Q&A with Lone Star CASA Executive Director
(ROCKWALL, TX – Nov. 10, 2019) After serving two decades advocating for abused and neglected children in Rockwall and Kaufman counties, Lucille Bell will celebrate her retirement from the Lone Star CASA program as its executive director at the end of November.
Blue Ribbon News caught up with Bell and found out how much CASA has meant to her and what’s next for the longtime leader of the CASA program as she looks forward to her retirement.
How did you first get involved with CASA?
Tish Verde, who passed away a few years ago, was a CASA volunteer in Dallas and she felt there was a need for a CASA program here. She was very instrumental in starting the Rockwall program. I knew Tish for a long time, back when Rockwall was smaller and you knew everybody, and she had asked me to get involved in CASA when she started, but at the time it just didn’t work in my schedule. A few years later, Bob Jolly, who was on the board at the time, called and asked me if I would be interested. So I came on the board and have learned an awful lot about CASA and what the program does for the past 20 years.
How has the program evolved in that time?
The CASA program back then was a lot smaller than it was now. We only covered Rockwall County at that time, then we actually started advocating for children in Kaufman County in 2004. I was a full time employee, and then we had a part time employee. Now, we have a program director who oversees the supervisors and does the recruiting and training of volunteers. Then we have a development director and three casework supervisors, so there’s six of us now.
Currently we are advocating for 179 children in Rockwall and Kaufman counties. Our volunteers work cases in both counties, regardless which county they live in. They go where the child needs our help. We have about 200 volunteers now.
What has it been like to work with such a tight-knit group for such a noteworthy cause?
It’s been very rewarding, because the people who do this really care about children. Because sometimes it’s hard. You see things that are difficult to imagine.
I really enjoyed my time serving on the board. I’ve been fortunate to serve alongside some fantastic board members, both current and past board members.
What have you enjoyed the most about serving as the executive director for CASA and your time with the organization as a whole?
I think what I’ve enjoyed the most is the fact that the program has grown so much. It’s certainly not something that I alone am responsible for. I have an excellent staff, and as I’ve said I’ve had excellent board members as well. It’s the fact that we have been able to expand our volunteer base so that we can advocate for all the children that’s so wonderful. Family reunification is always the goal when a case is open, and that’s a very important part of what we do. We work to make sure these children are safe whether they’re returning home or in adoptive placement. It’s great to see these children blossom because they do feel safer.
What’s one thing that you will miss the most about serving with CASA?
If I had to name just one, it would be the people I worked with. The staff, the board, the volunteers are all very caring people. They care about what happens to these kids and they also care about each other.
What’s next for you?
I’m not really sure, although I might do some traveling. My goal is to step down at the end of November, then who knows? Maybe I can put up some Christmas decorations [laughs].
VOLUNTEER INFORMATION SESSION
If you’re interested in becoming a CASA volunteer, attend the next information session and find out how you can advocate for youth in our community. The next info session is December 5 at the Rockwall office (108 Kenway St.) or December 9 at First Presbyterian Church in Forney. Learn more at www.lonestarcasa.org for more information.
Blue Ribbon News staff report by Austin Wells.
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