Mary (Van Valkenburg) Mizer – Volunteer of the Month
Each month, Child Advocates of Northeast Oklahoma (CANO) celebrates the advocacy of one of our CASA volunteers. This month, we celebrate the service Mary (Van Valkenburg) Mizer, a volunteer advocate in Rogers County.
Mary and her husband live just outside of Chelsea on their 80-acre farm. Mizer retired from Hillcrest Hospital as a financial advisor eight years ago. However, she is anything but retired. She works with her husband taking care of their herd of Limousin cows. She is also very involved at Foyil Assembly of God, serving as president of the Joy group, serving in the card ministry, and is a member of the praise and worship team. In addition to her work at the church, Mizer also enjoys working with her daughter for Relay for Life.
When asked what drew her to the work of CASA, Mizer reflected on her upbringing. She grew up in and out of multiple foster homes. A few of the families she lived with were wonderful people who left a lasting impact; most, however, were not healthy homes to live in. “As I look back at all the foster parents who impacted me, I hope to be someone who will be looked back on as leaving a good and lasting difference,” Mizer said.
One of the more difficult aspects of volunteering for Mizer is witnessing the heartbreak of the children and foster parents involved in her cases. She has true empathy for them because she remembers what it is like to be in that situation. It’s difficult to see the cycles of brokenness and hurt.
Mizer is a fantastic volunteer with a gift of relating to the children. In order to connect with children Mizer said she likes to visit the kids involved in her CASA case at daycare. She lit up telling the story of reading to the class her child was in and then giving the book to that little girl. The girl was excited to take the book home that night.
Mizer knows the impact teachers and daycare providers have on the children. That is the other reason she likes to visit the kids there. She knows she will get the truth from these caretakers and educators who are with the children every day.
Mizer is clearly passionate about helping families in her community through her CASA work. Her appeal to anyone interested is to “Make sure you are right with God because you will need his help. You’ll certainly need tough skin. It’s not an easy road, but it is so, so worth it.”
Although the road is difficult, Mizer did mention a couple of times when she realized she was making a real difference. First, the young girl in her CASA case saw her at the store. The girl ran up to her so thrilled to see her. It was obvious that little girl looks up to Mizer and loves her dearly. Second, was again at a store, when a stranger noticed Mizer’s CASA badge and simply thanked her for her service with the organization. That woman had adopted and was currently fostering and knew first-hand the impact of the CASA organization.
Mizer’s selfless attitude and servant’s heart is exactly what children throughout Northeast Oklahoma need. That mindset is also what we look for here at Child Advocates of Northeast Oklahoma – CASA. We are in constant need of more dedicated volunteers. If you are inspired by Mary’s story or the work we do in general of being the voice of neglected and abused children, do not hesitate to contact us for more information.
Volunteer Your Time to Change a Child’s Life
Nobody longs for a safe and loving family more than a child in foster care. As a court-appointed special advocate CASA volunteer, you are empowered by the courts to help make this dream a reality. You will not only bring positive change to the lives of these vulnerable children, but also their children and generations to come. And in doing so, you will enrich your life as well.
What Do CASA Volunteers Do?
CASA volunteers listen first. Then they act.
Volunteers get to know the child by talking with everyone in that child’s life: parents and relatives, foster parents, teachers, medical professionals, attorneys, social workers and others. They use the information they gather to inform judges and others of what the child needs and what will be the best permanent home for them.
Who Can Be a Volunteer?
You do not have to be a lawyer or a social worker to be a volunteer. We welcome people from all walks of life. We are simply looking for people who care about children and have common sense. As a volunteer, you will be thoroughly trained and well supported by professional staff to help you through each case.
You must be at least 21, pass a background check, participate in a 30-hour pre-service training course and agree to stay with a case until it is closed (a year and a half on average).
What Are the Requirements to Be a CASA?
- Demonstrates emotional maturity
- Is objective and flexible
- Exhibits self assurance and assertiveness
- Has the ability to make decisions and set goals
- Is willing to commit to the program for a minimum of 24 months
- Demonstrates the ability to write and speak clearly and concisely
CASAs are not:
- CASAs are not Big Brothers or Big Sisters
- CASAs are not attorneys
- CASA are not social workers
- CASAs are not rescuers
- Friends of the Court
- Eyes and ears of the Court
- Independent and objective people who represent the child’s best interest
Do you live outside the five counties we serve and want to volunteer in your community? Go to www.oklahomacasa.org to find a program near you.
CASA Video: I Am for the Child
Did you know that 400,000 children in America are still waiting for their CASA volunteer? Waiting for that one trusted adult who will stick with them until their case is resolved. Waiting because today CASA can serve only 35% of the children in the foster care system. Waiting for YOU!
CASA Video: Everyday Heroes
Everyday Heroes highlights CASA volunteers making a difference in the lives of abused and neglected children. It provides a rare opportunity to hear directly from children about their homes before and after a CASA volunteer came into their lives.
Use Link to Become a CASA Volunteer
Are YOU ready to become a CASA volunteer? Simply use the action button below to access the required forms and additional information about the application process. An abused and/or neglected child is waiting for YOUR help!
CASA Video: Former First Lady Laura Bush
Child abuse is an epidemic across this nation. Currently, fewer than half the children in foster care have a CASA volunteer to stand up for them. Former First Lady Laura Bush focuses on the need for more Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs).