Friends of CASA announce new board members, director,upcoming fundraiser

By Frank Weir

Legal News

Friends of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) recently elected five new board members as the organization plans for its annual "Rockin' The CASA' fundraiser set for Saturday, March 26.

The event will be held from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at 7920 Jackson Road in Ann Arbor.

Sponsorships and tickets for ''Rockin' the CASA Caribbean Style'' may be found at or call 734-222-6908.

With the newly elected board members, the CASA board now boasts 12 members.

Gregg Dearhammer, Chris Ekpiken, Bob Hannah, Venkat Lakshminarayan, and Lynne Leece were unanimously elected for three-year terms. In addition, Julie Dunbar was named board president replacing Marianne Clauw, who is stepping down from the board to continue as executive director.

Cheri Dunn was elected vice president of the board.

"We're really pleased with the talent and enthusiasm we've been able to attract to the board," Dunbar said.

"We also are very excited and fortunate to have Marianne Clauw step forward, brining five years experience as a CASA volunteer advocate and CASA board trustee to her new role of executive director."

Clauw was hired as executive director after the departure of Donna Huntsman, who moved out of th country for her husband's employment opportunity. Clauw spent 15 years in the commercial and government sectors of Washington D.C., as a management consultant and project director and transitioned to the nonprofit sector in Ann Arbor in 2002.

In 2006, she was the director of board programs at Nonprofit Enterprise at Work.

New board members include Gregg Dearhammer, president of i3Statprobe. He joined i3 in 2006. Prior to that, Dearhammer worked 10 years for Kendle and was a high school science teacher for 10 years. He served as a CASA volunteer in Cincinnati before moving to Michigan.

Chris Ekpiken graduated in chemical engineering, working with Unilever before transitioning to retail banking in 2002. In 1991, he and his father set up a community bank focused on micro finance, providing financial services to low-income client, including farmers and small business owners.

Bob Hannah is employed at the University of Michigan as an operating systems administrator and has been a volunteer at CASA for five years.

Venkat Lakshminarayan has been a resident of Ann Arbor for over 35 years. After a 20-year career with Ford Motor Company, Lakshminarayan retired four years ago and has been a CASA volunteer for the last three years.

Lynne Leece has over 32 years in the financial industry, most recently with Fifth Third Bank. She is responsible for 27 financial centers in East Michigan and is an accomplished trainer and motivator in customer service.

In other business at the meeting, the board discussed the needs and potential community resources for teenaged children in the foster care system, a spokesperson said.

"CASA volunteers are court-appointed special advocates who are assigned to one child or sibling set by the Washtenaw Trial Court, when a neglect or abuse case is active.

"Most children temporarily removed from their homes because of neglect or abuse are placed in the care of relatives or in a foster home while the court case is active.

"CASAs are expected to remain the child's advocate for the duration of the case, which may be one year or more.

"Greater access to information about community resources will allow the CASA volunteers to provide better advocacy for the child. University of Michigan MBA candidates, Katie Campbell and Ira Shaughnessy, initiated the research as part of their role as board fellows to the Friends of CASA nonprofit agency.

"The nonprofit and Public Management Center of the University of Michigan places qualified graduate students as board fellows on the governing boards of nonprofit organizatios in Southeastern Michigan."

Friends of CASA is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit, founded in 1999 to provide funding and outreach on behalf of neglected and abused children in collaboration with the Washtenaw County CASA Program.

For more information about Friends of CASA, see

Published: Thu, Mar 3, 2011


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