AP NEWS

Three cheers for CASA Connection

March 26, 2019

Area residents will be able to raise a glass and enjoy themselves this weekend while supporting local children.

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Connection of Platte and Colfax Counties is gearing up for its third annual “Cheers for CASA Wine & Beer Tasting” event, set to run 6 p.m.-10 p.m. Friday at Henry on 11th, 2523 11th St. in downtown Columbus.

“This is our biggest fundraiser of the year,” said Susie Jarecki, executive director of the CASA Connection of Platte & Colfax Counties. “It really is just a way for the organization to raise some funds.”

It’s also an opportunity for CASA staff and its volunteers to spread the word about the national program that advocates for abused and neglected children in the area. Volunteers continue to be a need as the local chapter has 22 hardworking volunteers who only keep up with a portion of the demand in Platte and Colfax counties.

“Our goal is to be able to advocate for every child referred to our program,” Jarecki said. “We’re advocating for about 50-55 percent of the cases, so the goal is to get more advocates in there so we can be there to help the child through a difficult and scary time.”

As CASA Connection board member Zach Johnson explained, CASA advocates are there to prioritize children in a difficult spot.

“It’s important we help kids out that are going through the system …” he said. “Our goal is to have someone who is there and has the kid in mind and is not worried about everyone else’s things. Someone is just there concentrating on them.”

Jarecki acknowledged Nebraska does require Guardians ad Litem for juveniles in juvenile court proceedings to ensure that the best and legal interests of children in dependency and abuse/neglect conflicts are effectively represented. CASA advocates essentially support those “guardians,” she said, noting the state-appointed attorneys often get bogged down with a large number of children.

CASA organizers are going all out to provide a special atmosphere for the third annual event. Besides hosting it at the fairly new downtown venue, patrons will be treated to a variety of wines and beers, many of which are from right here in the Husker state.

“We’re trying to do this a bit differently,” Johnson said. “We’ve got a rather extensive wine list, but it’s also going a little more local with getting support from local breweries in Nebraska as far as beers to taste” (water and Lenten-friendly appetizers will also be available. Beer and wine will be made available for purchase beyond the tastings).

The event is for those 21 and older. Tickets are $20 per person and can be purchased online at casaconnectionne.com, by calling the CASA office at 402-563-4944 or visiting the office at 1465 27th Ave. in downtown Columbus.

“It’s always a fun time,” Johnson assured. “It’s an eclectic group of people from all throughout Columbus and Schuyler, Colfax County, coming together for a good cause.”

Jarecki said the tasting would be an opportunity for community members to also relax after a stressful couple of weeks as a result of the flooding statewide.

“If you’re looking for an evening of stress relief, I think that’s the way to do it,” she said, of attending.

Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of the Schuyler Sun. Reach him via email at matt.lindberg@lee.net.