CASA of Harrison, Marion and Panola Counties recently appointed Vivian Lewis to be its new board president.

Lewis, who started out as a volunteer after moving from the Dallas area to Elysian Fields a few years ago, is honored to have made history as the first African-American in this role. She succeeds longtime Board President Patrick Roades, who dedicated six years to the position.

“He’s left some big shoes to fill,” Lewis said, praising Roades’ years of service.

Wendi Everingham, executive director, said she’s excited about Lewis’s appointment and she’s thankful to Roades for doing a wonderful job.

“He had served on the job for six years. It was time to pass the torch,” Everingham said. “It’s a big responsibility.

“She’s definitely taken the bull by the horns,” Everingham said of Lewis.

CASA, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates, acts as the eyes and ears of the court by advocating in the best interest of children who are in the custody of Child Protective Services due to abuse or neglect.

Everingham said Lewis has not only always taken advantage of training opportunities to better benefit the organization, but she’s also willingly represented the organization as a spokesperson when no one else could.

“She’s gone out when the weather was horrible and spoke,” Everingham said. “She’s invaluable. She’s always willing to do anything and everything to help promote CASA and get the word out about the children we serve.

“I can’t say enough wonderful things,” the executive director said.

Lewis’s appointment as CASA board president came earlier this month after serving a short stint as vice president. It came as a pleasant surprise for her and something she doesn’t take for granted, Lewis said.

“I am humbled to be given the opportunity for this position,” said Lewis. “It’s just a real honor to serve as the face of CASA because I have a real passion and commitment for helping children.”

Lewis became a CASA volunteer in 2014, before joining the board as a member in December 2016. Since joining, she’s made it her goal to share the mission of CASA with local churches and civic groups.

“My two goals that I would like to see CASA do right now is more community outreach and fundraising because when you ask the average person on the street, what is CASA, they don’t know what CASA is,” said Lewis.

“It’s all about the best interest of the child,” she said. “I’d like to imagine that my voice could be the only voice that stands up for a child; and you never know what kind of impact you’re going to have on a child.”

Lewis said she’s excited about the enthusiasm of the new group of energetic volunteers that will be sworn in soon.

“A CASA volunteer is a volunteer appointed by judges to watch over and speak up for abused and neglected children,” she said.

Lewis has served in leadership roles before at her former employer, AT&T in Dallas, where she retired after 35 years. She served on several committees for the company, including as chair of the Women of AT&T committee.

Volunteering is in her blood, as she’s had an extensive background as a volunteer with the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure breast cancer fundraiser. She was a new volunteer for Marshall’s annual Night to Shine prom event for students and adults with special needs and disabilities.

Lewis is looking forward to making a difference in her new role as board president for CASA of Harrison, Marion and Panola Counties.

“The role of CASA is to make sure no child gets lost in the system,” she said.