JACKSON COUNTY, Mo. -- It’s the holiday season, and for Lura McClenney, seeing the children’s faces when they open the gifts, is priceless.
“Their eyes are shining , they're smiling from ear to ear,” McClenney said.
McClenney has been a CASA volunteer for eight years. Jackson County CASA is an organization that serves abused and neglected children under the protection of the Jackson County Court.
This year, they advocated for 1,250 children, record-breaking numbers for the organization.
“We're one of the largest CASA or court appointed special advocate programs in the country, and the largest in the state of Missouri,” Jackson County CASA President Angie Blumel said.
The holiday can be especially hard for some of the children CASA helps care for.
“They've been removed from their families, they're maybe in a strange new place, they don't know what's going on, they're perhaps with a foster family or extended family members. It's difficult,” Blumel said. “So to be able to provide them with a sense of comfort, a gift under the tree, is so important.”
This holiday season, they’re helping roughly 250 children.
“We had hundreds of community volunteers, CASA volunteers, adopt the children that we serve for the holidays,” Blumel said.
Twenty brand-new bicycles were gifted, as well as toys and other basic necessities for the children.
McClenney said some children are in shock.
“I remember one child in particular, when I gave them the present, they repeatedly kept saying, ‘I can’t believe it, I can’t believe it, this isn’t real.’”
McClenney said it’s hard to put into words how much of a voice these children need, not just during the holiday, but year-round.
“It's not fair for children to have to go through what they go through, and this is the least anybody can do,” McClenney said.
That’s why she said the need for CASA volunteers is crucial.
“They're the ones that don't have the choices we do as adults,” she said. “They are there by default because someone else has made bad choices, and so it's important to remember why we're there and it’s again for the helpless.”
For more information about being a Jackson County CASA Volunteer, click here.