Volunteers honored with awards for youth work

Two longtime Lawrence volunteers were recognized Saturday for helping Douglas County youths.

Winner of casa fundraiser raffle drawn

Kelvin Lopez is this year’s winner of the Casa4CASA playhouse.His name was drawn in a raffle fundraiser at Saturday night’s Drawing Party at the Ludington-Thacher mansion, 1613 Tenn., celebrating the close of Douglas County Court Appointed Special Advocates’ 15th annual fundraiser.David Vance of GLPM Architects Inc. designed the playhouse that is based on a fisherman’s cottage. Dan Riedemann, owner of 19th Century Restoration, constructed the 8-by-8-foot playhouse that includes two stories and a small deck on the second floor.The fundraiser began July 6.

Marty Smith, 76, and Marion Springer, 71, were the first recipients of the Honorable Jean F. Shepherd Volunteer Award, which was established last year.

Smith is a volunteer for Douglas County Court Appointed Special Advocates, a nonprofit agency that recruits volunteers to act as advocates for abused or neglected children who are under the protection of juvenile court.

Springer volunteers with the Citizen Review Board of Douglas County. She reviews cases involving children in foster care or the juvenile justice system and makes recommendations to the presiding judge regarding further actions on the cases.

Kerry Tummons, CASA’s executive director for Douglas County, said the awards honor Shepherd, who founded the programs in 1985.

But Shepherd said the volunteers play a critical role in helping children in the community.

“I think it’s wonderful to have an award in the community to recognize these long-term volunteers who have made a difference to lots and lots of our needy kids,” she said.

Marty Smith

An empty nest beckoned Smith to begin volunteering with the national organization 18 years ago.

“I had time and a lot of love left to give children,” said the mother of two sons and two daughters.

Smith, who is originally from Salina, moved to Lawrence in 1948 when she started studying design at Kansas University. Her late husband, Linwood, also attended KU and studied medicine. He graduated in 1951, a year before Marty.

After college, the couple lived in Rochester, Minn., for 35 years, where he practiced medicine while she stayed home with the children. She began volunteering with CASA in Minnesota and continued to do so when they returned to Lawrence in 1994 to retire.

Smith said CASA volunteers play an important role in children’s lives and often are the only adults that can be trusted.

“They are used to adults who don’t tell them the truth,” she said.

The advocates pick up children from their foster homes and take them on outings. They also work closely with anyone involved in the children’s lives such as teachers, therapists and doctors.

Smith said she prefers to help young children, because they are “loveable and need love.”

“There’s so much hope for them; their lives haven’t been totally ruined yet,” Smith said. “Teenagers, by the time they get in the judicial system, they are often times hardened and hard to deal with.”

Marion Springer

Springer has been involved with the Citizen Review Board since it was founded. At the time, she was president of a child advocacy group called Kansas Action for Children and continued to work there until 2005.

Like Smith, Springer was a stay-at-home mother with three children. She met her husband, Byron, when she went to KU to study sociology in 1953. She has done a variety of community volunteer work. She currently helps with Van Go Mobile Arts and gives children’s tours at the Spencer Museum of Art at KU.

As an advisory member on one of the six Douglas County Citizen Review Boards, she reviews cases for judges.

“The state is their parent so they have to have their cases reviewed by the court once a year to make sure they are getting everything they need in terms of school and at home,” she said.

Springer said the job can be heartbreaking.

“I remember one time seeing a young man and he basically had no family,” Springer said. “His family was the state. Probably the closest person to him was a CASA volunteer and a social worker.”

She said one of the values of the board is that people become aware of children in need in this county.

“They realize Douglas County is not the perfect place some think it is,” she said. “Consequently, it makes us all better children advocates.”