Without our team of trained volunteers, CASA would not be able to implement its mission of advocating for the children of our community. One of our more recent volunteers whom we would like to highlight is Larry Garner.
Larry is originally from Ohio but found his way to Cleveland in 1969, to attend Lee College. He graduated in 1993 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and teaching certification. After teaching for a year and a half, Larry found himself rethinking what his future looked like and decided to pursue a career in Central Refrigeration. For the past 40 years, he has utilized the skillset learned from his father to run his business, Central Heat and Air Co.
Larry is happily married to his wife, Alison, and has 6 children. His family has continued to grow, and he now has 9 grandchildren. In his words, he is a “rich man,” and has a heart for family and loved ones. In his free time, Larry enjoys kayaking, flying his hang glider on Lookout Mountain, camping, hiking, and riding his bike. In his younger years, he was also an avid whitewater kayaker. He also plays guitar and piano and is a certified scuba diver.
A few months ago, Larry had his first interaction with CASA via Facebook. He was immediately moved to help children in the court system and decided to get involved and become an advocate. His own personal experience with his step-grandchildren also inspired him to get involved. What drove him to volunteer was understanding that, “The benefit to their lives to have me advocate for their well-being illustrated the importance of becoming a caring, competent advocate for children.”
Being a volunteer, although difficult at times, also has moments of great reward. For Larry two moments that have stood out to him most are, “Seeing tears streaming down a 15 year old boy’s face when the judge said he could stay with his guardian. Another was letting a 10-month-old little girl hold my finger as we stood in court with the mother and foster mother.” Other examples that have touched Larry’s heart are when he has been able to witness a young man fight for and achieve stability and when a young mother decided to make the necessary changes to turn her life around and get her child back.
When asked about how he feels he is personally making an impact, Larry responded with:
“Every time I’m in court, I feel grateful to be a part of a society that protects children and helps young parents get their lives together so they can responsibly parent their children. We are doing a great service to the children, the parents and guardians, and to our community! An advocate is present at a pivotal point in a child’s life and can make a difference in the future of that child, and sometimes the parents. If we can’t do great things, we can do small things greatly.”
He recognizes that even the most mature and eloquent child may feel lost in a courtroom and needs help. From his perspective, the judge can only learn based on what is shared in the courtroom, so Larry feels a sense of personal responsibility to act as the eyes, ears, and sometimes “private investigator” for the child he is representing. By doing this, Larry has been able to see the personal impact made.
Larry also stated, “become a CASA advocate and make a difference in someone’s life! You’ll help make a child’s life better, and you’ll go home with a full heart.” His time with CASA has become a treasured aspect of his day-to-day life, and he feels as though he has “joined a special group of people who are making our community better. CASA has given me far more than I have given them.”
PHOTO: Advocate Manager Natalie Barrionuevo, Advocate April Slocumb, Magistrate Ashley Ivey, Advocate Michelle Davis, and Advocate Larry Garner.