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Unity woman gets wings as Angel in Adoption

| Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Jeanne Cerce

Jeanne Cerce has been a volunteer court-appointed special advocate since 2008 and has advocated for 16 children from six families.

When the Unity woman received a letter in the mail last month notifying her that she had been selected by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, as one of the Congressional Coalition for Adoption Institute's Angels In Adoption award winners — after a secret nomination placed by CASA of Westmoreland County executive director Mandy Zalich and staff — Cerce was ready to toss it.

“The truth was that I nearly threw it in the trash because I thought it was a come-on. I didn't,” Cerce said.

Instead, she took the letter to the CASA office, where volunteer coordinator Vicki Shields assured her that the letter was legitimate.

Volunteer advocates for CASA represent children who are in the court system because of abuse or neglect.

“CASA is an amazing program,” Cerce said. “And the longer I'm with it, the more amazed I become with the good things that can happen with these kids.

“The most important part of the outcome, whether it is reunification with the birth parents or adoption, the most important part of it is that the children end up — not for two weeks, but on a permanent basis — in a safe, caring, loving home,” she said.

As an Angel In Adoption, Cerce and her husband, Mike, who have adopted three now-adult children, attended events in Washington last week.

The institute is “a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to raising awareness about the millions of children around the world in need of permanent, safe and loving homes and to eliminating the barriers that hinder these children from realizing their basic right of a family,” according to its website.

Each year since 1999 the institute has used the Angels In Adoption event to honor individuals selected by members of Congress as well as National Angels, usually celebrities or politicians.

The National Angels for 2013 were Korie and Willie Robertson from the A&E show “Duck Dynasty” and actress, director and producer Deborra-Lee Furness Jackman.

The government shutdown derailed some of the activities planned by the adoption coalition and forced the awards ceremony to be moved at the last minute. But it did not derail the opportunity to meet and talk with other Angels.

“You had a chance to talk with them and find out the kinds of things they were doing, either to raise public awareness of children in need of permanent and loving homes or just exactly how they got there,” Cerce said. “That was very interesting, and everybody was quite willing to share information.”

The trip included a legislative seminar and, of course, the award ceremony.

“I can tell you it's the greatest honor I've ever received in my life, short of finding Mr. Wonderful who I live with ...,” Cerce said. “I won't say I'm pinching myself, but it's sort of like that. I walk past and look at the certificate and think to myself, ‘How did it happen that I got that certificate?' ”

Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at (724) 459-6100, ext. 2913, or