By Forrest Hershberger
Sidney Sun-Telegraph 

PlainsWest CASA Reports Program Growth


February 5, 2020

In 1977, a Seattle juvenile court judge developed the concept of citizen volunteers who are directed to meet with, speak for juveniles who are in the court system.

The program developed into Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).

In Nebraska, CASA programs operate in compliance with the Nebraska Court Appointed Special Advocate Act.

In Cheyenne, Kimball and Deuel Counties, volunteers are appointed through PlainsWest CASA.

PlainsWest CASA Executive Director Krista Bruns met with the Cheyenne County Commissioners Monday, updating the board on activities within the program.

Bruns said she has been with PlainsWest CASA for about 1 ½ years following 18 years with Cabela's.

“I inherited a remodel,” she said.

The office is now located directed east of the Cheyenne County Courthouse. It is a converted office site with office space in the front and meeting and visitation rooms in the back. The visitation rooms are for supervised visits, Bruns told the commissioners.

She presented a stats sheet outlining growth in the program from 2018 to 2019. In 2018, PlainsWest CASA had 16 volunteers serving 58 abused and neglected children. In 2019, the number of volunteers increased to 22 and the number of children served increased by one to 59. Volunteers recorded a total of 381 hours of service in 2018, and 677 hours in 2019. Volunteers traveled 3,683 miles in 2018, and increased to 4,412 miles in 2019. CASA is currently serving 27 children; all but four are from within Cheyenne County.

Volunteers are required to complete a minimum of 30 hours of training before they are paired with a child. Training costs an average of $250 per volunteer. Bruns said there is an effort for online training.

“We currently are rolling that out to our first volunteer,” she said.

Additionally, PlainsWest CASA has partnered with UST Global and has designed a foster care closet to help supply foster families.

In 2018, PlainsWest CASA hosted its first “Super Hero Fun Run” as a fundraiser and awareness event. Bruns said event surpassed her expectations. This year, she plans events including a benefit concert featuring Kechi. Kechi is a motivation and inspirational speaker, an award-winning singer and a burn survivor. She is a 29-year-old Nigerian-born woman who lives in Texas.

She found her voice when she is one of two passengers to survive a 2005 plane crash in Nigeria. Throughout the recovery from her burns, Kechi was sustained by her faith, her family and her music. She finished high school in 2009, and graduated from college

Summa Cum Laude in 2015 with a bachelor's degree in economics.

She was a finalist on America's Got Talent and in 2018 released her first single. In 2019, she became a finalist on “America's Got Talent: The Champions” through Simon Cowell's “golden buzzer.”

She is scheduled to perform at the Performing Arts Center at Sidney High School on May 1.


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