The Kansas CASA Association’s highest honor for volunteers is the Volunteer of the Year award. This award recognizes an outstanding CASA volunteer who has made a significant contribution in the lives of abused and neglected children.
Rita Lewis is a soft-spoken, modest person who does not accept that her compassionate and generous efforts to help are above what an average person would do. However, the words “all children deserve a safe, permanent home” are much more than a slogan for Rita; they are a core belief in the rights of a child. She not only believes, but dedicates herself to see that children are loved and protected.
Rita has a very upbeat, encouraging personality that allows her to easily engage with both parents and children. She does not come across as harsh or critical. Rita has the ability to be direct, but not offensive when discussing areas where improvement is necessary for the best interest of her CASA children.
Rita can be described as the ideal volunteer, maintaining contact with her children, being keenly aware of the details of the court case, rarely missing in-service meetings, always completing monthly reports and submitting extensive court reports without prompting. The two judges who have worked with Rita on her assigned cases have complimented the thoroughness of her investigations and how well-written her reports are in providing information to the court.
Due to her humble nature, Rita would deny that she does anything that is worthy of recognition as an outstanding volunteer. Her compassion, dedication, hard work and generosity are the characteristics that make her the most appropriate person for just such an award.
Since becoming a CASA volunteer in 2009, Rita has served as an advocate for 27 children from eight families. From her home in southern Butler County, she travels more than 5,000 miles each year crossing the state to visit with her CASA children. It hasn’t mattered whether placements have been in Fort Scott, Great Bend, Topeka, Independence, or any location in between, Rita has gone the distance for the child.
Rita passionately promotes the CASA program to anyone willing to listen. If the topic of conversation lends itself to child issues, Rita can be heard saying, “Let me tell you about CASA.” This has not only been helpful in program promotion, but in adding members to the board of directors and fundraising. If Rita learns of a program need, she works diligently to meet the need. Rita has filled in as office staff. When she learned the program was going to begin using activity bags to help volunteers bond with their children, she was anxious to go shopping to purchase toys for the bags. When budget cuts at the state level resulted in cuts in grant funding, Rita helped correct the deficit, by devoting countless hours to a profitable fundraising effort.
Rita is an extraordinary woman with an immense love for children. When a judge appoints Rita as a child’s CASA volunteer, it is with the knowledge she will provide significant information for making well-informed orders. Kansas CASA is happy to present the 2016 Kansas CASA Volunteer of the Year award to Rita Lewis.