By ROSIE GITHINJI
MT. VERNON — —
When Jermaine Meyers moved to Mt. Vernon a little over three years ago, he had already decided he wanted to make an impact on his community.
He searched for the right organization, somewhere he could make an impact and found it with CASA.
CASA is Court Appointed Special Advocates, an organization dedicated to helping abused and neglected children. Advocates, like Meyers, gather information and present it to the court for children involved in abused and neglect cases.
In addition to being a CASA advocate, Meyers is also a husband, a father of four — soon to be five, works at Big Muddy River Correctional Center and has recently completed a masters degree.
“I wanted to do something. I am big on community,” Meyers said. “I wanted to help the community. I thought the best way was CASA. In my spare time, I volunteer for CASA because I love kids.”
Meyers said he checked into different options to make an impact on his community. He looked at United Way, Big Brothers, Big Sisters and many other organizations before finding a home with CASA.
“I liked the fact you could develop a bond with the kids. Abuse and neglect doesn’t define them,” he said. “Kids, no matter what they’ve been through, are always positive and happy. It’s amazing.”
It took Meyers about five weeks to complete his training, which he did independently as opposed to taking classes, because of his hectic schedule.
Meyers has been working tirelessly since he was sworn in, in 2010 to advocate for four children. He has found safe and permanent homes for three of the children. The final case should be settled in early December, which is not a moment too soon because he is deploying to Afghanistan with the U.S. Navy Seabees unit. He said the tour will last about a year and once he returns, he fully plans on coming back to CASA to volunteer his time.
Meyers said one of the reason he chose CASA to volunteer his time is because of his work at Big Muddy. Many of the inmates — up to 85 percent of prison populations, one statistic states — say there were abused or neglected as a child. He said he wanted to try to help children before they grew into adults, because by then, it may be too late to help them change their ways.
“I thought I could help some people. Show them there are different avenues, different ways to be,” he explained. “I challenge anybody to just give it a try. See if you can help. See if you can make a difference.”
CASA Executive Director Becky Whisenant said she is deeply humbled by Meyers’ work at CASA.
“He has really got a special place in my heart,” she said, adding that he always takes the time to do a great job with everything he does at CASA. “It’s been a pleasure having him as a CASA advocate. He will be deeply missed. I hope once he gets back and settled in, he will come back and take on a case for us.”
CASA is in great need of male advocates, Whisenant said, adding that there are not nearly enough advocates to help all the children in the system.
CASA offers classes or independent study to anyone interested in becoming an advocate. Anyone who would like more information about the CASA program may contact Whisenant at 204-5453.