Meet Our Volunteers
Margie Henry trained to be an advocate during the height of COVID in 2020, but that didn’t stop her from being one of our best! She is eager to learn, dedicated to her CASA family, and incredibly easy to work with. Margie received her Master’s degree in Education from George Mason and also attained National Board Certification in Early Childhood Education. She taught primary grades for 26 years for Fairfax County Public Schools and currently tutors kindergarteners and substitutes in Fairfax County.
“Five years ago, I retired from a long teaching career. One of my frustrations as a classroom teacher was knowing that some of my students were experiencing all kinds of adverse experiences. I always felt like I knew about their life at school, but that was only a piece of their lives. They needed someone who understood and could be involved in their lives on a deeper level than merely having a lunch bunch or referring them to the guidance counselor. While visiting a fellow teacher in Pennsylvania, we attended an information session about CASA. I immediately sought out the CASA program in Virginia. The training sessions and the continuing education opportunities have been so enlightening. I see the value of the presence of a consistent advocate who has been involved in the case from the beginning. During my case, the Social Services Worker has changed four times, I’ve had three supervisors, two GALs and we have had a substitute judge during a hearing and I realized the importance of my knowledge as the CASA who knows the history of this case. I feel so privileged to be an advocate and be involved in this child’s life.”
Felicia has been an advocate with CASA CIS since 2019. In the past Felicia has been an at-risk counselor with the Bryce Project, conducting outreach events for the local homeless community, as well as an Assistant Volleyball Coach for 9–12-year-old girls at the Boys and Girls Club. Felicia has been a fierce advocate on her two cases and has formed close working relationships with all the professionals she’s crossed paths with. Felicia says,
“I’ve always had a heart toward the youth because of my own personal experiences growing up and understanding the importance of having a firm support system. There’s nothing more rewarding to me than being able to sow into others’ lives, and as a CASA advocate, I have the privilege to do just that!”
Lynette Johnson is an Administrative Assistant with PWC Schools. She explored the possibility of becoming a CASA years ago but she felt the timing wasn’t right for her at that time. In 2021, she was ready to begin her training. Lynette hit the ground running when she was assigned her first case this Fall. She is an independent worker who always has a positive attitude and a smile on her face!
“As I look back through the years, I realize that I have been advocating for children most of my adult life, although I didn’t realize it was advocacy at the time! I am the mother of three adult children, I owned and operated a state licensed family daycare for 10 years and then went into public education for the next 15 years. I became a CASA with CASA CIS in 2021 and it’s been such a rewarding journey! Becoming a CASA is a huge responsibility, one that I do not take lightly. However, the rewards far outweigh the sacrifices for me. I chose to become an advocate because I genuinely love working with and helping people. I especially love engaging and getting to know young people because they are so resilient, full of life and hope! It has been an absolute pleasure getting to know and becoming part of the CASA family!”
Robyn Johnson has lived in Virginia for over 40 years. This mother of three graduated from Radford University with a 3-year-old daughter, who her parents stepped in to help raise while she finished school. She has plenty of experience volunteering her time – she serves on the Osbourn Alumni Association and is a member of the Prince William Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., a public service organization which keeps her busy with community service in the Greater Manassas area. She’s also a graduate of Leadership Prince William, where she met the former acting Executive Director and learned about CASA. Since becoming an advocate in 2019, Robyn has formed great relationships with the social workers and other professionals we work with, who have stopped her supervisor at court to rave about her patience and professionalism. We appreciate her for that and for her service to our children.
”I’ve always had a heart for children. I learned about CASA about a decade ago, but didn’t pursue it further until my fellow Leadership Prince William classmate was appointed as the interim chair in 2019. I went to the info session and was hooked. Being an advocate for a child is impactful because although the GAL and social worker both want what is best for the children and families, they have numerous cases to manage. As a CASA I have one case at a time which allows me to spend more time on getting to know the children and families and the what they need to be successful. As a CASA, my job isn’t to interject my thoughts and opinions, but rather to gather and present the facts to the judge to help make the right decision. It is a blessing to be able to make a difference in a child’s life. ”
Cindy Lee is a native Virginian who has lived in northern Virginia since 1983. She feels fortunate that she was able to stay at home raising her children, but when they left home for college, she felt she needed to find something to fill that void in her life. She credits her Catholic faith as what drives her deep desire to help others and it is what led her to join CASA. Cindy feels strongly that children especially need and deserve a nurturing home and environment where they can feel loved, safe, and receive what is essential for their growth and development so that one day, they too will become loving and caring adults in society. On why Cindy chose CASA, she says,
“Ever since I became an empty-nester I began the search for something meaningful to do with my free time. I was a “stay-at-home” Mom who always enjoyed everything to do with the home whether it be cooking, gardening, or even basic household chores. However, I soon realized that life had changed and even some of my previous volunteer work no longer fulfilled me the way it had in the past. I was searching for something that would challenge me mentally, but I also wanted the time I spent volunteering to be something that would really make a difference in someone’s life. After discovering CASA, it was quite a long time before I could make the final decision to train as an advocate. I was afraid that I would become too attached to the children and their stories. However, the urge to join CASA would not leave me so one day I just picked up the phone and started the process. My initial fear did in part come true. For me, it is impossible to not care deeply for these children. However, my biggest fear also became the reason that my work as a CASA advocate is the most fulfilling work I have ever done, other than raising my own children. Being a CASA advocate provided me with the mental stimulation I was looking for. But more importantly, it has given me a sense of gratification that I am hopefully making a slight difference in a child’s life who needs someone in their corner.”
Wendy graduated from the University of Delaware with a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering and spent approximately 15 years working in the general chemical, oil and gas, and intellectual property industries. She currently works part-time as a piano teacher and has done so for the past 15 years. She has been married over 27 years and is a mother of two. Her husband’s career in the Marine Corps had them moving around the country for quite some time. Wendy has successfully advocated for eight children since she became a CASA in 2020. Reflecting on her choice to be a CASA Wendy said,
“I have always had a heart for children. I learned about CASA CIS for the first time a few years ago via my daughter’s sorority, who sponsors their local CASA chapter through fundraising efforts. When hearing about the CASA mission at an event hosted by these young ladies, my eyes filled up and I knew it was something I needed to do when the time was right. Well, the time was right, and I became a CASA volunteer in November 2020. It’s only been a short time, but I have already seen the important difference someone can make in the traumatic life of a child.”
Emily studied Hospitality in Business and just started a role on the Global Distribution team for Hilton International. Emily is originally from Buffalo, NY, and moved to the greater DC area after graduating from Cornell University in 2017.
Emily says, “I joined CASA as an opportunity to give back to my community and help provide a positive young adult influence in the lives of children.”
We are certainly so grateful and excited that Emily decided to join our CASA family. She has been diligent in her advocacy in the short time she’s been assigned to her first case!
Brian grew up in Manassas and has worked in Commercial Real Estate for the past 20 years. On what brought Brian to CASA, he stated,
“I have been involved with many great organizations that do a lot of great things and help many people. One morning Lori Battistoni came to our Rotary breakfast and spoke about CASA. After hearing what they do and learning more about CASA and the overwhelming need for volunteers, I couldn’t wait to get started. I have been so impressed with the CASA family and dedication to the work they do. It’s a privilege to be able to do something so important and so rewarding, especially when you can see the difference that can be made in a young person’s life and future. I encourage everyone to learn more about CASA and the important work they do.”
Stephanie is a special gift to our program. She is our longest serving volunteer, with 18 years of service. She began her career in education in 1997 as the Guidance Secretary at Manassas Park High School. She completed her Master’s in School Counseling in 2001 and has worked as a high school counselor in Loudoun County, Manassas Park, and now Prince William County. With 21 years under her belt as a school counselor, Stephanie is a fierce advocate for our children, and acts as an ambassador for the mission through her stewardship and support of our events. She is a CASA CIS gem!
“I have been a CASA advocate for 18 years and I became involved because I wanted to give back to my community in a way I felt was very natural to me. Manassas is my hometown and when I found out there was a need to help children in my community who have suffered often unspeakable harm and abuse, I felt a calling. Over the years the work has not gotten easier, and unfortunately, there will always be a need for CASA services. With each case though, being able to provide reassurance, being a stable adult in a child’s life, and to help the children and families to and through services to help them heal and function better is a very rewarding experience.”
Since becoming a CASA in Fall 2019, Christy Willis has advocated on behalf of the best interests of 10 children who presented with a range of emotional, educational, medical, and developmental special needs — some severe. Christy is very willing to take on the most complex and difficult cases, including one large sibling group split among multiple placements throughout northern and central Virginia. Until recently, she regularly traveled three hours (six round trip) to see one child. Perhaps Christy’s most outstanding quality is her ability to successfully and positively communicate with everyone involved in the child’s life, while also maintaining her objectivity and clarity regarding her unique role. In addition to now finding fulfillment in helping children, Christy discovered CASA to be an extremely satisfying career extension. Christy carries the distinction of having worked cases in all three rural counties: Warren, Rappahannock, and Fauquier.
“I’m drawn to the idea of bringing people together for the best interests of the child, the piece of my past work that I always loved the most. Certainly, the trauma does filter through. Often, [the children have] had to be the parent, so there can be a certain maturity. I’ve come to realize the importance of just being there, with all the changes in personnel and placements. You may think, ‘oh, am I really making a difference?’ and then a child will recollect some small thing you did for them. It makes you realize it’s all very worthwhile. Overall, you just do your best to gather as much detail as you can about the child’s situation to pull the story line together so the judge can make a well-informed decision.”
Ana graduated Summa Cum Laude with her bachelor’s degree in Criminology, Law & Society in 2021. She was drawn to CASA because it offers an opportunity to explore different careers in the public service/legal field and apply skills that she learned in college. Ana takes her role as a CASA very seriously; upon taking her first case, she was immediately engaged with the family. She formed close working relationships with the social worker and Guardian ad Litem, as well as the therapist, teachers, and counselors involved with her CASA family. Ana is an absolute pleasure to work with and we are thrilled to have her! In Ana’s words,
“Every kid deserves to have someone in their corner, rooting for them. As a CASA, I can lend support to a child/family by voicing their needs and helping them navigate difficulties within the child welfare system. Being a CASA challenges me to be more open-minded and empathetic. Working as a CASA has also pushed me to improve my time management, organization, and communication skills.”