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CASA Breakfast notes need for volunteers

| Sunday, April 28, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Kim Stepinsky | for the Tribune-Review
From left: CASA volunteer Jennifer Cunningham; guest speaker, The Honorable Judge Christopher Feliciani; CASA Board President Keith Davis and CASA Executive Director Mandy Zalich gather at the CASA of Westmoreland, Inc. 2013 Leadership Breakfast, held at Word of Life Ministries in Hempfield Township on Friday morning, April 26, 2013.

The message at the annual CASA of Westmoreland Inc. Leadership Breakfast always seems to be the same: The harvest is great, but the workers are few. Or at least fewer than needed.

This seems surprising since, as reported at the latest event held April 26 at Word of Life Ministries in Hempfield, the number of children served greatly increases every year.

In the organization's inaugural year of 2007, the number was 12, said Executive Director Mandy Zalich. Last year, it was 195.

But the need for Court Appointed Special Advocates for children in the Westmoreland County court system because of abuse or neglect continues to grow, said volunteer coordinator Meredith King. The target year is 2016 for matching volunteer and client numbers.

The breakfast crowd heard testimonies from volunteer Jennifer Cunningham and from Tim Dingman who, with wife Sally, adopted twins mentored through CASA by Cunningham. Then the couple adopted two more.

“We went from having a teen to having four in diapers,” Tim said. “Hopefully, in a few months, we'll have it down to none.”

On hand for the inspirational program were board members Keith Davis, Scott Wagner, Elizabeth Costa, Barbara Ferrier, Sherry Magretti Hamilton, Angela Rose-O'Brien, Dr. Steven Selip, Beth Teacher and Scott Turer and staffers Vicki Shields and Sherrie Dunlap.

Also, family court judges Christopher Feliciani, Michele Bononi and Chris Scherer, along with county Commissioners Chuck Anderson, Tyler Courtney and Ted Kopas.

Among the breakfast crowd of 300: Joe and Phyllis Shearer, Drs. Yeshvant and Brinda Navalgund, Jean Cerce, Mary Ann Petrillo, Bill Cox, Kim Ward, Sally Loughran, Joan Gebicki, Dirk Matson, Eric Bononi, Mary Ann Dunlap, Jim Bendel, Mark and Joan Ulishney, Dr. Mark and Stephanie Levander, Scott and Kim Avolio, Caleb Crousey, Pam Mowrer, Word of Life Pastors Tom Walters and Elaine Frantz and Pennsylvania CASA Executive Director Dennis Hockensmith.

— Shirley McMarlin

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