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Must! charities gifts over $250,000 to CASA 

Must! charities announced this week a new, four-year collaboration with CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocates, and a $262,551 investment in the organization. Must!

Must! charities will come along side CASA with the goal of addressing the current needs of the North County through a four-year recruitment and training plan.

Currently there are 460 youth in the jurisdiction of the court countywide, and 180 of those are from the northern region of SLO County. At this point, CASA has the capacity to serve 60 of these children, with 120 remaining on the wait list.

CASA has identified the need to focus volunteer recruitment efforts and assignment of volunteers to children in the North County. Not only are a significant number of children from the North County under the court’s jurisdiction, but a large number of the county’s foster placement sites are also in the North County.

“We are thrilled to be collaborating with CASA to address the needs of the children in the North County,” said Becky Gray, executive director of Must! charities. “The work that CASA does is amazing, and we feel every foster child deserves the right to be served by this incredible organization.”

Must! charities will invest in funding based on the needs identified by CASA. The funding will cover additional advocate supervisors, AmeriCorps workers, CASA Trainers, Volunteer Recruitment Coordinators, an increased number of training classes available to North County Volunteers, as well as an investment in marketing CASA in the North County. All of this funding is part of the overall four-year strategic plan to diminish the wait list of the 120 children in the North County.

“We are both excited and grateful to collaborate with Must! charities,” said CASA Executive Director Teresa Tardiff. “This is the most far reaching and substantial grant in the history of our program and provides an unprecedented opportunity to serve so many more children in need. We know children benefit from a relationship with a CASA who is from their own community, someone who is more likely to understand their family culture and background, and to be around when most needed. Assignment to children in their own community also makes the best use of the volunteer’s time since it means less time spent traveling. We have long been aware of the need in the North County. The collaboration provides us with the means to move forward with our goal of providing a CASA volunteer for every foster child so much more quickly than we have ever dreamed.“

CASA has selected Melanie Barket as supervisor for the Must! charities collaboration, the North County Expansion of the Court Appointed Special Advocates program. Barket is a Cal Poly graduate with a degree in Psychology and Human Development with an emphasis in Family Studies. She has lived in San Luis Obispo County since 1969 and in the North County for the last eight years. Her background includes four years with Community Action Partnership SLO as a health educator and 4 years at the SLO County Health Department in their HIV/AIDS Program. She spent many years all across the county providing health education to local youth in a variety of venues. For the past two years Barket developed and implemented the CASA Mentor Program which provides CASA advocacy for transitional aged youth in extended foster care.

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About the author: News Staff

News staff of the Paso Robles Daily News wrote and edited this story from local contributors and press releases. Scott Brennan is the publisher of this newspaper and founder of Access Publishing. Connect with him on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, or follow his blog. He can be reached at scott@pasoroblesdailynews.com.