EL CENTRO – The CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) and Easter Bunny got a little help this year building and wrapping gift baskets for the local foster youth in Imperial Valley, thanks in part to Calvary Chapel in El Centro.
“This is our heart, to reach out to the community with the love of God. This is what Jesus asked us to do,” said Debbie Pyle, a member of the Calvary Chapel Church.
Local volunteers young and old, including the El Centro Girl Scouts, hopped at the opportunity to bring some Easter joy to local foster children by filling 219 gift baskets on March 26.
Volunteers used a classic assembly line method of moving baskets down the line and stuffed them to capacity with small toys, children’s Bibles, coloring books, crayons, pencils, combs, toothbrushes, and just good old-fashioned Easter spirit.
“This is for the CASA Foster Program," Pyle explained. "Five years ago, one of our church members brought up the idea of doing a ministry for the CASA Program, so for the past five years, we have been putting these baskets together.”
Normally, the task would take a handful of volunteers a few hours to complete, but it was quickly and joyously finished in about a half hour. The expedited process built eggstra-special gift baskets for children who could use a symbolic, springtime triumph. The local volunteers and Cavalry Chapel both hope to inspire children in the festivity of the divine miracle they recognize as Easter.
Audrey Pyle and other members of Calvary Chapel talked about the day's volunteers. “This was a little more volunteers than usual," Audrey Pyle said. "I know the Girl Scout troop really helped, because it would have taken a lot longer.” Audrey continued,
“It means a lot to me," she went on, because she works in Sunday School at the church. "It is great to see the little kids come to Jesus and when they realize that Jesus loves them.”
According to CASA’s website at www.casaimperialcounty.org, it is a program that fosters abused and neglected children in the Imperial Valley. The program uses trained volunteers to provide a voice for children and they research and follow a specific child’s case through the court system to ensure they do not get lost in court or foster care systems.
“What these children need is an unconditional source of love," said Verna Wright, another member of Calvary Chapel. "In foster care, they are traumatized. They get bumped around (and) with all the back and forth, sometimes it makes them feel not loved enough because of all the moving around.”
Local Girl Scout Troop 7036 of El Centro were also on hand to volunteer. “They are a very loving church within the community," said Delia Gardno, troop leader. "They asked us for help and we said 'yes,' because that’s what the Girl Scouts are all about.”
Volunteers picked up the gift baskets Friday morning and transported them to the Betty Jo McNeece Center south of El Centro where the kids were able to celebrate Easter with the special baskets.
The facility houses children who are under the care of the county and currently in CASA’s care do to removal from home situations or other circumstances.