Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Union County recently kicked off the holiday season for its more than 160 CASA volunteers invited to gather with staff and board members for a Mix and Mingle at Rosie’s Wine Bar in Garwood.

CASA volunteers are community members who train to become advocates for Union County’s abused, neglected and abandoned children placed in foster care and report to the court on their wellbeing. From myriad wines to tasty small plates, those who mixed and mingled had plenty to enjoy — including the chance at door prizes. As the numbers were called, folks scrambled to check their tickets and cheered for those who won. Among the advocates celebrating were, from left, Phyllis Dunlop and Terry Gould of Westfield and Isabella Blumberg of Springfield.

Said Executive Director Marla Higginbotham, “What a fabulous evening — so many of our volunteer advocates came to catch up with training classmates, share about their lives and their CASA cases and simply enjoy an evening to celebrate during the holidays. And that night out is precisely what we wanted give them, especially after all they do to ensure the foster children they advocate for have as much normalcy as possible despite the chaos and loss surrounding them.”

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There are nearly 600 Union County children in foster care right now and CASA of Union County serves approximately half. Its goal is to provide an advocate for every foster child that needs one. To do that, more community volunteers are needed and encouraged to attend an information session to learn more about how to step up for a child.

Most CASA volunteers have no prior knowledge of the foster system and varied backgrounds. For example, a recent graduating class ranged from age 21 to 81 and were parents and non-parents, retirees, students, business professionals, a teacher, nurse, attorney, professor and homemakers. CASA volunteers are the eyes and ears for Family Court judges and have access to the child and all parties in the child’s life.

For details on upcoming information sessions as well as trainings in the new year, contact Courtney at or (908) 293-8136; visit for more information.