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Souvenir cup sale benefits CASA

May 17, 2019

Your next coffee mug could make a world of difference.

More than 250 handmade ceramic cups will be sold and auctioned Sunday at the Mugs for CASA to help raise money for Court Appointed Special Advocates, First Judicial District — a nonprofit organization that connects volunteers with abused and neglected kids in Northern New Mexico’s foster care system.

The event, organizers say, will play a major role in raising money for the nonprofit and recruiting volunteers to help it do its work.

“We want to make sure [kids in foster care] are safe and thrive,” said CASA Executive Director Annie Rasquin. “We want them to feel cherished, and this is one way to show them that they are.”

According to data from New Mexico’s Children, Youth and Families Department, there are 2,500 children in foster care statewide. The majority have been abused or abandoned by family members, separated from siblings and pets, and now find themselves living with strangers in ever-changing homes and schools.

All of these factors add up “and then you wonder why they don’t succeed,” Rasquin said.

Of those who age out of foster care at 18, research shows an estimated

20 percent become instantly homeless, and within 1½ years, many are addicted to drugs, incarcerated or dead.

This is why Rasquin said she believes CASA’s work, which serves Santa Fe, Rio Arriba and Los Alamos counties, is crucial. “Untreated early trauma foreshortens opportunities,” she said, adding children matched with CASA volunteers have fewer foster home changes, are less likely to be reabused, and are able to reach permanent, safe homes at a quicker rate than those without advocates.

CASA volunteers, Rasquin said, must go through a highly selective process centered around the child’s safety and confidentiality. Every volunteer, she added, must complete an interview and background check, and receive more than 30 hours of intensive training and courtroom observation. They are then sworn in by a judge and appointed to a child or family.

Once assigned, they spend between 10 to 15 hours each month, for at least a year, getting to know the child and anyone involved in their life — including teachers, doctors and family members. The reasoning, Rasquin said, is to ensure every volunteer becomes a trustworthy source who can help judges make informed decisions related to the child’s best interests.

At the upcoming Mugs for CASA event, Rasquin said a big goal is “friendship raising,” or volunteer networking.

“Building relationships is key for us and how we do the work,” she said, “so the key for us is to get more volunteers.”

On Sunday, a multitude of vibrant, textured mugs — created by more than 100 participants, including locally renowned fine artists and students from Santa Fe Community College and Santa Fe High School — will be available for purchase. Most of the mugs will cost between $5 to $15, while others will be auctioned for higher prices.

Several days before the event, while looking around a room filled with mug donations, Rasquin said she felt Mugs for CASA had “already been a success.”

“They’re so unique,” she said. “People are going above and beyond. … We feel supported as an organization, and that we live in a really caring community.”

IF YOU GO

What: The Mugs for CASA event to raise money for CASA First.

When: 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday

Where: Opuntia Cafe, 922 Shoofly St.

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