SCOTTSBLUFF — An international, best-selling author will speak at an event that highlights two organizations that help the community’s children.
Author Laura Schroff, who wrote “An Invisible Thread” and “An Invisible Thread Christmas Story,” will speak at the annual Light of Hope event on Sept. 5.
This year, the event has been moved to the evening, with an after-hours event that runs from 5:30 to 6:30 at the Gering Civic Center. Schroff will speak during an hour presentation about random acts of kindness, beginning at 6:30 p.m., as inspired by her own experiences that she has written about in her books.
CASA director Andrea Rein explains that Schroff’s book is based on a chance encounter the woman had with a young man in New York. He stopped the woman to ask her for money because he was hungry. She passed by, and something stopped her, an “invisible thread that ties you to someone else,” Rein said. She turned around and took the young man to breakfast. It turned into a lifelong friendship.
“After reading the book, I kind of thought in my mind, Laura was a CASA before she knew what the CASA program was,” Rein said.
Schroff’s invitation to speak at the Light of Hope came after one of the CASA board members, Becky Sorensen, attended an event at which Schroff spoke. She reached out to Schroff’s publicist, talking to Schroff about CASA.
“And Laura was willing to come out to us in Gering, Nebraska, from New York,” Rein said.
Monica Shambaugh, director of CAPstone, said there are some costs associated with Schroff speaking at the events, but those costs have been covered by donors.
“We have a very caring, very giving community, especially when it involves children,” Rein said. “They really step up.”
It will be the 11th year for the Light of Hope event, though some changes have come this year. The same mission — promoting CAPstone and CASA — and the meaning — increasing awareness of child abuse and prevention — continues to be the focus of the event.
With the event moving to the evening, there has been another addition, a silent auction. The business after hours that is in partnership with the Scottsbluff-Gering United Chamber of Commerce will bring new faces to the event, many whom may have not been able to attend when the event was held in the morning.
Team captains will still be tasked with inviting friends, family or even co-workers to come to the event to learn about CASA and CAPstone and the work that the two organizations do with children and families affected by child abuse and neglect. Shambaugh, who has been involved in the event previously as a CAPstone board member, said the two organizations are excited about the changes.
“We are exposing more people, different people to our two organizations,” Shambaugh said. “It never ceases to amaze me, we (CAPstone) have been here 19 years and people still do not know what CAPstone does.”
For both CAPstone and CASA, the Light of Hope event is the biggest fundraiser of the year.
CAPstone is a child advocacy center that provides forensic interviewers and other services in child abuse and neglect cases since 1998. Advocacy centers were established throughout the state and the CAPstone center serves all 11 counties of the Panhandle through centers in Scottsbluff, Chadron and Alliance. A grant from the Nebraska Crime Commission has also allowed the organization to expand its work to working with victims in human-trafficking cases.
In 2018, CAPstone provided 426 forensic interviews, 257 of those interviews were for sexual abuse allegations, 124 of those interviews were for physical abuse and 68 of those interviews were because the child was a witness to domestic violence.
CAPstone also did 35 hair tests for children who were alleged to have been exposed to drugs, and referred 143 children to mental health counseling.
Cases seen by forensic interviewers and advocates have increased. So far, in 2019, Shambaugh said, the organization has done interviews and provided services to nearly 60 more children and families than at the same time last year.
“We just had our biggest month ever,” Shambaugh said, saying that CAPStone did more than 60 interviews last month. Some of those numbers are increased because of new requirements for children to be interviewed in domestic violence cases, but Shambaugh said there has been an increase in physical abuse and drug cases reported.
CASA has also seen an increase in cases, Rein said. CASA is an organization that pairs volunteer court-appointed special advocates, or CASAs, to children that have cases pending in the juvenile courts. Most cases involve child abuse or neglect and the advocates serve to represent the child’s interest in court.
The organization recently swore in three new volunteers, with 28 volunteers currently serving as advocates for children. The organization served 68 children in 2018. As of the beginning of August, the organization had served 58 children and expects to see an increase in its case load for 2019. Just last week, Rein said, 10 new cases came in to be assigned to CASAs.
Training for new volunteers is ongoing. There is always a need for more volunteers, another message that CASA shares each year during the Light of Hope. Men are especially needed for young men or boys who need a male role model in their lives, Rein said.
“We have a great group of volunteers, a great base right now, but we are always looking for more volunteers, unfortunately,” she said.
If you are interested in attending the event, contact Shambaugh at CAPstone, 308-632-7274. Donations can also be sent to the two organizations, to be designated “Light of Hope.” More information about CASA can be found online at, casaofscbcounty.com, and about CAPstone, capstonenebraska.com.