Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles spotlighting area volunteers and their organizations. To nominate a volunteer click here.
DeVarra LeSane’s job as a volunteer for Atlantic Area CASA in Hinesville allows her to be a voice for children in foster care. “I try to go to bed at night knowing that I did everything I could to advocate for a child,” she said.
Atlantic Area CASA, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates, is a volunteer organization that empowers everyday citizens with the ability to transform the lives of abused and neglected children. They work in Bryan, Evans, Liberty, Long, McIntosh, Pierce, Tattnall and Ware counties.
For the past four years, LeSane has been “a very caring, devoted and dedicated volunteer” for CASA, said Petula Gomillion, executive director.
“She is a true champion when it comes to advocating for the best interest of children who have been placed in foster care,” Gomillion added.
“I get the most joy when a parent that I worked with, who initially might have been difficult because of not trusting who I was and what I represented, builds a rapport over time and we see the progress in their case plan,” LeSane said. “The same for the kids, when they don’t want to initially open up to you. I feel privileged to establish that type of relationship.”
LeSane previously spent time in the military, but was pursuing an undergraduate degree in human services in 2014 when she met her future supervisor and became aware of CASA.
“Mrs. Gomillion was one of my teachers,” LeSane explained. “I went to her because I wanted to do something outside of my class study, something a text book couldn’t teach me, something in real life, and lo and behold, she told me about CASA.”
As part of her work week, LeSane visits with families, creates reports, and spends days in court ensuring that children have proper medical treatment and educational services.
Sometimes it’s not easy, she said, being in the courtroom and listening to the often sad background of children in foster care.
“I had to initially grow some tough skin,” LeSane said.
She’s also had to learn to deal with the disappointments.
“All volunteers can be disappointed with court outcomes,” LeSane reflected, “but at the end of the day, you have to listen to what the child wants. Their voice is the reason why you’re here.”
She said legally, there is only so much one can do, “but when you sit back and know at the end of the day you’ve done everything you could, you’ve advocated what you could for the child, you have to have some satisfaction and pleasure in that.”
She added, “I know I can’t save everyone, but at least I want to leave my footprint.”
LeSane raised two children of her own. She calls herself an empty nester, with her two adult sons, Christopher, 23, and Maleek, 19, both in the Navy.
When she’s not working for CASA, LeSane’s time is spent studying, pursuing her master’s degree in elementary education.
In the future, she said, “I can still work with kids but instead of the courtroom, I will be in the classroom.”