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Our person Behind the Badge this month is CASA Lisa Morita. Lisa was raised with her 2 brothers and 2 sisters in Maine, where most of her family still resides. She became a mom at a young age and with sheer determination, positivity and a strong work ethic, did whatever it took to get her high school diploma while raising her children.

When she was twenty years old, Lisa, her husband, and their children packed up and moved to Oregon, where Lisa’s brother and sister-in-law lived. When her first -born was seven years old, Lisa divorced and began her journey as a single mom. But, you won’t hear any complaints from this little lady, in fact, she states their life was great! Sheer determination, positivity and her strong work ethic kicked in and while being a full-time parent, she took a job as a CNA working at a nursing home and then at a restaurant to support her children and put herself through dental hygiene school. She received some hands-on experience working at a dental office while doing her pre-requisites. Lisa made this her career for 17 years. And, here’s some free advice from this former dental hygienist – floss every tooth, every day if you want to keep them – she says with a big grin on her face!

Lisa did some other work from time to time to supplement her income – working in a flower shop and at a golf course pro shop. In fact, that is where she met Morgan, her husband, around the time her daughter was 15 years old. They would see each other from time to time while he worked at the pro shop and she at the restaurant. It wasn’t until Lisa was working an event – Morgan’s surprise birthday party, that the connection was made. That evening was full of surprises, especially when Lisa handed Morgan the bill for his own birthday party! And, that connection has been going on strong ever since. Lisa and Morgan enjoy traveling together, going to art shows, wine tasting and cooking. And as luck would have it, she says, he’s a great cook! Lisa’s favorite holiday is Halloween and she and Morgan would hold Halloween parties that served as fundraisers. People came from all over, she said, and they would have silent auctions and prizes for costumes in their outbuilding. This writer knows this to be true because many of her cell phone ring tones heard during this interview were spooky tunes!

Truth be told, Lisa loved her life in Oregon, but during the last 6-7 years, the constant rain and grey skies started to become depressing to her. Lisa’s daughter lived here in Texas and began talking to her mom about moving. Morgan’s job had him traveling a lot and Lisa was often at home alone. In 2013, they purchased 5 acres of land in Elgin, sight unseen! In January 2014, Morgan received an unexpected job transfer to the Austin office and they moved to Texas in March of 2014. Her son is still in Portland, but she’s hoping someday he will join them all in Texas.

Lisa and Morgan live in their home on their five acres of land in Elgin. They share their home with their babies, Snoopy and Sadie, 12- year old Chow/Golden Retriever siblings. Towards the back of the house, in a bright and airy sunroom, is where you can often find Lisa. Once a hobby, quilting has now become her passion and a side business, Quilts with Love. She became inspired in 2007 when she saw the quilt that is shown on her long arm in the picture above. One of Lisa’s quilter friends and Morgan bought Lisa a sewing machine so she could make dog quilts to raise money for an animal shelter and her passion grew from there. She loves working with color and texture – in fact she says, the more color, the better! Lisa has even made beautiful quilts for her CASA children. “It is great how she combines these two things that she loves” states Crystal Justice, CASA Coach-Supervisor. In addition to donating her quilts to CASA, she has also donated quilts to other organizations in need.

Lisa will be celebrating her three-year anniversary as a CASA in September of this year. She did not start out wanting to be a CASA, but rather was interested in fostering children, until her husband suggested maybe they were a little too old for that!

Lisa loves babies (and dogs) and has advocated for six of them so far – babies that is! In fact, Lisa initially wanted to work with babies because she had no grandbabies of her own. Lisa has a high school aged grand daughter and on her 60th birthday, she became a grandmother for a second time with the birth of a grandson, Dylan. He was a week early and had some medical issues during his first year but Lisa believes her CASA work has prepared her for the challenges presented during Dylan’s first year of his life. CASA Coach-Supervisor, Crystal Justice, further explains, “Lisa had a case with triplet baby boys and they had a lot of needs due to being born with drugs in their system. They had developmental delays that required physical therapy, occupational therapy, and early childhood intervention, and Lisa made sure to always advocate for these baby boys and made sure they were receiving the therapy that was needed. She followed up monthly on their appointments and stayed on top of everything. Lisa would interact and sometimes even feed the babies on her cases to help the foster mom out, as she had several children in her home.”

Lisa’s first cases will always hold a special place in her heart, although she states that all her CASA cases have been meaningful in one way or another. She admits her first cases were such a learning experience as she had no idea this was happening in our communities. It was very eye opening to her and she admits she took those cases very personally and worried a lot about the children she was working with.

She confesses sometimes she still wakes up in the middle of the night thinking about her CASA babies, but believes in her heart that as long as she does the best she can, God is ultimately in control. She still works on learning boundaries, but does not find herself laboring over things every minute of the day as before. Now that she has a sweet grandbaby of her own and a husband who travels during the week, time management is key for keeping the balance between her personal and CASA life. Tina Smith, CASA Coach-Supervisor, has had the pleasure of working with Lisa since she came on board with CASA and states that in her experience, “Lisa has always been a diligent, caring and supportive CASA. She has a heart for babies, but beyond that Lisa shows a kindness and compassion to everyone involved with the case. Lisa has shown a tremendous dedication to her CASA work, even when she was dealing with challenges in her personal life.”

Lisa’s favorite part of being a CASA is her monthly visits. She believes everyone needs to be invested in a child’s life as so much is hidden, that if you don’t invest, you can miss a lot that can ultimately be harmful to the children. Lisa makes sure she is invested in her CASA cases by reading the CPS files on her CASA children, twice a year, sometimes more. Another way she invests in her CASA children’s lives is by observing visits. She points out a lot can be realized by just sitting back and observing the interactions between parents and/or family members with the children. Crystal Justice, CASA Coach-Supervisor currently working with Lisa states, “Lisa continues to go into the cases with an open mind and gives these parents a chance to make the lifestyle changes needed to provide a safe and stable home for these children; however, Lisa always makes sure that the child’s best interest is her top priority and she always makes her recommendations throughout each case based on the child’s best interest and nothing else, which is what makes her an awesome CASA.”

Lisa closed the interview by stating that, “These kids don’t ask to be born, but they deserve everything. They deserve more than abuse, neglect and living in fear. They deserve to grow, to learn, to run our country, to take care of us. And, we need to take care of them now, so they can learn to be part of the community. They can’t speak for themselves, that is what we can do as CASAs. They need to know that they are worth that love and that there is nothing wrong with them.”

And so with sheer determination, positivity and a good work ethic, Lisa is taking care of her CASA babies, one at a time, giving them every chance they deserve.