October 22, 2020
Leading a program to serve every child
Crystal Vickmark was named National CASA/GAL’s 2020 Kappa Alpha Theta Program Director of the Year, awarded to a program director who has taken significant actions to establish or expand a CASA/GAL program. Her journey with CASA of Northwest Arkansas began 18 years ago, when she and her family relocated to the state. She knew a little about CASA volunteers from her previous role as a counselor in Iowa, where she did in-home intensive family therapy and sometimes worked with CASA volunteers.
“They were amazing people,” Crystal says of the CASA volunteers she interacted with. “But, I didn’t know the scope and breadth of what they did at the time.”
Beginning with a modest staff and a modest budget at CASA of Northwest Arkansas, Crystal got to work starting a fundraiser, which helped the program get more exposure in the community. They recruited more volunteers and served more children, and the program continued to achieve incremental goals.
When the board and staff set the goal of serving every child by 2020, Crystal laid out a plan – the number of volunteers and advocate supervisors that would be needed, the costs of growing the staff, and the fundraising and donor metrics that would help them get there. The collective efforts of the program staff and board kept the plan on track. They made progress each year until they did reach the goal of serving 100% of the children in their area – ahead of schedule.
“It was one of the single most exciting days of my career,” Crystal says of the day she shared with the staff and board that they had achieved their goal. “To say in front of everyone that we made it – it was incredible.”
Crystal is especially proud that their growth also led to higher-quality training, and in turn stronger volunteers. She also values the team she works with, and sees their strengths contributing to the program’s success and furthering the CASA mission.
“Having our staff members out in the community who are strong, confident, and well supported is better for us as a whole,” she says. “They lend their expertise to their peers, our 400-plus volunteers, and other CASA programs around the state.”