By Mindy Tate
Officials with Williamson County’s Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) continue to work to fund the Jane Crockett Franks Endowment as both an honor to the one of the organization’s founders, but also as part of an effort to help more children.
A dinner was held May 21 at The Factory at Franklin to continue efforts led by Tennesse Bank & Trust to raise a $100,000 endowment for CASA, founded by Franks and others during the time served as the county’s Juvenile Court judge.
With a new executive director in place and 36 advocates working to serve children involved in the court system, CASA has had a busy year.
“The judges count on and need CASA,” said Chris Barnhill, CASA’s new executive director. “CASA is not an organization. It is a group of committed volunteers.”
The 36 volunteers working with CASA come from a varied background and in 2009, the group was involved in 4,800 cases.
While most of CASA’s volunteers are women, Gerald Phillips, a retired insurance executive, said his involvement filled a void when he retired several years ago and offered him a unique way to give back to the community although he did not know whether he would like working with children.
“I said what can I do now that I have few extra hours,” Phillips said during Thursday’s dinner. “What can I give back to the community that has been so good to me and my family. This was pretty well out of character for me to have an interest in kids.”
During his six years of involvement, he has worked 40 cases.
“We are not lawyers… sometimes we make recommendations that don’t make sense legally, but hopefully make common sense,” Phillips said.
All CASA volunteers receive 30 hours of initial training and then an additional 12 hours of training each year, Barnhill said.
The May 21 event was billed as a roast of Franks, who was surrounded by her family, which includes her 12 children, 33 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.
Stepping to the podium for the roast portion of the event was Doug Hale, Franks’ son-in-law for 35 years, although he admits he is still on probation.
Franks served as the only General Sessions and Juvenile Court judge in Williamson County for almost 20 years, having been elected in 1978, 1982 and 1990.
She received numerous honors and awards throughout her tenure on the bench. She organized Williamson County Youth Inc., a non-profit organization providing shelter for abused, neglected and homeless children; and the Alternative Learning Center, operated by the Juvenile Court in cooperation with the public school systems, providing continuing education for students unable to attend regular school for brief periods of time. She created an active public service program in which both juveniles and adults provide Williamson County with thousands of hours of community service each year. She was instrumental in founding the CASA program as well as a comprehensive juvenile justice center.
“Jane’s qualities of goodness run so deep,” said Hale. “You have not sought to fill your own life. You have sought to fill the lives of others.”
Franks was honored on May 21 with a resolution honoring her years of service signed by Gov. Phil Bredesen and crafted by the county legislative delegation of state Sen. Jack Johnson and state Reps. Charles Sargent and Glen Casada.
“Williamson County is truly a garden spot in the world,” Franks said. “The cases we have…we know we have the capacity to do something about those cases.”
Posted on: 5/28/2009