ELIZABETHTOWN — One Bladen County organization may be in a jam, but it’s still reaching out to those in need.
Last week, the District 13 Guardian ad Litem Program delivered five dozen jars of peanut butter and jelly to Bladen Crisis Center in Elizabethtown.
“We had a really good campaign,” said Scott Herrera, Guardian ad Litem Program supervisor for North Carolina Judicial Branch District 13. “Elizabethtown Fire Station 55 did a great job in helping us collect items.”
In its second year, the campaign is a statewide effort by the court system to collect plastic peanut butter and jelly jars to donate to local food banks. Last year, the N.C. Guardian ad Litem Program collected 8,723 jars. This was the first year of participation for District 13.
The food drive highlighted a need in Bladen County. In its 35th year as a service of the N.C. court system, the Guardian ad Litem Program equips community volunteers to serve abused and neglected children by advocating for their best interests in court. In Bladen County, the need has the agency … well, in a jam.
“Currently, we have a shortage of child volunteer advocates in Bladen County,” Herrera commented. “If we could get 15 volunteers for 2018, that would be great,” Herrera remarked. “If we could get 20, it would be awesome.”
An overarching need, according to Herrera, is commitment.
“I’d love for a volunteer to stay with a case from start to finish if possible,” the supervisor commented. “Each case varies, but a child might go from foster home to foster home, and social workers might change as the case goes on, and mental health is the same way. We can be the one constant adult that’s with the child for the continuity. It builds a strong bond with them, and the child knows they are advocating not just in court, but in the community, too.”
Trainings are conducted twice each year, though Herrera said he would love to have enough volunteers to schedule another round of classes. The next six-week session will begin Feb. 6 and take place every Tuesday until March 13.
“It’s a really informative class where we look at case studies and learn how to handle a case from start to finish,” Herrera explained. “It really gives volunteers a hands-on approach.”
Information on time and location can be obtained by contacting Herrera at 910-269-9107.
Volunteers must have a high school diploma, a clean criminal record, and “a big, sincere heart for children,” according to Herrera. Though it varies from month to month, the typical amount of time guardians ad litem spend on a case is three to six hours per month. Those hours include time with the child, time attending meetings at the Department of Social Services or school, or time spent in court. Beginning volunteers are assigned one case at a time.
Additional information about the Guardian ad Litem Program, as well as volunteer applications, can be found at www.volunteerforgal.org.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.