Churches in Newport came together on Wednesday, Nov. 28, for an evening of praise and worship, but they also used the event as an opportunity to raise money for a worthwhile cause — CASA of Lincoln County.
CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) is a national association that supports and promotes court-appointed advocates for abused or neglected children in order to provide them with a safe and healthy environment in permanent homes. The organization’s primary focus at all times is on what’s best for the child.
This week’s event was held at Ark Bible Church, located at 453 S Coast Highway, in a building that at one time was Newport’s movie theater. The church was wanting to do an event to bring local churches together.
“We wanted to just have a night where we would get some different churches together and sings some songs and make some music,” said Guy Leech, the worship leader at Ark Bible Church. “We figured that while we were together we should raise some money, too, for a cause. So that’s kinds of where the whole fundraiser part came in.”
Raising money for an organization that supports children seemed like a good fit. “At our church, and I think a lot of churches, our main goal a lot of times is to help kids and those that can’t help themselves,” said Leech. “So we thought, what’s the one organization in our community that’s pretty well known that not only helps kids, but foster kids who are some of the most in need of help and advocates, and CASA came to mind.”
Wednesday evening’s event was primarily about the praise music, with musicians from Ark Bible Church, Newport Naz and Newport First Baptist taking the stage to lead the audience in singing songs of worship. Interspersed with this were brief messages from the pastors of those three churches: Rev. Jason Centoni (Ark Bible Church), Rev. Andy Albright (Newport Naz) and Rev. Glen Small (Newport First Baptist).
Admission to the event was by donation, and an offering was also taken, with all proceeds going to CASA. At the end of the evening, a total of $5,108 was presented to Mike Melneck, director of CASA of Lincoln County, who said CASA is “deeply grateful and appreciative for the overwhelming support.”
Lincoln County has one of the highest foster child populations per capita in Oregon. Melneck said there are currently around 160 children in the county’s foster care system. “Alongside that, 20 percent of the kids in this county go to school hungry, over 15 percent of them are homeless, so it’s a very fragile demographic around here,” he said. Melneck also shared the sobering statistic that in the United States, a child dies of abuse or neglect every eight minutes.”
When a child is removed from the home, a “shelter hearing” is held, and if the court determines that the child should be taken into care, that child becomes a foster care child.
“CASA is appointed by the court to service the child. That’s the law, and there are never enough advocates,” said Melneck. “Most of what we do has to do with what’s called capacity building, and a tremendous amount of our budget goes to recruiting and training new advocates. We have like 22 or 24 advocates right now to serve about 115 cases, and so there’s a waiting list for kids who are un-served.”
Anyone interested in getting involved with CASA of Lincoln County can contact Melneck by calling the CASA office in Newport, at 541-265-3116. “I’m not in the office all the time, but if they call that number, I’ll get it on my phone,” said Melneck. People wanting to know more about CASA in general can find information on CASA’s national website: casaforchildren.org.