Daniel learned the importance of serving others at a young age from his parents. He recalled a time when a man his parents were assisting tried to steal their family’s car. When his parents didn’t flinch in returning to serve people at the same location, he knew that giving back was in his blood. His parents true and deep dedication to service is something he credits to his activities today.
Daniel has always been interested in helping others. He holds a Bachelor’s in Psychology from Southwest Baptist University and a Masters in Counseling from Evangel. In his first job, he was introduced to the foster care system and he saw a place that he could offer help. He was approached to join CASA by his previous supervisor in November of 2018. Daniel currently serves as a Volunteer Coordinator for Court Appointed Child Advocates (CASA) in Springfield.
“My main responsibility is to supervise and organize volunteers,” he said, “as well as helping others to be aware of the needs of children in foster care.”
That awareness is important because there are more than 700 children who are active in the Greene County Juvenile Court who have been neglected or abused. With such a high volume, it can be a real struggle for caseworkers and lawyers to attend to each child with the best information possible. CASA steps in to help fill that void. Child advocates, like the ones Daniel helps recruit, help to research cases and meet with judges on behalf of the children in the court system. Because these cases are often complex, additional information on each child’s situation can help judges to make the most informed decisions on how to best serve these kids.
Daniel also leads diversity nights that celebrate a different culture at each event. The next one is Nov 14th. He believes his fortunate upbringing has driven his desire to give back to under served communities and has humbled him to understand what people may not have in their daily lives.
Daniel’s dedication to advocating for children and bringing awareness to the hardships people face in our community is an inspiring tale of the good in our community. If you’d like to help CASA, please visit https://casaswmo.org/ to make a donation or to volunteer.
Grief is one of the hardest things in life to deal with. We all handle the loss of a loved one differently and it can be extremely difficult to move forward after such a loss. The Lost & Found Grief Center in Springfield was created to help people to heal. For Nannette Thomas, helping others to navigate their lives after a loss is deeply personal. She lost an older brother when she was in middle school before Lost & Found was founded.
“I know how helpful it could have been for our family,” Thomas said, “I’m just so grateful our community sees the value of having a safe place for families to find hope and healing after walking through one of life’s most difficult journeys. Being even a small part of that is really rewarding.”
Thomas has served as a Program Coordinator with the non-profit for seven years. She helps new families get enrolled in group or individual counseling, as well as hosting orientations and placing families in groups. Thomas also holds presentations to provide education in our community about how Lost & Found can assist our residents. Thomas says she and the other staff members wear many different hats on a daily basis.
Nannette recently finished co-writing a children’s book called Little Grievers that was created to help kids aged 2-5 to process their grief, develop practical tools to cope and worksheets (coloring pages, grief activities, etc) that parents can do alongside their children to help them remember their loved one while also processing big emotions. It will likely be released by the end of the year.
“We have so many wonderful people who are amazing helpers,” she told us, “It’s always easy to be cynical- I find myself there too sometimes. It makes me think about the quote from Mr. Rogers that says ‘When scary things happen to look for the helpers. There are always helpers.’ It also reminds me that I want to keep being a helper.”
Around 12 years ago, Michelle Cramer started a career in photography and shortly after she had her first child. A perfectly healthy baby boy. During her pregnancy, she read a news article that changed her perspective. The article focused on how prevalent birth loss is amongst expecting mothers at all stages of pregnancy. She felt so fortunate to have her son with no complications, but she felt a deep connection to families who experienced a loss. She decided to help.
The organization’s mission is: Celebrating life and encouraging hope. Since its inception in June of 2013, On Angels’ Wings (OAW) has provided over 600 families with priceless memories. Currently services are predominantly provided in Springfield and St. Louis, but OAW also has photographers in Joplin, Kansas City, Rolla and other rural towns in Southwest Missouri. In addition to providing photographs, OAW makes it a top priority to help its recipient families cope with the struggles that come with a child that is sick or the loss of a child. The organization sends birthday gifts to recipient children every year, as well as annual loss memorial gifts to families. Angels Care, a division of On Angels’ Wings, provides a variety of services on the support side of the organization, including in-person monthly loss support groups for some service locations and care packets when the family has an extended stay in the hospital for their child’s care.
“The more people in our community that are aware of our organization, the more families we can help,” Cramer says. “And that is our ultimate goal: to encourage hope in families faced with the possibility of child loss by celebrating their children’s lives through free photographs and support.”
If you’d like to help On Angels’ Wings, please visit https://oawphoto.org/
The first thing you’d notice about Keke Rover is her contagious passion for helping people. Her eyes light up when she talks about what Ambassadors for Children (AFC) does in our community, which is a lot by the way. AFC is one of nine outreach services organized by the Council of Churches, an organization that represents 72 member congregations and 17 different religious affiliations. Rover and her staff focus on children who are currently in foster care. They help provide food, clothing, healthcare assistance and so much more their children, but they provide more than just necessities in life. Rover says their goal is to help these kids realize who they are, how they define themselves.
“Everything that we do is based around self esteem,” she said, “It’s almost like their identity can be lost when they were the label of being a foster child. So, all of our programs are based on honing in on their identity and who they really are.”
Ambassadors For Children recently started the I Am Me campaign to help kids in foster care overcome the label being “a foster kid,” by finding out what their interests are and getting them involved in those areas. They’ve helped kids get sports equipment, cameras for photography and plenty more. During the campaign Rover asked all the children to finish the sentence, “I am…” She was touched by all the answers they gave and noticed after the event that not one of them answered “a foster kid.”
If you are interested in helping AFC, you can attend one of their super-cool events or donate in a variety of ways at bit.ly/AmbassadorsForChildren.