Thursday, March 27, 2014
Nine new volunteers for the Guardian ad Litem program in Georgetown County were sworn in this month.
These new volunteers, who will be advocates for children in court cases involving abuse and neglect, are Karen Focarazzo, Ronald Schenk, Diane Costello, Shawn Gaines, Brenda Gaines, Patricia Canada, Harriett Miller, Peggy Fletcher and Latisha Hemingway.
These volunteers will work with the families, as well as SC Department of Social Services and Foster Care Services.
Ron Byrd, coordinator of the local program, said these volunteers will be an asset to the program.
“I am very impressed with the quality and dedication of all the people in the group,” Byrd said.
“These men and women, many of whom are retired, could be spending all their free time at the beach, golfing, or taking part in other relaxing pursuits, but they have chosen to share time to advocate neglected and abused children in Georgetown County. I’m proud of them.”
He said several of the new advocates have hit the ground running after their six-week training, and some have already been to hearings and submitted advocacy reports on children with whom they are working.
“Almost all of them were assigned cases within few days of completing training,” Byrd said.
Schenk, one of the new volunteers, worked 30 years of educational publishing. He also ran a college program for inmates in three state prisons in Ohio for 12 years.
He is excited to work with the Guardian ad Litem program.
“There are so many families struggling with so many issues these days,” Schenk said.
“Kids need a voice and an advocate to represent them. Having worked with young men and women who are incarcerated, I believe that had there been intervention, or advocacy many of them probably wouldn’t have been incarcerated.”
He said serving in this program is his way of giving back. He recommends the program for “those who are looking for something very significant to do in their lives.”
He added that the program needs more men, since only about 15 percent of volunteers are male.
Focarazzo, another new volunteer, has been involved with the Guardian ad Litem program in California.
She looks forward to helping local children in this area.
“To make difference in the life of a child is certainly my goal,” Focarazzo said.
“To be there in support of children less fortunate than myself and many folks I know is a life changing experience.”
Byrd said that the local Guardian ad Litem program is looking for more volunteers to be advocates for children.
“The reservoir of volunteers has been getting filled nicely, but we still need volunteers,” Byrd said.
Anybody interested is urged to call Byrd at 843-436-7030, or e-mail him at RByrd@oepp.sc.gov.