A $30,000 donation and the announcement of a new executive director added to the festive atmosphere as CASA for Kids of East Texas celebrated the organization's move to a new location.

The Tyler nonprofit organization announced the hiring of Mary Jo Burgess as executive director and the donation from TransCanada prior to a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday at its new location on Southpark Drive. CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates.

The organization used a small amount of the $30,000 donation to renovate the lobby at the new location and will use the remainder for volunteer recruitment and training. CASA's annual budget is about $613,000.

"This year has really been a banner year for CASA," board Chairman Kevin Burdette said.

CASA for Kids of East Texas, which is in its 25th year, provides trained volunteers who advocate for abused and neglected children involved in the Smith, Wood and Van Zandt county courts, according to an organization news release.

Presently, CASA has about 209 cases involving 410 children in those three counties.

The organization's goal is for each child to have a permanent living situation that will serve his or her best interests. It costs CASA about $1,000 a year to help one child.

Burdette said the organization's new location will allow it to grow as needed, providing more volunteers to better serve area children and their families.

At 4,400 square feet, the new location is about twice the size of the former building. It features space for about 12 offices, a training room, conference room and kitchen.

It cost about $325,000 and, thanks to a large amount of community support, the organization has paid for it.

"We are really excited to see where this building will lead CASA in the next 25 years," Burdette said.

In celebrating the new facility, Burdette also praised outgoing executive director Patty Garner, who is retiring after more than seven years in that position.

"This building would not be here without Patty" and her tireless vision and her leadership, Burdette said.

Burdette said Ms. Burgess, the incoming executive director, brings to the position great experience in nonprofit leadership, fundraising and grant writing. She served as director of member services at Texas PTA in Austin before moving to Tyler more than a year ago to be near her children and grandchildren.

"I was really looking for something that called to my heart and soul that was community based with a very strong mission," Ms. Burgess said of the reason this position appealed to her.

She said she is hoping they can expand on everything Ms. Garner has done, enhance existing relationships in the community and develop new ones. Her first official day on the job is Nov. 30.

Twitter: @TMTEmily

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