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Profile in Service: Karen Fights for Neglected Children

by Fred Wong

On April 21, 2009, President Obama signed the Serve America Act into law – the most sweeping expansion of national service in a generation. To mark the one year anniversary, we are going to spotlight the stories of everyday service heroes who are transforming lives and local communities across the country. Here is Karen's story.

The crystal meth epidemic hit Colbert County, AL hard in 2009, with methamphetamine-related arrests increasing 1,500% over 2007 levels. The Colbert County Homeland Security Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) recognized the devastating toll the situation has on families. Established the year after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the organization initially focused on training volunteers to respond to disasters and emergencies. As the drug problem took hold in the local community, though, the RSVP added responding to the methamphetamine crisis to its focus areas.

Along with the rise in arrests comes the heartbreaking reality of children being exposed to harmful situations due to their parents’ addictions. Seeing the impact that a household troubled with drug use and physical and emotion abuse can have on children, RSVP volunteer Karen Snead rolled up her sleeves and got busy to find a way to combat this problem in her community.

A foster parent to 18 children, Karen saw the dire need for a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program. She started the CASA program in October 2008, putting in 50 to 60 hours a week to meet court advocate standards. In just three short months, she put together a Board of Directors, applied for and received nonprofit status, filed and received incorporation papers, and completed training that certifies her to train other CASA volunteers.

Karen has donated more than 3,300 hours to the Colbert county CASA program and has provided more than 160 hours of training to 10 CASA volunteers. Twenty-four foster children are now receiving mentoring and representation in the Colbert County Court system, which save nearly $700,000 annual in taxpayer dollars. While volunteer hours and tax savings are impressive measuring tool, the biggest impact is immeasurable—the potential of these children’s future, and the children who come after them. For her tenacious efforts, Karen received the 2009 Volunteer of the Year Award from the local RSVP chapter.

Find out more about the RSVP program.

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