Author Archives: Colleen Smith

Unique Way to Give: Stocks!

Did you know that donating appreciated property, such as a gift of stock, to charity can generate a double tax benefit? Not only do you receive a charitable deduction for the gift’s full market value, you will not be subject to capital-gains on that gift.

That means you can make a very impactful gift to an organization you know and love, like CASA of NWA, while decreasing the out-of-pocket cost to you by avoiding capital-gain tax.

I’m in! How do I do it?

Speak with your stock broker or financial advisor and express your desire to make such a gift. In most cases, they will direct you to contact CASA of NWA (email Crystal or Colleen or call 479-725-2213) to share your intent and obtain CASA’s brokerage account number. With CASA’s account number, the custodian of your brokerage account will be able to schedule the electronic transfer of stock. We will send you an acknowledgement, and your charitable gift will start to change children’s lives!

Disclaimer: We are not licensed tax professionals. There are special rules to qualify for such tax benefits. Please seek guidance from your personal accountant or tax advisor to learn how a gift to CASA may impact your individual tax situation.

Leading with Love: Crystal Vickmark’s 15th Anniversary

It was 2003. In Northwest Arkansas, there were 699 children in foster care. CASA of NWA was a young nonprofit, formed just six years before. With a small, yet mighty, group of 82 dedicated volunteers, CASA served as a voice in court for 258 children that year.

Enter Crystal Vickmark. New to the area with a Master’s degree in Counseling and Human Resources Development from South Dakota State University, Crystal applied for an assistant position at CASA of Northwest Arkansas. Brought to the area with her husband’s career at Tyson Foods, Crystal had years of experience working in social services. She had managed a housing facility for adults with disabilities, had supported elementary aged students as a school guidance counselor, and had served as a family service worker for a youth services agency for troubled youth. It was during this last position that she came to understand what CASA was and the impact that it could have on children and their families.

Crystal accepted the assistant position as she was motivated by the CASA mission and exceptional work that was being done. It didn’t take long for her talents and experience to be recognized, and she was quickly promoted to the Advocate Supervisor position. When the Executive Director left unexpectedly within six months of Crystal’s arrival, Crystal was asked to serve as the interim director. And, the rest is history!

Over the past 15 years, Crystal and her “can do” attitude have propelled this organization to greatness. Under her leadership, we have grown to serve 744 children annually (nearly 74% of the children in care). Crystal constantly challenges the staff to do more and to do better for the children of Northwest Arkansas. This has led to an incredible growth of volunteers (a corps of 296 as of March 2018) and funding (FY2018 revenue will exceed $1,000,000). All the while, Crystal leads through example and with love. Crystal expects the best from everyone, including herself, and is always available to support her team.

“I work with a number of nonprofits, and it’s truly rare to find a leader who’s been with the same organization for as long as Crystal has been with CASA. It’s impossible to separate the growth and success CASA of NWA has seen over the years from the leadership, hard work, and dedication Crystal has provided” says CASA Board President Mike Schmandt.

We certainly agree. Please join us in thanking Crystal for an amazing 15 years of service.

Child Abuse Prevention Month

Across Benton, Washington, Madison, and Carroll counties, there were 5,312 investigations of child maltreatment last year¹. We wanted to honor all victims of child abuse and neglect by taking a few moments to provide clarity as well as reflect on this tragedy that is sweeping our community and country.

Contrary to what many believe, CASA is not involved in the investigation of child abuse and neglect. Such an investigation into suspected maltreatment is conducted by a team of professionals which may include the state police, the Department of Human Services, Children’s Advocacy Centers, and local law enforcement. As more than 75% of substantiated child maltreatment involves a parent as the perpetrator², it is no wonder that so many of these children end up in foster care, sparking the need for CASA.

The long-term impact of abuse can be devastating. Victims of childhood maltreatment have an increased risk for mental disorders, unemployment, education failure, substance addiction, homelessness, and incarceration as adults. Of course, that does not begin to address the issue of child fatality. An estimated 1,750 children in the United States died from abuse or neglect in 2016: 30 from the state of Arkansas.

What can you do to help? Take a tip from our colleagues at Prevent Child Abuse America:

Five Ways You Can Help Prevent Child Abuse

1. Be a nurturing parent. Children need to know that they are special, loved and capable of following their dreams.

2. Help a friend, neighbor or relative. Being a parent isn’t easy. Offer a helping hand take care of the children, so the parent(s) can rest or spend time together.

3. Help yourself. When the big and little problems of your everyday life pile up to the point you feel overwhelmed and out of control – take time out. Don’t take it out on your kid.

4. Get involved or volunteer. Ask your community leaders, clergy, library and schools to develop services to meet the needs of healthy children and families. Or volunteer for an organization dedicated to preventing or supporting victims of child abuse (like CASA!).

5. Report suspected abuse or neglect. If you have reason to believe a child has been or may be harmed, call 1-844-SAVE-A-CHILD (1-844-728-3224). Speak up!

Thank you to all of our supporters who have given their time and resources to support victims of child abuse. We hope and pray for the day that CASA won’t be needed in our community.

While we’ve said it, it bears to be repeated. If for any reason you suspect a child is a victim of abuse or neglect, please call the hotline: 1-844-SAVE-A-CHILD (1-844-728-3224). You may be that child’s last hope.

¹Arkansas Department of Human Services Division of Children and Family Services Report Card, 2017.

²U.S. Administration for Children & Families, Child Maltreatment Report, 2016.

Volunteer Spotlight: Dustin Demoin

Dustin Demoin has multiple graduate degrees, but none in law or social services. So, how does an adjunct lecturer in Chemistry, with Texan roots, find his way to CASA of Northwest Arkansas? When Dustin and his husband Alex first moved to the region two years ago, Alex introduced Dustin to Katie Chapman, a university colleague and current CASA volunteer. Dustin had always been involved with a cause – helping where he could – throughout his entire life. He knew he wanted to give back in his new home but wasn’t sure the best fit for him. When Katie shared the dire need for more advocates in Washington County, Dustin was intrigued. He’d always been fascinated with the legal system and was curious about adoption; it seemed like a great fit. Not long after, in May 2017, Dustin was sworn in for duty as a CASA volunteer.

Serving as a CASA has been eye-opening to Dustin. He admitted how little he understood about life inside the system. Having grown up in a small town, he wasn’t exposed to the substance abuse, manipulation, and the psychological trauma that infiltrates the majority of our cases. He watched well-meaning DHS workers try to solve problems that were far bigger than the resources available. He was frustrated to see people not acting like adults, not putting children first.

For all of those reasons, Dustin’s first case took an emotional toll on him. As this case was coming to a close, he realized he may prefer working with older youth where mentoring plays a larger role in one’s advocacy. While in court for his first case’s final hearing, Dustin heard a new case that struck a chord with him. He listened to a story of a young person, struggling with appearing “normal” on the outside but feeling anything but on the inside. He could relate and knew he could help. Now, Dustin is there to ask the hard questions. He works diligently to get everyone on the same page. While the road may be long, he is there to help this teen have a say in her life and make sure she knows that someone cares.

That is advocacy in a nutshell: helping a child have her voice heard and making sure she knows that someone cares. Bravo, Dustin. Bravo.

Annual DCFS Report Card

Each year, the Arkansas Department of Human Services Division of Children and Family Services produces an annual report card. The document provides a statewide report on child maltreatment, foster care, and adoption. This report card is available to the public (click here for the link). We strongly advise all parties who are passionate about child abuse to learn more about what is happening in our state and communities.

While there have been improvements in foster care during this reporting period (July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017), we were most disappointed to see an increase in the number of children in care in our region (Area 1) compared to last year. With 1,001 children in care, our area reported a 9% increase in children in care for the year. That makes our job at CASA that much harder to grow to meet the needs of our community. Our staff and board continue to make adjustments to our plan to serve every child in need by 2020. With your continued support, we know we will get there.

Christmas for a Child 2017

Each year, CASA of Northwest Arkansas works hard to bring holiday cheer to our children in care.

With the help of Fast Lane Entertainment, local foster children and their families and group homes are treated to a remarkable day of bowling, pizza, laser tag, and more! Thanks to our friends at Unilever, Santa makes a special appearance and provides wonderful conversation and a special stocking to every child.

Beyond the holiday party, CASA also coordinates the sponsorship of holiday wish lists for children in foster care in Northwest Arkansas. This year, we gathered wish lists for 515 children in care from our region. We then coordinate donors to sponsor each wish list – shopping for the gifts and returning them to CASA. Can you imagine?  It takes hundreds of individuals, civic organizations, companies, and churches to sponsor all of these wish lists. Volunteers then bag, organize, and distribute the gifts.

This is the CASA garage with gifts for 515 children and again after all of those gifts have been distributed. This undertaking simply would not be possible without the generous support of our entire community.

The foster parents caring for these special children were stunned by the generosity. Here are just a few comments we heard from them:

“This is our first year to be foster parents and participate in the CASA Christmas, and we were completely humbled by the generosity!”

“The holiday gifts are beyond our wildest imagination again this year.” 

“SUCH a tremendous blessing you all are!!! Thank you to the many generous donors!”

We want to thank all who played a role in putting smiles on these children’s faces when they woke up Christmas morning. Because of you all, for just a moment, those children could forget that they are a child in foster care.

If you would like to sponsor a child for Christmas next year, please contact Shelley Hart (shelley@nwacasa.org). For planning purposes, please anticipate that it will cost ~$150 to fulfill one wish list.

Volunteer Spotlight: Kemetric Bailey

Kemetric Bailey joined our corps of nearly 300 volunteers in April 2017. When she moved to Northwest Arkansas in 2010, she began looking for a way to use her passion for children and individuals in crisis to make an impact. After hearing about CASA from a presentation at the Walmart home office, she felt the calling.  As a victim of childhood abuse, Kemetric knew she had the understanding and compassion these children needed to begin to heal.

Kathy and Kemetric, quite a CASA pair!

Most rookies take “an easier case” – one with a single child or rather straightforward circumstances. Interestingly, her supervisor knew Kemetric wasn’t like most rookies and presented her with a rather unusual request. If they paired her up with a seasoned advocate, would Kemetric consider a case with 7 siblings? While it sounded daunting, Kemetric understood that if she didn’t agree to take the case, there was no telling how long these children would be on the waitlist for a CASA. And just like that, Kemetric was paired with a wonderful advocate, Kathy Redding. They work together beautifully, sharing the good times and the bad, to advocate for the best interests of these children.

Working full-time and having her own family, how is it that Kemetric finds the time to serve? By pairing with another advocate, Kemetric says it is absolutely doable, “There are twenty-four hours in a day. We don’t use them all, and five minutes on social media can easily turn into an hour or two. Instead, why not use that time toward a cause where you can really make a difference?”

Kemetric finds her CASA work extremely rewarding, but admits it’s not always easy to serve. Beyond the time commitment, how do you answer a 12 year-old who asks if they will ever be adopted?  Or if he will see his younger siblings again?  While emotionally taxing, that’s where you can really leave your mark.  “I tell ‘Peter’ every time I see him that regardless of his current circumstances, he can become much more than that,” shares Kemetric. “It’s incredibly rewarding and humbling to help these children see the positive in their challenging lives.”

To learn if you might be a good fit as an advocate, click here.

Light of Hope 2017

Light of Hope is a national movement to light a symbol of hope for abused and neglected children who are under the jurisdiction of the nation’s family court systems. CASA of Northwest Arkansas hosted its 10th annual Light of Hope presented by General Mills on November 9, 2017. With reservations for 780 guests at the Rogers breakfast and 550 for the Springdale luncheon, we shared our mission with a record-breaking crowd.

Ashley Buchanan, Sam’s Club

Both events began with a 20th anniversary tribute recognizing our founding board members and their commitment to bringing child advocacy to Northwest Arkansas. Breakfast continued with a keynote address from Sam’s Club’s Chief Merchandising Officer, Ashley Buchanan, while lunch featured Sally Grimes, Group President of Tyson Foods.


Sally Grimes, Tyson Foods

Our emcees, Geno Bell, Sr. Director for Walmart, and Dr. Charles Robinson, Vice Chancellor at the University of Arkansas, then introduced our testimonial speakers, Dylan and Shaneace Gard. The Gards, who adopted their four boys out of foster care, shared firsthand how their boys’ CASA volunteers, Diana and Andi, played a critical role in securing their children’s safety and long-term success.

The Gard Family

Net proceeds for the entire event tallied more than $300,000! This was record-breaking for our organization. These funds will sponsor advocates for 252 abused and neglected children for an entire year. There was also an outpouring of interest from attendees – 105 individuals – to train and become advocates for these children.

There are many individuals and companies to thank for making this event such a success. First of all, we thank our sponsors who allow our event, and this impact, to take place. Next, we appreciate our 12 person committee and 125 table captains who worked countless hours to ensure our tables were filled with compassionate hearts and giving hands. And, lastly, we appreciate all of our guests who took time out of their schedules to learn how they could make a difference in the life of a child.

  • Presenting sponsor: General Mills
  • Benefactor sponsors: The Clorox Company, Coca-Cola, Sam’s Club, and Tyson
  • Advocate sponsors: Mercy, Rockfish, and Truity Credit Union
  • Patron sponsors: Arvest, Bedford Camera & Video, Cargill, Charles Schwab, Cherokee Casino & Hotel, EY, Jim and Melissa Cole, J.B. Hunt Transport Employee Contributions, Lucke Dental, Matthews Campbell Roads McClure & Thompson P.A., Mitchell Communications, Mitchell Williams, Northwest Orthodontics, Paschal, and Unilever.

2017 Light of Hope Committee:  Britt Clem, Susan Duke, Ted Fox, Treva Hamilton, Wayne Hamilton, James Keenan, Kim Lane, Lisa Mayer, Ed Parrish, Guanica Parrish, Mike Schmandt, and Laura Underwood.