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CASA leader Connie Stephens honored with Kiwanis youth service award
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Connie Stephens, executive director of Hall-Dawson Court-Appointed Special Advocates, accepts the John W. Jacobs Jr. Youth Service Award from Eddie Hartness during the Kiwanis Club of Gainesville's 91st annual Anniversary Celebration at the Chattahoochee Country Club in Gainesville on Tuesday night. - photo by Erin O. Smith

From her kitchen table to The Little House, Connie Stephens oversaw the legal protection of children needing help in a time of crisis.

“After this 27-year journey of protecting the lives of these innocent children, I’ve had the privilege of seeing many of those kids grow up and break the cycle of abuse,” said Stephens, who is the executive director of the Hall-Dawson Court-Appointed Special Advocates.

Stephens on Tuesday night received the John W. Jacobs Jr. Kiwanis Youth Service Award, given to those demonstrating “dedicated and outstanding service to the youth of our community.”

“So often, these children’s needs are overlooked in the struggle to rehabilitate broken families,” Eddie Hartness said in his introduction of Stephens. “They are subjected to needless suffering at the hands of the people who brought them into the world, and forced to wait for an outcome to a problem for which they were never at fault.”

Stephens was one of the first three volunteers at CASA in 1989. Now in 2015 at the Washington Street Little House, the agency serves almost 500 children.

“It certainly is an honor to accept this award on behalf of the countless children that we have served over the years,” Stephens said.

The Hall-Dawson CASA suffered three large losses last year with the deaths of volunteer supervisor Cory Buckley, program director Lisa McCarthy and volunteer Erin Jones.

“Through all of that, our recipient was able to rally her troops, bring longtime volunteers into supervisory staff roles and not miss a beat in caring for her children,” Hartness said.

Stephens, who said she was shocked and humbled by the award, recalled the success of a child who came from a troubled home and eventually went on to finish school. A few weeks ago, the son of the woman served by CASA walked into the office to tell of his college enrollment.

“That brings me joy beyond any recognition I can ever get or paycheck,” Stephens said.

Stephens said she plans to retire in July.


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