Guardian ad Litem volunteers honored
By John Joyce
Published in News on April 29, 2013 1:46 PM
Borden Parker, right, is seen holding a plaque honoring him as a newly-inducted member of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine in recognition of his many years of service to the Guardian ad Litem program. He is shown with Judge Tim Finan.
For more than 30 years, attorney Borden Parker has worked as an advocate for youths through the Guardian ad Litem program, which provides young people in the court system with an adult voice to speak on their behalf.
For his efforts, Parker was honored at the organization's annual appreciation luncheon Friday with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the highest civilian award presented by the state.
"I'm very honored, and I appreciate those who where involved in getting it for me," Parker said. "It is very rewarding to think that you can help children who aren't in a position to help themselves."
Parker, best-known as the Wayne County attorney, also represents Greene County and practices domestic law. He was one of several Guardian ad Litem volunteers recognized at the event.
Statewide, more than 5,000 volunteers served as many as 15,000 children last year by donating nearly 500,000 hours of service.
Guardian ad Litem volunteers work with children who find themselves in the midst of family court struggles stemming from cases of abuse and or neglect.
Cynthia Coley is a Guardian ad Litem staff member. She said the biggest reward from volunteering is helping others overcome what they have gone through to become productive in society.
"I think (we all) have it in us to do well, and to tap into that and give back," Ms. Coley said.
Current volunteers come from all walks of life, whether they are legal professionals donating their time, or teachers or pastors or just civic-minded citizens who donate five to 10 hours a month simply to touch the lives of children who have been dealt a bad hand.
"It's about the individual," Ms. Coley said. "Some are past victims of abuse, some are family members of abused children, others are just people who want to make a difference," she said.
Emily Peacock is one such volunteer who has been with the program since it first began in 1981.
She said she enjoys working toward making an impact on the lives of children and seeing the court and the family and the Guardian ad Litem program come together to develop a plan that best serves a particular child in his or her individual case.
Colleen Kosinski is the district administrator for the program's Districts 8 and 3. She said that the need for additional volunteers is growing, and fast.
Across the state, she said, there are more than 15,000 young people in need of help through the program. Hundreds of volunteers are needed to fill the void, she said.
The program serves young people up to age 17. Some have suffered abuse, others simply are forced to live in deplorable conditions because their parents or guardians have gotten into trouble with the law.
Viola Figueroa said she serves because she is passionate about helping stop child abuse.
State Sen. Don Davis was on hand and spoke to the volunteers about the importance of what they do. They truly make a difference in the lives of hundreds of children who might otherwise choose a different path in life, he said.
"I came just to extend my deep appreciation for all that they do. They serve at times that are really critical to the lives of these kids," Davis said.
He congratulated Parker on his award and his many years of service and said that Parker remains dedicated to his community.
"He is a true gentleman ... a true gentleman and a true professional," Davis said.