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A local agency that advocates for abused and neglected youths in the family court system is trying to drum up votes to win a $50,000 grant.
As of Monday, CASA of the Heartland had the 144th highest vote tally in the national Pepsi Challenge Grant Opportunity.
The top 10 grant ideas for January in that category will receive a payout — and the top 100 will get another chance next month.
“It would just be huge for us,” advocate Debra Smith said. Such a large grant would almost equal the group’s $60,000 annual budget, allowing it to focus more on recruiting. The Elizabethtown-based CASA doesn’t receive state or federal funding.
Smith said she has been trying to enter the contest since last August. She said it’s a way local residents could bring money into the community without having to spend any.
There are different ways to vote for CASA of the Heartland each day. These include a Facebook site — search for Pepsi Refresh Project — the contest site, www.refresheverything.com/casahelpsabusedchildren and by texting 73774 with 10525 in the body.
Three hundred to 400 children are in the local court system through no fault of their own, Smith said.
Volunteers for CASA — which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates — spend one-on-one time with children, meet with teachers and therapists and act as a voice for youths in court. They also connect families with resources.
Other goals include finding safe permanent homes for children and letting them know somebody cares.
An overview section about the agency on the contest page cites a 2008 report that says Kentucky has the highest rate of child-abuse-related deaths in the country.
It also says, “to give a child a voice is to give them hope and to give them hope is to give them a future.”
In addition to participating in the contest, the agency plans to hold a Feb. 14 training class for volunteers. Participants are encouraged to contact CASA in advance for background checks.
For more information, call 982-2272.
John Friedlein can be reached at (270) 505-1746.