Troup County solicitor’s office collects for children in need

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Staff, offenders donate items to CASA

By Melanie Ruberti

Melanie Ruberti | Daily News

Melanie Ruberti | Daily News

LaGRANGE — A dolly full of diapers plus a pallet full of baby wipes, bottles, onesies, toys and more migrated from the Troup County Government Center on Monday morning to the Juvenile Justice Center on Ridley Avenue.

The donations were a gift from the Troup County Solicitor’s office to the Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, nonprofit agency.

“This was a big surprise,” said June Nelson, executive director of CASA. “Seeing all these item was very emotional …. it’s so abundant.”

While some of the items were donated by employees in the solicitor’s department, many of the products were given through the office’s pre-trial diversion program, said Troup County Solicitor-General Markette Baker.

“Sometimes people are charged with misdemeanors, and we will consider them for this program. But we won’t let them enter it if the victim of the crime doesn’t agree to it or if the charge was egregious,” Baker said. “The program could have the offender get their GED, take parenting classes or perform community service.”

Baker said folks might be charged with crimes like disorderly conduct or teenage consumption of alcohol, and are not repeat offenders.

Donating items is just one form of that type of volunteer work in the pre-trial diversion program.

“There are some people who work a lot and who can’t get off to do community service,” explained Baker. “So they can purchase items and provide proof of the purchase. Sometimes we collect diapers, other times it’s coats. The purpose is to get people thinking about helping others while they’re doing community service. … It creates something good out of a bad situation.

“One time, we had a person in the program bring in so many canned food items it took a full trunk of a car to get it to the food pantry,” Baker continued. “The community service made a huge impact on that person … and we’re happy to be the conduit between the people and the programs they’re helping.”

Members of CASA said they benefited greatly from the donation made Monday morning. Right now, the organization is responsible for 103 children in Troup County. They advocate for children in foster care from newborns to 18 years old.

“Look at all these diapers … it’s a lot,” stated Nelson as she scanned over the large pile infants’ and children’s items stacked in the CASA offices. “That is truly a blessing. Diapers are expensive. It’s one of the most expensive things a person can purchase, for those who have children.”

CASA employees and volunteers accompany children to court and speak on their behalf. They present to the judge recommendations what they believe is in the child’s best interests.

Nelson said it helps to have groups like the Solicitor’s office and their new partnership with the Community Action For Improvement, or CAFI, to support them.

CASA will host a barbecue sack lunch Friday at Sweetland Amphitheater from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The cost is $8.

For more information or to purchase tickets, call Kim Skiff at 404-229-8602 or CASA at 706-845-8243.