Editor's note:This is the 17th in a series of stories featuring the 25 agencies that will be receiving money from the Finney County United Way in 2014.

By KELTON BROOKS

kbrooks@gctelegram.com

It has been said that children are our future, but they are also our present and past as the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) have been protecting and serving abused and neglected children for 24 years.

Spirit of the Plains, CASA is a nonprofit organization that advocates for the best interests of abused and neglected children in the 25th Judicial District. CASA provides trained volunteer advocates who gather information for the court and speak for the child throughout the entire juvenile court process.

"In our society, the basic needs and rights of children are entrusted to their families, but when the family is unable to meet those obligations, our most vulnerable children are placed in the foster care and child welfare system," said Lori Jacobs, executive director of Spirit of the Plains, CASA.

Jacobs added that CASA spends one-on-one time with the child, and stays in contact with their teachers, therapists, physicians, caseworkers, parents, foster parents, and anyone else involved in the case.

In 2012, CASA served 210 children ranging from birth to 18 years of age with 177 of those children coming from Finney County.

With more than 20 partner agencies in the county alone, CASA and other organizations have received funds from the Finney County United Way to accommodate programs and provide donations to help those in needs.

"Finney County United Way provides 19 percent of our total funding, which is truly significant in assisting us to carry out our mission," Jacobs said.

The money received from the United Way is used to recruit and train volunteer advocates, provide support and guidance for volunteers, pay staff salaries, purchase supplies and materials for recruitment and training purposes, and provide community education.

"Without the funding from the United Way, we simply couldn't continue to provide the level of advocacy we do," she said.

The United Way's annual campaign goal is $560,000, $10,000 more than last year. The 25 partner agencies for the 2014 campaign include:

Miles of Smiles; Real Men, Real Leaders; Russell Child Development Center; Santa Fe Trail Council Boy Scouts of America; Seeds of Hope Jail Ministry; Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Association; Building Blocks Project through Russell Child Development Center; Spirit of the Plains CASA, Inc.; St. Catherine Hospital Lactation Program; United Methodist Mexican-American Ministries; The Salvation Army; United Cerebral Palsy of Kansas; Garden City Recreation Commission Playground Program; Big Brothers Big Sisters of Finney & Kearny Counties; Catholic Social Service; Circles of Hope; Community Day Care Center, Inc.; Family Crisis Services, Inc.; Finney County Retired Senior Volunteer Program; Garden City Area Chapter of the American Red Cross; Garden City Family YMCA; Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland; Habitat for Humanity; Kansas Children's Service League; Meals on Wheels.