#childsafety | CASA volunteer Pollard exemplifies passion and commitment for program

WILKES-BARRE — The fact that Bill Pollard recently completed a 4x4x48 challenge to raise money for the Court-Appointed Special Advocate program is impressive, but not the real story.

The real story is why Bill Pollard did it.

Pollard, 59 of White Haven, has been a CASA volunteer for five and a half years for all the right reasons.

That 4x4x48 fitness/endurance challenge was impressive. Pollard ran 4 miles or biked every fours for 48 consecutive hours and set up a donation platform to raise money for CASA — he raised $750 and has kept the platform open if people want to continue to donate.

The event showed Pollard’s commitment to a program he believes in and has performed well in, helping kids caught up in the court system to navigate what can at times be a very difficult process.

John Aciukewicz, Esq., executive director of CASA of Luzerne County, said the program is central to fulfilling society’s most fundamental obligation, by making sure a qualified, compassionate adult will fight for and protect a child’s right to be safe, to be treated with dignity and respect and to learn and grow in the security of a loving family.

Aciukewicz said currently CASA has 45 volunteer advocates serving 72 children. There are 510 Luzerne County children in foster care placement.

CASA volunteers go through a nine-week training class with other advocates. The next training class will be in the fall, though a start date has not been set yet.

Aciukewicz said with a CASA advocate, children are more likely to adjust to change and to find a safe, permanent home.

“CASA is not your typical volunteer role,” Aciukewicz said. “But we’re not looking for typical volunteers.”

Aciukewicz said those interested in becoming a CASA, can send an email to — [email protected]

He said people can also learn more about the program by visiting the CASA website — luzernecasa.org.

About Bill Pollard

Pollard works as a safety manager for a nationwide construction company. He and his wife, Michelle, are the parents of two adult daughters.

Pollard said he always had an interest in finding a way to help kids in the community. So about 20 years ago, Pollard applied to Big Brothers Big Sisters to become a Big Brother.

He was turned down.

Not because he wouldn’t have been a great “big” to a “little,” the agency had its reasons.

“I was turned down because my wife was pregnant with our second daughter,” Pollard said. “They told me to take care of my family for now.”

Which he did, but a few years would pass, and Pollard saw a public service announcement on TV — it was for CASA of Luzerne County.

Pollard reached out and applied and was brought in for orientation training. Now, five and a half years later, Pollard has worked on four cases.

“What really got me interested, was when I saw kids in dependency court,” Pollard said. “These were kids who needed a lot of help — they had more needs than your average child in a single-parent household.”

Pollard said there are many enjoyable parts of being a CASA. And,as you might expect, there can be heartache and heartbreak.

He said he has had cases end well, and others that did not have happy endings.

“As a CASA, you always hope that the outcome is what is the absolute best for the child,” he said.

Pollard said the kids involved often “would get bounced around.”

He said along the way, there are “little joys,” like taking the child shopping or going places that were fun — things that would distract them from the sometimes difficult parts of the court process.

“These kids have been through some tough times,” Pollard said. “We are always looking for a good resolution — maybe a return to family — a good, longterm solutions. And those those little wins help these kids too.”

Pollard said CASA volunteers remain involved until a “permanency plan” is put in place by the court. The process could last a year, two years or longer.

Pollard said volunteers attend court proceedings as sworn officers of the court. He said they submit reports to the court as well.

“There can be heartbreak and heartache along the way too,” Pollard said. “There is a whole range of emotions — happy times, and not so happy times. You could leave a hearing happy and smiling and singing, or you could get to your car and pound on your steering wheel in pain.”

Pollard said since he began volunteering with CASA back in 2015, the program has changed dramatically for the better.

”I attribute a lot of that to John Aciukewicz,” Pollard said. “John has brought the program along over the last several years.”

Cases vary

Aciukewicz said each of Pollard’s four cases, and each of the children for whom he has advocated during these past six years, have been very different.

“Bill has demonstrated a calm and steady demeanor with an ability to adapt and adjust,” Aciukewicz said. “I believe Bill’s passion for and commitment to CASA is fueled by his belief in two things — one, he didn’t volunteer to say ‘no’ and two, one person can truly make a difference in a child’s life.”

Aciukewicz said despite working full time, Pollard has always made the time necessary to fulfill his role as an advocate.

“Volunteer advocates are the ‘heart and soul’ of our program,” Aciukewicz said. “Bill exemplifies that in a very meaningful way. Our program, and children’s lives, are better because of Bill.”

Advice offered

Pollard offered some advice or anyone considering becoming a CASA volunteer.

Pollard said that advocates be approachable, open and friendly.

“Be sure to get to know the caseworker by establishing rapport and becoming a resource for them,” Pollard said. “At times, this field of volunteerism can take a toll emotionally, but the positive outcomes and inspiring progresses along the way make it worth every minute of it.”

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