Volunteer Spotlight - October 2017

Meet Arlene Dodge of Fanwood
'Every child should have that person they call
in large and small moments.'

After teaching nearly 40 years, one might think retirement would be kid-free — other than grandchildren, of course. Not so for Fanwood’s Arlene Dodge, who needed to feel she was still contributing in a meaningful way. After her husband brought home CASA materials from a street fair Arlene was hooked.

“I'm not the type of person who leads marches or rallies, but I can help in a concrete, one-on-one way. My dad died when I was seven, and my mom raised five of us on her own. I never could have made it without knowing she would always be there to encourage me. She was the first person I'd call with good news or bad. Every child should have that person they call in large and small moments,” she explains. 

Arlene is that for her two sons, 23 and 35, and grandchild. “My younger son shared that without my husband and I to help him sort out problems and be there when he needs to vent, he doesn't know how he could have handled things.” She’s “a lucky grandma to a beautiful three-year-old. Every child on the planet deserves to be showered with the love she is.”

Arlene’s also become a rock for her CASA youth, whom she met during high school and navigated driving tests to college applications and beyond. At first, the pair had a set meeting time each week. Now, though, her youth lives at college and their routine involves a more relaxed schedule. “Because she's a teenager, texting and late hours on the phone are a big part of our journey together,” she says.

Although away at college, it’s driveable and Arlene makes the trip. In fact, she promised as much the day the teen was packed to leave. “It’s important to me to keep that promise,” she says, adding she will also be at college graduation, tissues in hand and tears flowing.

Arlene never expected her CASA relationship to be so much fun. “Spending a day meeting at the beach or sharing a meal out with an interesting person goes far beyond my expectations. We discovered music we both love and I'm trying to make her into a Yankees fan. That’s not successful so far!”

Among Arlene’s interests is reading, and she always has a book in hand. She loves mysteries and legal thrillers, but dabbles in literary picks “for balance,” recommendations from her CASA youth, and nonfiction from CASA’s book club. Her favorite source of inspiration, though, is Robert Frost, especially the quote, "We may choose something like a star to stay our minds on, and be staid."

When tempted to complain, Arlene circles back to her mom, widowed and raising five children. “I never knew how much she struggled, how much she did for us by saying she trusted us to make the right decisions. I hope I can make my CASA youth believe those same words.”

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