Volunteer Spotlight – Ashley Ailey

Meet Ashley!

Ashley Ailey became a Tulsa CASA volunteer in March 2018. After reading Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter and being moved by her story, Ashley decided that she wanted to help children in foster care and provide a voice for them; it just so happens that Ashley Rhodes-Courter was our CASA Casino guest speaker that same year!

Before CASA, Ashley Ailey volunteered with Girl Scouts and Reading Partners. Ashley enjoys being a CASA volunteer because she is able to work with the same child until their case closes, while gathering information from the caseworkers, foster parents, biological parents, and other service providers to determine the best interest of the child.

Ashley works as a family law paralegal, and was recently accepted into the Law program at the University of Tulsa. She and her husband have two daughters, as well as two Labradors.

When she is not working, attending classes, or visiting her CASA child, Ashley’s children keep her busy with their sports schedules—especially softball! She and her husband also love college football, and although they are both OSU alumni, he roots for OU while she loves OSU.

Ashley, thank you for everything that you do on behalf of Tulsa CASA. Your passion for helping children in foster care does not go unnoticed, and we are lucky to have you as an advocate for children in Tulsa County!

“Tulsa CASA offers children a person who is involved in their case from beginning to end. A person who is not associated with DHS, the ADA, or the child’s attorney. A person who is solely there for their best interest. These children are the future of our community; giving them the supports they need to be successful is extremely vital.” – Ashley Ailey

A Note from her Advocate Manager

Ashley is a tremendously hardworking advocate who is wholeheartedly devoted to her CASA children. She has a very full schedule with work, being a wife and mother, and starting law school in July; yet she still makes time to focus on a teenager and three young children each month in order to be a voice for them as they experience the uncertainty of foster care.

As a new Advocate Manager with Tulsa CASA, it has been a pleasure to work with such a dedicated volunteer!

– Cheryl Wright

Board Member Spotlight – Debbie King

Meet Debbie!

Debbie King has served on the Tulsa CASA Board of Directors for 4 years, previously as Treasurer and Vice President, and now as our current Board President! She truly goes above and beyond for CASA and is dedicated to our mission.

Debbie got involved with CASA after another board member and colleague “consistently talked about what a fantastic organization CASA was and described how much they helped children.” We couldn’t be more thankful to have her expertise on the board and in a leadership role!

Debbie describes her typical responsibilities for CASA as leading board meetings, communicating with other board members, and coordinating with CASA staff regarding financials, fundraising, and staffing.

Professionally, Debbie is the Vice President of Audit Services for ONEOK, Inc. and has been with the company for 17 years. She has lived in Tulsa for 28 years and has been involved in volunteerism with a variety of organizations, such as dog rescues, the Bixby Outreach Center, Komen-Race for the Cure, Child Abuse Network, and serving on the YMCA board.

Debbie and her husband Jeff have two children, Lauren and Ryan, and recently welcomed their first grandson, James! In addition, they have two furry family members—rescue dogs Jake and Haze.

In her spare time, Debbie enjoys running, camping, and attending any OSU event. It is an honor to work with Debbie and her service as Board President will have a lasting impact on our organization. Thank you for all that you do on behalf of CASA!

“CASA offers Tulsa children a voice, to communicate their best interests to parties on the case, including the judge. Find an organization that supports something you are passionate about and focus your efforts there to see what areas you can best use your talents.” – Debbie King

A Note from our Executive Director

Over the last few months of working with Debbie I have come to recognize her giving spirit and rely on her thoughtful input. She is passionate about the mission and dedicated to growing CASA to serve more children to meet the need in the community.

Debbie is beloved by the CASA staff and has truly gone out of her way to demonstrate her support for them and all their work. She is an invaluable asset to Tulsa CASA and we are grateful to have her as our Board President. — Elizabeth Fisher

Volunteer Spotlight – Carrie Mulder

Meet Carrie!

Carrie Mulder is a life long Tulsan, and one of our Dual Status volunteers at Tulsa CASA. Our Dual Status docket is comprised of youth who are both deprived and delinquent—handling both of their court cases inside of one courtroom, with one court team.

Carrie describes

her typical activities as a Dual Status team member as calling in and checking on her kiddo in his placement, and visiting him as often as possible. She collects and organizes all of his information and keeps both his DHS and Office of Juvenile Affairs workers informed of his current status. She says that no two days look alike, and we know that is absolutely true in the work of a CASA volunteer!

Carrie understands the importance of CASA in the Tulsa community, stating “it is priceless for our community to have an advocate for children and to have someone solely interested in what is deemed ‘best’ for the child. CASA volunteers have no agendas, except for advocating for the child.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves! Carrie truly understands the mission of our program and exemplifies that through her own CASA advocacy.

Carrie is married to her husband Bill, and they have a daughter, a son, a daughter-in-law and an 11-month-old grandbaby. In addition to their human family members, they have three pets—a 115 pound lazy mastiff, a 7-month-old Aussie, and a cat named Charlie.

Carrie’s hobbies include walking, reading, listening to music and playing with her grandson. A previous business owner and educator with Jenks Public Schools, she is currently helping her son establish his own business.

Carrie has served in many volunteer capacities through her children’s school and extra curricular activities, and was looking for the “right” volunteer experience when the ads for CASA caught her eye. Carrie, we are so glad that you decided to join the CASA team. Thank you for being a Court Appointed Special Advocate!

“I highly recommend being a CASA volunteer to anyone who is interested in helping our kids. My advice is, just do it! Getting started is the hardest part; make the first call or take the first steps, but do it. Wherever you volunteer, Tulsa needs you. So get going!” – Carrie Mulder

A Note from her Advocate Manager

Carrie Mulder is an amazing advocate who has a fierce determination. Carrie knew early on that she wanted to work with teenagers because she understands them.

Since saying yes in May 2018, to a very difficult case, Carrie has been a steady, calming influence to all parties involved. The team members assigned to her case have come to depend on Carrie’s perspective, and truly believe she is a rock star!

She has a huge heart filled with compassion, while at the same time she is able to report objectively about what she knows is in the child’s best interest. Carrie Mulder was meant to do this work and I am so grateful to her.”
– Julie Blake

Volunteer Spotlight – Doann Nguyen

Meet Doann!

Doann Nguyen has lived in Bartlesville, OK for the last 10 years, working at Phillips 66 in a
variety of roles upon her graduation from Oklahoma State University. In addition to a successful career in IT, Doann is no stranger to community service.

She was sworn-in as a CASA in June 2018 and served her community in various other capacities prior to joining our program. Doann has volunteered for Big Brothers and Big Sisters, was a former City Councilor for Bartlesville, and has served on boards at other nonprofits. Doann is also a volunteer baker for an organization that provides celebration cakes to families impacted by the critical illness of a child.

When Doann is not busy with work or community service, she enjoys baking and all things culinary. She also likes to play piano and the accordion in her spare time. She and her husband, Brandon, have been married for three years, and enjoy spending time together by creating new things in the kitchen and hanging out with their pets. The star of the family is their feisty two-year-old French Bulldog, Henri, and their two cats: a sweet, fluffy, white cat named Lily and a grumpy, diabetic cat named Tucker.

Doann describes her typical responsibilities as a CASA as regularly talking with foster and natural parents, and visiting her kiddos as often as she can. She says that she learns the most about the children on her case when they are sitting on the floor and playing together. Other, less visible responsibilities include staying objective, checking her biases, and putting empathy first. We are grateful to have had such a wonderful new advocate join our program. Thank you for serving CASA children, Doann!

“Use a volunteer opportunity to expose yourself to something outside of your everyday experience. CASA serves Tulsa social workers and judges by dedicating a fresh pair of eyes and serves Tulsa children by ensuring that they’re truly seen. CASA proves to Tulsa’s underrepresented children that they don’t have to stay that way.” – Doann Nguyen

A Note from her Advocate Manager

Doann is an incredibly ambitious and driven advocate. She dove head-first into her very first case by
serving five children in two different foster homes. She goes above and beyond, traveling hundreds of miles each month to visit them, ensure their needs are met, and their voices are heard.

She has been a tremendous resource to both natural and foster families she works with, and often bridges gaps in communication between parties when necessary. No matter the circumstance, I can always count on her to remain professional and level-headed.

I truly enjoy working with such a passionate, outgoing advocate, and look forward to watching her grow in this role. – Kylee Jenkins

 

Volunteer Spotlight – Bruce Fensler

Meet Bruce!

Bruce Fensler started his CASA training the day after he retired in 2016. He retired from a career in IT and also spent over 20 years in the Oklahoma Air National Guard. Bruce moved to Tulsa 38 years ago from Topeka, KS to attend Spartan School of Aeronautics, but says that he hasn’t even worked on an airplane since graduation!

As you can tell, Bruce is our resident funny guy. When asked to describe himself in three words, Bruce chose “funny, joyful, and getting old”. A little known fact about him is that he received hitting advice from long-time Boston Red Sox left-fielder Ted Williams when Bruce was 10 years old.

When speaking on this experience, Bruce said: “it did not help”. We are delighted every time Bruce brings his kind personality and funny quips around the CASA office.

Bruce stays in regular contact with the children and families he serves—both biological and
foster. One of his strengths is being able to assess the child’s needs and meet them with accuracy.

Aside from volunteering with CASA, Bruce also takes part in other community work. He volunteers at Mitchell Elementary School in North Tulsa and is a volunteer children’s pastor at his church. When he is not giving his time to work with children, Bruce enjoys traveling. He has been to Peru 5-6 times and will be traveling to Guatemala later this year on a mission trip.

Bruce and his wife, Shio, have been married for 35 years and they have 2 children and 5 grandchildren. Bruce also enjoys walking and spending time with his grandchildren whenever he is able. Bruce—we appreciate the levels of dedication and kindness that you show to each family you come into contact with. Thank you for being an exemplary CASA volunteer!

“There are so many needs in our world. Find a place to help and bring joy to someone else.” – Bruce Fensler

A Note from his Advocate Manager

Bruce is the consummate professional when it comes to his CASA volunteering. He brings his kind, compassionate demeanor with him wherever he goes.

He remained calm and understanding towards a parent in the difficult stages of a domestic violence case, even when the parent acted indifferent to others. As time went on he developed a very nice rapport with the parent and stayed the course until the family was reunited—an outcome that he had hoped for.

Bruce is starting a new case with the previous DHS worker who was so happy when she learned she would work with Bruce again. If you have ever had the pleasure of meeting Bruce Fensler, I’m sure you recall his beautiful, warm smile.  I count myself lucky for knowing Bruce and working with him. – Julie Blake

Volunteer Spotlight – Jessica Campbell

Meet Jessica!

Jessica Campbell got involved with CASA because she had been wanting to get involved in community work on a more regular and permanent basis than she had before. As Jessica would say, “around that same time I saw a CASA commercial and thought it sounded like a good fit for me” … we couldn’t agree more!

Jessica always goes above and beyond for the children on her cases, making sure that her CASA kids are safe, fed, making it to school, keeping in contact with caregivers for updates, and so much more. Aside from volunteering with CASA, Jessica has participated in other community work with the Tulsa Food Bank and Habitat for Humanity.

When she is not advocating for her CASA kids or pursuing other community needs, Jessica enjoys reading, gardening and being a soccer mom. Jessica and her husband Evan have three children, Conner, Beckham, and Evelyn, and a 12 year old Collie named Denver.

Professionally, Jessica is a Landman for an oil and gas company and one little known fact about her is that she dreams of being a farmer—and will be someday!

Her advice for someone looking to volunteer in the community is to “find something that touches your heart and plays on your strengths”. We feel so lucky that Jessica chose CASA as the organization to utilize her own strengths and gain more community involvement. Thank you for being a such a wonderful advocate for your CASA kiddos, Jessica!

“CASA offers dependable activists for children in our community who have likely never had anyone dependable in their lives.” – Jessica Campbell

A Note from her Advocate Manager

Jessica is determined, objective, and has a huge heart for every kid she serves. She is able to support children and their families, and fights for the best possible outcome in any case.

Jessica has made an impact in the lives of many children through CASA and I believe she will continue to do so in the future! – Kaitlin Brasher

Board Member Spotlight – Evan Kelamis

Meet Evan!

Evan Kelamis is a long-time Tulsan who proudly owns and operates Savoy Restaurant. As the fourth-generation caretaker of a 100-year-old family establishment, Evan understands the importance of family values and dedication—and not to mention baking the best cinnamon rolls in Tulsa!

Evan has served on the CASA Board of Directors since 2014, and currently serves as our Board President. As CASA’s Board President, Evan works to preserve and promote best practices in our organization that will ensure CASA meets it’s long-term goals. Evan has ambitious goals to promote the growth of CASA and our resources to enable us to serve even more children than we currently do today.

When Evan is not busy fostering an environment of teamwork and strategic thinking amongst CASA’s leadership team, he continues to improve our community in many other faucets of philanthropic work. As the owner of Savoy Restaurant, he is proud that the landmark Tulsa establishment supports local community events and charities benefitting the St. John Health System, the Tulsa Zoo, the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, the Coffee Bunker, and Tulsa’s long-standing Oktoberfest tradition, to name a few.

Professionally, Evan also serves as the President Elect of Entrepreneurs’ Organization Tulsa and he is on the Food Advisory Council of the Tulsa Health Department.

Evan enjoys music and music history, as well as reading. Evan’s family, including his wife Elizabeth and their three young children, particularly enjoy spending time outdoors—often hiking, camping, and attending summer musical festivals and local events in Tulsa.

They are also preparing to grow their family by ten fingers and ten toes, welcoming another baby girl due to arrive in October! With all of his many personal, professional, and philanthropic endeavors, we are so lucky to have Evan as our 2018 Board President. Thank you for all that you do to ensure the stability and longevity of Tulsa CASA, Evan!

“Although it is cliché, children truly represent the future of our community. CASA offers an indispensable service to be the voice and the best advocate in the court system for children who are tragically neglected and abused. CASA volunteers change the lives and futures of the children who are most in need of our support.” – Evan Kelamis

A Note from our Executive Director

Evan’s tenure as board president has been an asset not only to the board, but to the CASA program as a whole.  He is committed to our mission and his devotion to board development and process improvement have strengthened the organization immeasurably.

I especially value Evan’s thoughtfulness and business acumen – the changes made under his leadership will positively impact CASA for years to come. – Maura Guten

 

Volunteer Spotlight – Kari McKee

Meet Kari!

Kari McKee has lived in Tulsa for 28 years and has always been engaged in the community. Two of Kari’s daughters are members of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, a fraternal organization that has supported CASA on a national level for over 25 years!

Although she was familiar with CASA through her daughters, Kari read about Tulsa CASA in a local newspaper and attended one of our Lunch and Learns over 2 years ago. She has been advocating for children inside and outside of the courtroom ever since!

Kari and her husband Sean have four children; Kelsey, Connor, Katherine and Caroline. Their family also includes a golden retriever named Tess and a yellow lab named Rorie.

Kari says that her occupation is being a full-time homebody, but she has many hobbies. When she is not working with children and the Safe Babies Court Team, Kari enjoys gardening, reading, and cooking. She also loves the beach when the weather is warm!

In past volunteer experiences, Kari has been very involved with her church and has also participated in a Reading Buddies program. Kari has truly made a difference in the cases that she advocates on, and we are so happy that she made the decision to dedicate her time and become a child’s Court Appointed Special Advocate. Thank you for advocating so passionately for the children on your cases, Kari!

“I talk to DHS and service providers, and visit with the natural parents and the foster family, just to get to know everyone involved in the baby’s life. CASA provides an unbiased set of eyes to evaluate what is best for the children involved in the proceedings. CASA is an additional resource for the court, to help the court make the best decisions possible.” — Kari McKee

A Note from her Advocate Manager

Kari is a wonderful volunteer! She has seen two children to permanency and continues to advocate thoroughly and objectively for her current CASA kiddo.

She consistently brings great information to court and expresses best interest clearly and skillfully. She has been an ideal addition to the CASA family as well as the Safe Babies Court Team. – Elizabeth Fisher

Volunteer Spotlight – Tina Bellamy

Meet Tina!

Tina Bellamy is one of our CASA’s who has been appointed to serve children in our Baby CASA
program. Baby CASA is part of Tulsa’s Safe Babies Court Team and focuses on children aged 0-3 paying special attention to infant mental health and the importance of forming secure emotional attachments during the first three years of life.

Through Tina’s work with the Safe Babies Court Team, she has witnessed how CASA impacts families, stating “CASA has been a lifesaver to so many parents. Without CASA, parents would be lost on having help to get their children back”.

When Tina is not attending hearings, visiting with caregivers, and offering support to families, she has many hobbies! She and her husband enjoying attending concerts and they like almost any genre of music. She also likes to take her dad fishing, and loves to attend Yoga class during the week.

Tina has been married to her husband for 25 years and she has 3 children, 2 dogs, 3 cats, and a bearded dragon! One little known fact about Tina is that she has many beautiful tattoos—but would like to continue adding more artwork!

Tina’s kind heart and her ability to stay upbeat in even the most difficult situation makes her such an asset to our Baby CASA program. Thank you for all that you do to lend support and encouragement to the families on your cases, Tina!

“After you see a child’s case close and reunification with the child’s parents, you will know it was worth all of your hard work and going to all of the meetings and court hearings. Try not be nervous—just do what you can and in the end you will not regret it” – Tina Bellamy

A Note from her Advocate Manager

Tina is a wonderful advocate. Her first case ended in a successful reunification with kiddo and parents.

Tina not only tirelessly advocated for her CASA child, but was instrumental in identifying and troubleshooting barriers for the parents. Her collaboration with other professionals on the case made her a great addition to the Safe Babies Court Team. – Elizabeth Fisher

Volunteer Spotlight – John Schmidt

Meet John!

John Schmidt is a retired computer software development manager who is no stranger to the needs of the community in Tulsa county. Having lived in the area for most of his life, he is very passionate about being involved in the community, and has volunteered with Tulsa C.A.R.E.S, Kendall-Whittier, and Circle Cinema—as well as serving on the board for Circle Cinema.

John has been a CASA since 2010 and has been with the youth on his current case for almost 8 years. Regarding his work on that case, John states “I am pleased to say that I’m the only person who has been in my kid’s life for all of the last 8 years, and he knows and appreciates it”.

When John is not spending time with his CASA kiddo, he enjoys traveling across the country—he went to 8 national parks last summer alone! He also enjoys playing golf and spending time at the gym when he is home.

His two grown children live out of state, but his cats, Stella and Gloria Jean, keep him company and travel along with him in the RV.

John understands that children in the system don’t have the security and comfort of a nuclear family like most kids, and wants to offer them whatever support he can to help them grow positively through this difficult time in their lives.

While his CASA youth will soon age out of the system, the support that John has extended will no doubt carry with him throughout his life. John exemplifies the CASA mission in so many ways. Thank you for your volunteerism, John, and for continuing to show your CASA kiddo that one person can make a huge impact in the life of another.

“Children in the foster care system feel isolated, but CASAs are able to provide consistency and support in their lives that may not exist otherwise. A CASA can stay aware of the child’s life and facilitate actions that that need to be taken.” – John Schmidt

A Note from his Advocate Manager

John has been serving the child on his case for nearly eight years. He is a perfect example of the consistency a CASA can bring to the life of a child in the foster care system.

His commitment and dedication are unwavering, and we are so thankful for all of the hard work he’s done in advocating for the best interests of his CASA kiddo. – Kylee Jenkins