THE PERSON BEHIND THE BADGE: POLLY WILLIAMS
This month’s featured Volunteer, Polly Williams is a native Texan who has lived all her life in Texas except for two years where she called Colombia, South America home while participating in the Missionary Journeyman program through her church. During this time, she put her experience in the medical field to work by working in clinical labs of hospitals testing clinical specimens.
Polly attended the University of Incarnate Word in San Antonio. A degree in Medical Technology, which required a Major in Biology and a Minor in Chemistry, allowed her to be certified to work in hospital labs. She worked in various hospitals for over thirty years, the last nine years as an Infection Control Practitioner. A former lab co-worker looking to hire a nurse or medical technologist with microbiology background recruited Polly to what she calls her “dream job.”
In this position, Polly worked with a team of hospital and architectural and construction design team professionals to assist in making sure that the hospital rooms were designed in a manner that were functional and aesthetically pleasing to the patients who would be residing in them. The team of professionals desired rooms to promote a relaxing and a comfortable spa like feeling. But this team also had to look at things like the furniture to make sure that it was cleanable, or did it have too many crevices that food could get into and housekeeping would have to tend to.
She has also had the typical experiences you would think an Infection Control Practitioner would have; such as, the Ebola scare, where she was involved in the training of how to put on the Ebola garb, how to work with the patients and also how to sustain a decontaminated hospital environment.
Polly and her husband both retired in 2015. Living in Houston, they desired a quieter place to retire to and spent some time looking all around Austin. Bastrop held a special place in their hearts as they spent many enjoyable times at the Bastrop State Park, whether it was for family reunion events or just spending time camping and enjoying nature. Polly’s husband loved the trees and landscape of Tahitian Village and always wanted to live there. As if it was meant to be, they found their home there and enjoy it with their dog, Mattie, a squirrel watcher/chaser whom Polly claims is a different dog since she now can run and play and enjoy the outdoors.
Polly and her husband both have music in their blood and provide the music ministry together at Calvary Baptist Church – she as the pianist and he as the Classic Service Leader. She admits they sometimes have creative differences but they do make beautiful music together. She is also a member of the Women’s Book Club from Woodlawn Church in Austin where she previously worshipped before being asked to take over the music ministry at Calvary. She also attends Bible Study Fellowship.
Polly likes to putter in the yard and occasionally enjoys trying out new recipes on her husband. When she’s not doing that, you can find her watching Law & Order reruns. She’s a self-professed Law & Order junkie!
Polly was looking for several months for a way to volunteer in Bastrop but nothing caught her eye until one day she stumbled upon an ad in the Bastrop paper for a CASA Informational Session. She attended the info session, but admitted she still was not certain she could do it, but went ahead and enrolled in the CASA Volunteer training. One of her hesitations was that she did not have children of her own and was not convinced she could do this. Her turning point came while watching the training videos. They touched her heart in such a way she cried, and then she knew this was something she had to do.
Polly has been advocating for our CASA children for almost two years now. She has had two cases closed and a third that is ongoing. She recalls a moment on her first case that was so unexpected, but welcoming in that it provided her the confirmation that “yes, this going to be okay.” During typical visits with the child in her placement, her shy, little toddler would run to her caregiver and sit on her lap whenever Polly came around. Because of her actions, Polly was not sure there was a bond between her and her CASA child, until one day around Valentine’s Day. Polly and the caregiver were at the kitchen table and the little girl, equipped with a page of Valentine stickers, placed one sticker on the tip of Polly’s nose and another on Polly’s CASA badge …. and Polly’s heart just melted. Sometimes (many times), it’s really the small things that make a big difference!
On her second case, her CASA child’s mother had worked her service plan and her child was returned to her. Polly was proud to stand in the circle of justice and state “CASA absolutely agrees mom should get her child back.” Polly states it was a wonderful feeling to watch the mother work her plan and watch her grow into a confident person, getting her own voice and learning to say “no” to the things that kept her from being a good mom.
Polly speaks to the strong relationship she has with this mom because the mom was granted a four month monitored return and Polly, as the CASA Volunteer, checked on the child once a week. She believes a strong bond was formed because she eventually started opening up to Polly. Polly wanted her to know that she was there for both her and the child, not because she was CASA, but because she cared and wanted to offer any support if needed. Polly still keeps in contact with them to see how their new life together is going.
Polly states there are two reasons the CASA program is meaningful to her personally. The first being that she is able to be a voice for children who have no voice. She reflects on her first two cases, the two toddlers who could not express what their needs or wants were. As a CASA, Polly can be an impartial voice, ask the appropriate questions to the appropriate people in order to make best interest recommendations on behalf of the children she serves. Secondly, being a non-threatening support to the older children, there to listen in a non-judgmental way, to be a safe person for them to talk to is what many of the older children need. And to the families, to be a safe person who supports them because CASAs have the best interests of their children at heart.
This lady also loves the documentation requirements of CASA volunteering. It’s probably because of her experience in the labs and also writing policy and procedural manuals. Whatever the reasons, she finds the case notes and court reports an easy and enjoyable requirement.
Polly concludes that she never thought being a CASA was something she would do. She states it was a big step for her since she is naturally a shy person and this work takes her completely out of her comfort zone. She calls her Advocate Supervisor, Tina Smith, “her rock” and states knowing she is there for her is very comforting, especially during her first couple of cases.
Kristi Glasper, Executive Director recalls that Polly came to our CASA program “ready to advocate.” She states, “The wealth of information she brings to each case, her advocating for what is in the child’s best interest and her assistance in finding solutions for parents is how she has made a difference at a critical point in her CASA children’s lives. Polly’s gift of patience and gentle guidance has been instrumental in her CASA work.” And lastly, to give credit where credit is due, Rita Floyd, CASA Volunteer Recruiter/Trainer wants to thank Polly for coming up with the clever new title of our monthly Volunteer feature. Although how it came about was rather unexpected, you have to wonder if it had something to do with those Law & Order reruns Polly loves to watch!