CRESTVIEW — The Guardian Ad Litem in Crestview on Sunday remembered needy, unrepresented children with a ceremony at Twin Hills Park.
Guardian Ad Litem is a government-assisted, volunteer-based organization that speaks for children moved from their homes due to courtroom intervention. These children, who have been abused, neglected or abandoned, are often removed from a toxic environment and placed into care of others.
Carita Smith, the Crestview Guardian Ad Litem program’s volunteer coordinator, hosted the event.
The goal was to encourage more people to volunteer for the program.
"We have lots of volunteers and I appreciate them," Smith said during the ceremony. "But right now, we have over 200 (children) without Guardian Ad Litem. So that means those children get up and have nobody to speak on their behalf and have nobody to visit them and nobody to make sure they are not hurt, harmed or endangered again.”
A basket with 201 flowers was placed inside a lookout pavilion overlooking a pond at the park. Following the service, attendees tossed flowers into the pond in remembrance of children without representation.
Additionally, area judges and program directors spoke and there were performances from the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church children's choir, Jeilani Champion and Dr. Linda Smith.
‘Doing from my heart’
Crestview resident Malcolm Parker said Sunday’s event taught him a lot about the issue.
"It opened my eyes a little bit," he said. "You don't always pay attention to what's going on with the children in the community."
Parker said he’s considering volunteering and wants to help spread the word.
Tammy Hillsman, who has worked with Guardian for the past eight months, said she enjoys speaking on the children’s behalf.
"I just want to be there because whatever situation we step in to, it's a tragedy from the very beginning," she said. "I'm basically there to help them get through it."
Hillsman said she is working on two cases involving four children. On average, she handles two cases at a time, she said.
The workload is never a burden, she said.
"They try not to overwhelm you; they start you off slow" Hillsman said.
And it’s fulfilling, she said.
"I'm doing from my heart — I don't want to get paid for it," Hillsman said. "I'm just doing it for those children."
Want to volunteer?
Prospective Crestview Guardian Ad Litem volunteers can call 689-5060. Learn more about the program at guardianadlitem.org.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Matthew Brown at 850-682-6524 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @cnbMatthew.