The CASA Quarterly Volunteer Spotlight shines down on Annmarie Hamilton this winter. The Executive Director of the Cecil County Arts Council and self-proclaimed animal lover is by no way new to volunteering. Prior to CASA, Annmarie volunteered with the Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity, and animal rescues. Annmarie became interested in CASA after a conversation about the cause with the soon-to-be Executive Director. She wanted to support her community, so after her own research, she decided that CASA was a good fit.

Annmarie recalls that she was assigned to her then 16-year-old quicker than expected. She began her case thinking that she was going to meet a stand-offish teen, but was immediately surprised at the warm greeting. Little did she know, a great relationship was going to be formed.

Fast-forward to 2019, Annmarie has been an active volunteer for over three years. She has reached a milestone at CASA by being assigned as an advocate to the same youth for 37 months. This more than doubles our average of 14 months. That is a huge accomplishment in the world of foster care where adults are frequently in and out of a child’s life.

Annmarie does great work by merging her love of animals with her readiness to help Cecil County’s foster youth. Walter, a lively two-year-old Shih Tzu, is an emotional support dog in training that has greatly impacted her relationship with her CASA child. Walter has been named a strong supporter of the 19-year-old.

Working with a transitional youth has proven difficult; from housing to finding resources, she quickly learned a lesson in navigating “Foster Parents 101”. Even through troubled times, the two have remained close. Annmarie remained strong. The 19-year-old has expressed, “When you’re done being my CASA, we’re still going to be friends for life.” Annmarie has been a support system in the child’s life through hard times and that has created a lifelong friendship.

Annmarie has a message for those that are interested in advocating, but don’t know if it is right for them; “Don’t fear what you don’t know, it all has a way of working out.” There may be issues that arise when working with those that work in the foster care system and other adults in the youth’s life, but those are speed bumps that you can hurdle easily.

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