Deb Zimmermann’s determination, passion and commitment exemplify what makes CASA volunteer advocates such a gift to so many children. Her generosity of spirit and time (13 years, 40 children and 22 cases) continue to transform young lives of all ages. Her ongoing financial support has also helped further CASA’s critical mission.
Deb came to CASA after working as a residential counselor in a home for girls. She was struck by the relationship that one of the girls had with her CASA volunteer advocate and the significant impact it made on the young girl’s life. After serving on a variety of boards, Deb decided to become an advocate — as she says, “in order to serve in a more direct role.”
Time and time again, Deb’s advocacy work has illustrated just how crucial it is for children who have experienced abuse or neglect to have a CASA in their lives. There was the instance of an adolescent whose out-of-home placement wasn’t a good fit. The child didn’t want to speak up because the placement was still better than the environment he’d been removed from. However, Deb sensed that something was bothering him, and she was able to earn the youth’s trust to the point where he opened up about his concerns.
Another example of where Deb’s work made a true impact involved a child whose adoption fell though. It was just after the child’s birthday, and they were stuck in a bleak limbo while DCYF struggled to find another appropriate placement. During this dismal time, while the child struggled with feelings of rejection and abandonment, Deb was the only person who visited. A couple of times a week she’d go to play cards, keep the child company, and let them know someone cared. Though heartbreaking for Deb to witness at the time, the case had a happy conclusion, and the child is now living with a relative. As Deb can attest to, “Letting a child know you are in their corner can make a world of difference.”
The “secret” to Deb’s longstanding service with CASA is actually quite evident: she’s here for the children. As she says, “The kids are the best. They’re what keep me doing this. I’ve met some amazing, awesome kids, and established meaningful relationships. It’s incredible to see their resiliency, and their capacity to forgive. Seeing how traumatized they are, and their ability to come out the other side, has taught me lessons for my own life.”
Deb explains that the CASA volunteer role is for someone who is willing to put the work in to get the emotional rewards. “You’ll be making a difference and doing something meaningful that changes people’s lives. It’s not for the faint of heart, you have to be willing—willing to go to the court, to schools, to meetings. You have to be willing to devote the time, to be there for the kids, and to come in with an open mind. But if you want to help people, this is the way to do it.”
Deb and her husband Christian, President of the New England Group for CRH Americas Materials Inc., have also been donors to CASA for a number of years, and Pike Industries (part of CRH) has sponsored CASA events.