Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon

On March 6, 2019 Brush Country CASA staff treated several of our volunteers who serve two or more cases to lunch at Olive Garden in Corpus Christi, Texas. The individuals chosen to partake in this luncheon go above and beyond everyday for the betterment of the children they serve. From visitation to court, contact logs to continuing education and everything in between their unwavering commitment to CASA is inspiring to all.



CASA is so grateful for all of our volunteers. Thank you for all that you do! If you are interested in taking on a second case please contact your supervisor.


CASA Staff Named Citizen of the Year

Congratulations to Nicole Ortegon, Outreach Director, for being named the 2018 Citizen of the Year through the Kingsville Chamber of Commerce. CASA staff and Board members were in attendance at the 2019 Kingsville Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet to support Nicole as she served as Master of Ceremony for the event. What Nicole didn't know was that the Chamber had reached out to staff in advance to notify them of her accomplishment. "I had no idea what was going on," said Nicole, " all I knew is that it was rather odd that my mother had shown up just to watch me MC."

Former Citizens of the Year, Stefanie Perryman and Rebecca Sanchez came up on stage to present the award to the new recipient. They spoke of Nicole's community service roles including her position as Treasurer for the Kingsville Crime Stoppers group, her involvement in the Kingsville Chamber of Commerce and her work with Brush Country CASA.

All in all it was a fantastic evening. Brush Country CASA is so proud of Nicole and all of her accomplishments.. Keep up the great work!

Child Abuse Prevention Month

Today marks the first day of April, which is the beginning of National Child Abuse Prevention Month. As you know, Brush Country CASA is a non-profit organization who recruits, trains and supports community volunteers who advocate for children who are in the foster care system due to abuse and neglect. For us at CASA, Child Abuse Prevention Month is a big deal. It allows us the opportunity to educate the community about abuse and neglect and shed light on the fact that this epidemic is not a "big city" problem but rather an "everywhere" problem. In 2018, there were 322 children in the custody of the Department of Family and Protective Services and 3 child deaths due to abuse and neglect within our service area. During April, CASA hopes to host events that allow us to take a moment to remember those children who are impacted by abuse and neglect, and that give parents an outlet to embrace their children in a fun and safe environment.

CASA would like to invite you to participate in our upcoming events to show your support for our efforts to put a stop to child abuse and neglect. For more information on how you can get involved with CASA or for event questions please do not hesitate to contact us at the CASA office, 361.595.7233.


Candlelight Vigil – Alice, Texas

Tuesday, April 9, 2019
6:30 pm
Jim Wells County Courthouse

Candlelight Vigil – Falfurrias, Texas

Tuesday, April 16, 2019
6:30 pm
Brooks County Courthouse

Candlelight Vigil – Kingsville, Texas

Tuesday, April 23, 2019
6:30 pm
Kleberg County Courthouse

Children’s Spring Festival – Alice, Texas

Tuesday, April 13, 2019
11:00 am - 2:00 pm
Anderson Park

Children’s Spring Festival – Kingsville, Texas

Tuesday, April 13, 2019
11:00 am - 2:00 pm
Los Hermanos Flores Park

CASA Welcomes New Volunteers

Brush Country CASA is thrilled to welcome two new volunteers to our outstanding group of advocates. Melissa Spencer and Brenda Ballard were sworn in on Friday, March 1, 2019 by Judge Jaime E. Carrillo at the Kleberg County Courthouse in Kingsville, Texas. Melissa and Brenda are the first to complete the brand new Texas CASA curriculum which rolled out late last year. Their interaction and thought process through the challenges and activities in the training further displayed their passion for children and the role of a CASA volunteer.

If you would like to learn more about becoming a CASA volunteer please contact the CASA office at 361.595.7233. Our next training class begins May 1st in Kingsville.

CASA Day at the Capitol

Brush Country CASA's Legislative Advocacy Team (LAT) took a trip to Austin, Texas on February 4th and 5th to attend a Child Welfare Primer and participate in CASA Day at the Capitol. CASA Day at the Capitol is an important day for CASA programs all across Texas. It gives us an opportunity to visit with our legislatures and discuss vital changes needed to make sure that children are thriving instead of simply surviving as they journey through the foster care system.

Some of the high priority Bills Texas CASA is seeking to have passed are, HB 53 | RELATING TO THE TRANSITIONAL LIVING SERVICES PROGRAM FOR CERTAIN YOUTH IN FOSTER CARE which adds topics to be covered under Preparation for Adult Living requirements. Requires PAL to include lessons concerning insurance, taxes and voting and HB 474 | RELATING TO A DEPARTMENT OF FAMILY AND PROTECTIVE SERVICES PLAN TO ADDRESS THE SUBSTITUTE CARE CAPACITY NEEDS IN CERTAIN DEPARTMENT REGIONS which adds placements for pregnant and parenting youth to the required capacity needs assessment.

For a complete list of Bills championed by Texas CASA, high priority Bills for Texas CASA and Bills supported by Texas CASA please visit the Bill Tracker website by clicking HERE.

CASA in the Community

Brush Country CASA's mission is to recruit, train and support community volunteers to help guide children through the foster care system. Our goal is to serve 100% of the children in our service area. In 2018, Brush Country CASA served a little over half of the children in care. In 2019, CASA is pushing really hard to change that percentage. Part of our plan is to engage with the community by partaking in more community events with the hopes of reaching more potential volunteers. This quarter CASA took part in 7 events including the Healthy, Wealthy and Wise Health Fair in Kingsville, The Santa Gertrudis Family Fun Night in Kingsville, and the "SAFE"cation Event in Alice. CASA also hosted our first Dinner with CASA event in Alice, Texas on February 21, 2019 which was a success bringing in over 20 people to learn more about our program.

For more information on upcoming events please refer to the newsletter for the complete list. If you are interested in volunteering at an event, please email Nicole Ortegon at nicole.ortegon@brushcountrycasa.org.

Casa for CASA Playhouse Fundraiser

Brush Country CASA was lucky enough to be chosen as the recipient for the Celanese Bishop Facility Community Engagement Project. The Bishop site supported CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) by building and painting two beautiful playhouses which will be raffled for the program. CASA, is a non-profit organization, recruits and trains community volunteers to speak up on behalf of abused and neglected children in Kleberg County and the surrounding areas. CASA's mission is to advocate for a permanent, safe and nurturing environment as quickly as possible. CASA's mission aligns with the Celanese mission to support safe places and thriving families.

CASA would like to extend a heart felt thank you to Celanese Bishop Facility and all of the individuals who donated their time to complete this project. We are so grateful for your continued support and belief in our mission.

Raffle tickets for the playhouse are now available for purchase and will be on sale until the closing of the raffle in late April. Tickets may be purchased at the CASA office and The Kingsville Chamber of Commerce. Tickets are $5.00 each or 5 for $20.00. Please call the CASA office at 361.595.7233 for more information.


CASA Welcomes New Volunteer Supervisor, Rachel Lahmon

Rachel Lahmon

Brush Country CASA is pleased to welcome Rachel Lahmon to our team! Rachel was raised in Ohio but moved to Texas about 6 years ago. She is married with 4 children who range in age from 5-15. She is a loving mother who spends her free time traveling, reading and volunteering for her children's cub scouts.

Prior to Rachel being hired with us she served a CASA advocate for approximately one year. She also served as the chair for our Legislative Advocacy Team (LAT). She had developed such a passion for LAT that she requested to become the LAT staff liaison to remain active with the team. Rachel will be helping guide our current Legislative Advocacy Team as we advocate for children at a State level.

All in all we are thrilled to have Rachel with us here at CASA. She is an amazing asset and we are so grateful for her hard work.

For more information about the Legislative Advocacy Team please do not hesitate to contact Rachel at rachel.lahmon@brushcountrycasa.org.

CASA Welcomes New Volunteers

We would like to welcome Joshua Sharp and Susan Benskin to our fantastic group of CASA Volunteers! Thank you so much for choosing to make a difference in the life of a child by advocating for their best interest in court. You are a true rockstar!!


2019 Continuing Education!

It's a NEW YEAR, a fresh start, and time to start thinking about your continuing education!

We, at CASA, have been searching high and low for new training classes, seminars and webinars so that getting your annual continuing education hours is easier than ever. In addition, we have a list of movies, books and tv shows you can watch at home! (Ask Nicole for more info.)

Did you know that Texas CASA has CASA College resources on their website? CASA College is geared towards helping our volunteers learn more about several topics that may include everyday challenges within your case. Texas CASA has over 40 webinars available to you at the click of a button!

To register for CASA College please visit https://casacollege.myabsorb.com/#/login.
Click the "Sign Up" button to set up your username and password.
Once completed, you have instant access to all of the valuable information Texas CASA has to offer.

For help setting up your account please contact Nicole at 361.595.7233.
Don't forget to submit proof of attending any webinars! Submit them through Optima by selecting the training tab. More info below.

A list of movies, books and tv shows are available for you to watch at home!
At times, we are unaware of just how many items we are reading and watching that can potentially go towards continuing education. (Ask Nicole for more info.)

Below is a list of a FEW topics that we accept:
Advocacy Skills
Child Permanence
Child Abuse and Neglect
Cultural Awareness
Domestic Violence
Family Dynamics
Substance Abuse
Survival Skills
Mental health
Foster Care 
With Optima it is easier more than ever to submit your time! Simply click on the "Training" tab on the Optima dashboard and submit your time just like you would a contact log. Be sure to use the time conversion chart!

When in doubt shoot Nicole an email, nicole.ortegon@brushcountrycasa.org. She is happy to help.

Thank you so much for doing your part in helping Brush Country CASA stay in compliance with Texas CASA Standards.
We appreciate you!!!

Contact Log Time Conversion Chart

CASA's new database system, Optima, has brought us into the 21st century in a big way and we cannot be more satisfied with the results. We now have a common place to store case information making it accessible to CASA staff and the volunteer who is appointed to the specific case. It also makes entering contact logs and continuing education a breeze! During our time with the new system we have noticed that contact log times are being entered in a plethora of different ways. In an effort to keep the system more cohesive and make submitting reports to Texas CASA less time consuming for staff we are implementing a time conversion chart to help volunteers adhere to the new way of logging time.

Basically the rule of thumb is when logging your time into Optima you may only use the following Conversion Chart: .25, for anything up to 15 minutes, .50 for anything between 16 minutes - 30 minutes, .75 for anything between 31 minutes - 45 minutes, and 1.00 for 1 hour.  So if you are working on your court report for 1 hour and 10 minutes, go ahead and round the 10 minutes up to .25 (which is 15 minutes) and log your time as 1.25.

If you have any questions regarding Optima please do not hesitate to contact your supervisor. Nicole is also available to work with you one on one at anytime if you feel like you need a refresher.


Ranch Hand Concert Benefits CASA

This year, the Ranch Hand Weekend in Kingsville, Texas brought in a record breaking amount of folks from all over the country to experience an authentic Cowboy Breakfast at the legendary King Ranch. A new feature of the weekend was the Ranch Hand Weekend Concert which was held on Saturday, November 17th at the JK Northway Coliseum in Kingsville, Texas. The concert featured country musicians Cameran Nelson, Lauren Corzine and headliner, Micheal Ray. CASA is so excited to be named the beneficiary of the concert proceeds which raised over $11,000 for the program! Thank you so very much to the City of Kingsville Tourism Department for choosing to work with CASA. We are so grateful for your support!

Dinner with CASA Event

On November 15, 2018 CASA held its second Dinner with CASA recruitment event at the Salazar Building in Kingsville, Texas. This year we had a guest panel made up of Judge Carrillo, Debbie Cantu with CPS and two CASA volunteers. This was a wonderful event filled with great food and even better company. Thank you to everyone who lent a hand with this event. We are looking forward to hosting this event in Kingsville next November and we are currently working on getting a Dinner with CASA event set up in Alice this coming February.


Christmas Dinner for Local CASA Families

The Make a Change Help Others in Need - Kingsville Facebook page, hosted by Jennifer Cash, collected funds to provide Christmas Dinner to our CASA families this holiday season. It started out with a modest goal of $500 and snowballed into an even bigger success of bringing in a little over $1,500! With that money, Jennifer Cash, with the Make a Change Facebook page, and CASA were able to shop for 38 families this year!


2018 CASA Conference

Brush Country CASA attended the 2018 CASA Conference in Denton, Texas on October 18th - 20th. Hundreds of CASA staff, volunteers, board members and stakeholders were in attendance making this conference one of the biggest ones yet. One of the highlights was hearing from keynote speaker Steve Pemberton who is the author  of "A Chance in the World" which is the story of his life growing up in a broken foster care system. This is such a great book. It provides insight into the worst case scenarios for some of our children in care. We highly recommend picking up this book for continuing education. By the way, "A Chance in the World", will be made into a movie which is also eligible for continuing education so keep an eye out for that!!

Trailer for “A Chance in the World” movie.

Community Contributes to Christmas Cheer at CASA

This Holiday Season was an joyous one for Brush Country CASA due to the out-poor of community support. With the help of our friends we were able to secure gifts for every single child in our service area and then some! This is the biggest toy collection we have seen in the last five years at CASA! Thank you so very much for everyone involved in the collection process. Everyone from our lovely hosts, and to the public who came together to fill the need. We are forever grateful.


CASA Swears in New Volunteer!

CASA is thrilled to welcome our newest CASA volunteer, Markiea Evans, who was sworn in on October 5, 2018 by Judge Jaime E. Carrillo. Ms. Evans has chosen to be a part of our program because of her passion for children. Her passion helps us all come together and be a strong voice as we speak up for and on behalf of children in foster care.

When a child enters foster care because his or her home is no longer safe, a CASA volunteer can be appointed by a Judge to represent the child’s best interest. A volunteer guides a foster child through the child protective system with the goal of reaching a safe and permanent home. Volunteers often become one of the only consistent adults for a foster child, spending a significant amount of time with the child.

The work of a CASA volunteer also involves gathering information from everyone involved in the child’s daily life, including family members, foster parents, teachers, doctors and social workers. CASA volunteers use the information they collect to report to the Judge, advocating for the child’s physical and emotional needs. CASA volunteers are not foster parents; they are highly trained community advocates acting as a powerful voice for a child or sibling group.

CASA is currently seeking volunteers. To learn how you can help children in your community, please visit BecomeACASA.org or contact Nicole at 361.595.7233. Volunteers must be 21 years of age or older and be willing to commit to at least one year of advocacy. No special educational background or experience is required. Call today! Every child deserves a chance... It's You!

Markiea Adams and Judge Jaime E. Carrillo

Markiea Adams and Judge Jaime E. Carrillo


Dinner with CASA Save the Date

Brush Country CASA will be hosting a Dinner with CASA event on November 15, 2018 at 6:00 pm at the beautiful Salazar Building located at 200 E. Richard. This event is being put together in an effort to recruit new CASA volunteers. CASA will be inviting staff, board members and advocates to attend and request that all patrons bring a guest who they feel would make a great addition to our exceptional group of CASA volunteers.

Please mark your calendars! For more information about this event please contact Nicole Ortegon at 361.595.7233.

Save the Date

CASA Welcomes New Volunteer Supervisor

Brendy (Bre) Santiago

Brendy (Bre) Santiago

Brendy Santiago is our newest Brush Country CASA employee!  She serves in the role of Volunteer Supervisor.  Brendy and her family recently moved to Kingsville from an overseas assignment, but since Brendy was born in Texas and raised in New Mexico, this move was a homecoming for her!

Brendy received her Bachelor's of Science degree with a major in Sociology from Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU) in May 2000.  She met her husband at ENMU and they have been fortunate enough to be stationed around the world at numerous duty locations working for both the US Army and US Navy.  Her family started their overseas journey in Sasebo, Japan in 2002 and have since moved to La Maddalena, Italy; Darmstadt, Germany; Fort Huachuca, Arizona; Manama Bahrain; Uijeongbu, South Korea, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; Yokosuka, Japan; and now Kingsville, Texas!  She has an extensive background working with both the US Army Child, Youth and School (CYS) Services, and the US Navy Child and Youth Program (CYP).  Since NAS Kingsville will be their retirement duty station, Brendy is very excited to join the Brush Country CASA Team, to work with and support our CASA Volunteers who help make a positive differences within Our Community!

2018 Coastal Bend Day of Giving

On November 13, 2018, our community will come together for the Coastal Bend Day of Giving, and we need YOU to join us. It is 24 hours of unprecedented nonprofit giving—and it is your chance make a real difference, right here in our community.

If you love your lifting up children, then you love Brush Country CASA! And by showing your love through the Coastal Bend Day of Giving, you help sustain the organizations that give so much to our community. On that day, every donation and donor they get will go further to help them claim their share of $875,000 in matching dollars to further their mission. The amount donated will be matched and doubled, up to $17,500, raising at least $35,000 in just 24 hours!

Join me in supporting our community on November 13, 2018 by donating online. coastalbenddayofgiving.org. Fight hunger • Support children • Improve health • Reduce homelessness - right here in the Coastal Bend.



Hang a flyer in your business or post it on Facebook!
Link to flyer HERE.
Like Brush Country CASA on Facebook Page HERE.