This page contains all published Volunteer of the Month blog posts — recognizing our amazing volunteers who have set themselves apart — sorted chronologically with the newest at the top.

Volunteer of the Month: January 2020

Graphic for January 2020 Volunteer of the Month containing three individuals and congratulatory text.
Photo: gal2.org

Krista is being honored as the January Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Volunteer of the Month. Krista has been serving children in our community for over nine years.

Krista was nominated for January's volunteer of the month by child advocate manager Alex Castellanos. Currently Krista is retired and now spends time with her husband, children, and her guardian ad litem children. After raising three children, Krista became a personal trainer and eventually started her own personal training business.

Krista's road to becoming a guardian ad litem is relatable to many other volunteers. While always being active in her community through her children's schools, she felt she was not contributing her fullest. "I was one of ten moms handing out plates," she said.

While that type of volunteering should never be undervalued, Krista wanted to find a way to continue to help as her children became older and her youngest son transitioned into high school. After seeing a billboard, an article in the paper, and some personal research, Krista decided to be a volunteer. Guardian ad litem combined her love of kids and the volunteering role she was searching for. As Krista says, "this feels legit." Since then, Krista has served as a volunteer for nine years.

Alex nominated Krista for volunteer of the month for her great communication, updating the team in an effective manner about priorities, gathering detailed information that others have not, and recently her appropriate approach to a termination of parental rights trial.

"If it wasn't for Krista, my cases would look completely different… she does what no one else thinks to do." Alex continues, "Krista not only does her visits thoroughly and consistently, but she makes sure to communicate with case managers, providers, caregivers, and parents regularly, appropriately, and effectively in order to paint a 'bigger picture' that ultimately helps in both the small and larger decisions in the life of a case… Krista is a professional volunteer."

Krista has stayed involved with the program due to the relationships she has been able to develop with the children. Some have become adults and still reach out for advice and guidance. Krista in return provides encouragement. Currently, Krista talks with the child on her case almost every day.

What is the most rewarding part of being a volunteer with guardian ad litem? Krista says, "having a good outcome and feeling like you were part of it." For those who relate to Krista's story and may be interested themselves Krista has this to say: "if you are looking to make a difference in a child's life, this is the way to do it."

If you are interested in becoming a Guardian ad Litem or know someone who could be, please call Maritza Waddle at 850-606-1213 or check out www.gal2.org.

Volunteer of the Month: December 2019

Betsy Purdum is being honored as the December Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Volunteer of the Month. Betsy has been serving children in our community for over fifteen years.

Schyler Brumm is our child advocate manager who works with the early childhood courts in Leon and Gadsden County. Schyler nominated Betsy Purdum as our Volunteer of the Month. Betsy is a familiar face in the program not only due to her many years of service but also for her participation with the Volunteer Advisory Committee (VAC).

The first time Betsy retired she was an adjunct professor of anthropology at Florida State University. During her years as a volunteer she was inspired to gain a further understanding of the field and pursued her master's degree in social work. Betsy then worked as the director of a grant program for families experiencing homelessness. Currently in her second retirement, Betsy enjoys taking care of her horses and volunteering with Guardian ad Litem.

What makes Betsy a standout for Schyler is her strong advocacy in every facet of the children's lives. "You can see the children have a connection to her in the courtroom and she is always there to guide them," said Schyler. She also mentioned that she felt that Betsy empowers children to advocate for themselves through her modeling and consistent presence in their lives. "Betsy impacts their lives and they impact her."

Betsy originally trained to be a volunteer child advocate in 2000 after her son had graduated from high school. She heard about Guardian ad Litem from her sister who was a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) in Louisiana. What keeps Betsy going is being part of a team, the fabulous training and the clear mission of advocating for the best interests of the children. Betsy truly believes in this program and discussed in detail how she thought it was on the most effective social policy programs. Volunteering with the program makes her feel like things get done for our children in the dependency system.

If there was an overarching theme during the interview with Betsy and Schyler it was that patience and long-term outcomes are what make this volunteer position so rewarding. In an earlier and particularly difficult case, the youth was having problems connecting and was unresponsive to Betsy. After some time, Betsy brought the youth around her Westie — a West Highland White Terrier dog — and the child started to open up to her. In another case, Betsy developed a long-term connection and the child wanted to keep in contact after the case closed. Betsy was present for the birth of her first child and Betsy was so pleased with the youth's success in life including receiving her master's degree and being employed.

Another one of her cases had the child's need for adoption published in a local newspaper. The child was successfully adopted and the adoptive parents even sought out their siblings and adopted them as well. Betsy ran into them years later and they thanked Betsy. For those struggling with a current case or just wanting to start out sometimes patience and time is needed to see the true long-term outcomes and it is truly rewarding.

If you are interested in becoming a Guardian ad Litem or know someone who could be, please call Maritza Waddle at 850-606-1213 or check out www.gal2.org.

Volunteer of the Month: November 2019

Circuit Director Deborah Moore with Volunteer Guardian ad Litem Allyne Smith, Volunteer of the Month for November 2019.
Photo: gal2.org

Allyne Smith is being honored as the first Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Volunteer of the Month. Allyne has been serving children in our community over the last year-and-a-half.

Guardian ad Litem's Volunteer of the Month is chosen by one of our twelve child advocate managers. Paige Nirenberg serves as the primary child advocate manager for Jefferson County. When asked about a volunteer that lately has set themselves apart from others, Paige was quick to nominate Allyne Smith.

Allyne currently works as a paralegal while also attending to her two-and-half-year-old, pro-bono family work, running her neighborhood association, and finishing up her bachelor's degree in legal studies. While most could not also add a volunteer role to that list, Allyne insists that Guardian ad Litem is the one thing she gets to do for herself.

Paige reports that she admires how Allyne is able to balance her life and the volunteer child advocate role while going above and beyond to help advocate for children. What really stands out to Paige currently is how Allyne is continuing to follow through with the parents of the child while multiple parties are pursuing a termination of parental rights. "Most volunteers would stop communication with the parents but Allyne has even gone to their new home," said Paige.

Allyne has always had an interest in volunteering. While she did want to volunteer as a Guardian ad Litem as a teenager, Allyne could not do so because of age restrictions, she found other ways to engage in her community. As a teenager, Allyne volunteered 300 hours with the Red Cross and in college she joined a co-ed service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega. After several years of not volunteering due to working as a professional and the birth of her son, Allyne realized the need for herself to apply to Guardian ad Litem. Since that moment, Allyne has been serving as a volunteer child advocate for eight children in our community.

What keeps Allyne serving as a volunteer child advocate with her full plate you may ask? "I've always wanted to do it and it's rewarding as I thought it would be," Allyne answered. "This is what I do for me."

The most rewarding part of Allyne's role has been the children themselves. It's clear when you hear her speak about them, "their faces light up, they run and give you hugs," and she loves spending time with them. Allyne reports that most of the children in the dependency system just need a stable person who shows them love and consistency.

To those who are like Allyne and had Guardian ad Litem on their minds for years this is her message to you. "It is so much more rewarding than you ever think it's going to be. There's always going to be other kids, we need more volunteers. It's not much to do two hours a week. Most of what I do can fit anywhere in my schedule."

If you are interested in becoming a Guardian ad Litem or know someone who could be, please call Maritza Waddle at 850-606-1213 or check out www.gal2.org.