in the open, CASA volunteers go to great lengths to protect the privacy of the children they work with, and keep their relationships confidential.
Schepmann and volunteer Kim Kummer recently headed up a team working to create elegant and glitzy baskets for the auction.
“We’re so fortunate to live in a community where our donors are very generous,” Schepmann said.
While donors have given gift certificates and tangible items, every item will leave with some type of chocolate. One donor, for example, donated a basket full of gourmet dog treats, but a box of chocolates for the pet owners will be included also.
In previous years, Schepmann estimates the turnout has been around 200 guests. Not only is there a silent auction, there is a live auction too.
“In between, you have the opportunity to enjoy the two chocolate fountains, one with dark chocolate and one with milk chocolate, and all the wonderful dippings,” she said.
Central Kansas CASA spends a lot of time recruiting and training CASA volunteers for the 20th judicial district. According to Angela Schepmann, there are over 150 children assigned to their CASA program now. They serve Barton, Rice, Russell, Stafford and Ellsworth counties. Each CASA has to pass a background check, then there is 30 hours of training, 15 on site and 15 at home. Then there is always guidance from the CASA office, and ongoing training as well, she said.
“Our mission is to provide each child with their own advocate. Unfortunately, there are several on a waiting list,” Schepmann said. “I would say that over 100 children are waiting for a CASA at this time. We are always looking for volunteers.”
One of the great things about being a CASA is the volunteer is only assigned to one child or one set of siblings. That offers an opportunity to focus only on those special circumstances. They have a lot more time to spend with them and getting to know them. They stay with them until the case closes and they are in a safe place, Schepmann said.
Call Schepmann at 792-5544 to purchase tickets.