With a degree in organizational management, a love of children and a long history of volunteer service, Trudy Strewler became the first employee for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). That was 16 years ago.
Since then, she’s been the driving force behind the organization’s success.
After years of cuddling babies at St. Francis Hospital and counseling unwed mothers, she decided to use her volunteer management experience to help children who have been abused or neglected.
“I fell in love with volunteer work,” Strewler said. “I was so impressed with the people who gave their time and service. Years later, I wanted to go to work, and wanted to do something to coordinate volunteers.”
She became the volunteer coordinator for CASA and helped the organization grow. When it needed an executive director, Strewler stepped in.
Among other things, Strewler spearheaded a three-year capital campaign to raise money to buy CASA’s building at 701 S. Cascade St.
Strewler said she’s lucky – lucky to be surrounded by her professional staff and a network of volunteers.
“I’m very proud of the people I work with,” she said. “I’ve surrounded myself with wonderful volunteers, the board is wonderful. And the work we do is so important. We have a huge impact on the children. It’s not a regular volunteer job – it’s one where you get to touch the future.”
Strewler gets high marks for her efforts on behalf of CASA. Her staff admires her drive and determination.
“Trudy has been the faithful driving force behind CASA since its inception,” said Liane Shupp, a case supervisor at the agency. “Trudy has great compassion for the children and for her staff.”
Strewler’s compassion for kids not only led her to volunteer work, but guides her daily at CASA. However, she refuses to take the credit for CASA’s success, and is quick to commend the volunteers and staff for their efforts.
“I really enjoy working with competent, caring individuals,” she said. “I feel like I’m so blessed to have them. It’s the piece of CASA that I enjoy. We’ve been able to make a difference in 4,000 children’s lives. That would not have been done if it weren’t for CASA.”
CASA provides advocates for children involved with the court system because of violence, abuse or neglect. The organization works with social service groups and the courts to provide the best solution for the child.
“In a sense, we’re a little like the guardian ad litem program,” she said. “But they are legal representatives in the court system. We’re here as a community representative. Our volunteers work with one or two children at a time; they deal with 80 or 90.”
CASA volunteers make sure parents follow through with court-ordered counseling or classes. Advocates see the child two or three times a month, and interview therapists, family members and review the progress for the children. Advocates also speak for the child in the court system.
Taking care of children is Strewler’s passion. She’s volunteered at several local agencies and is active in CASA in both the state and national arenas.
“Those relationships are so important for nonprofits,” she said. “We need to build relationships with other groups in the community that are involved with children, and interested in the same things we are. The staff is not only involved in caring for children here, but I encourage volunteer involvement in the community as well.”
When she’s not working toward the benefit of children in El Paso County, Strewler loves to travel, read and play with her grandchildren.
“I’m also writing a book,” she said. “That’s been a real joy for me. I don’t know if it will ever be published; it’s about nonprofit management, but it has been exciting to try to do.”
But Strewler never stops working for CASA – using every opportunity to gain more volunteers for the agency. She said the group never has enough volunteers to serve every child.
“We don’t require much,” she said. “We do all the training. We just need people who care about a child’s future and have a high school degree. We’re only serving one-third of the children in need right now. We seriously need more volunteers – I promise it will be so fulfilling. You really get to see the outcomes for kids.”