The weather outside was grim Saturday night, but inside the Hilton Garden Inn, chocolate, community volunteers and even puppy dogs conspired to raise spirits and funds for a worthy cause.
The 21st annual Chocolate Indulgence for Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children brought people out despite the weather.
“I’m very excited,” CASA Executive Director Natalie Jamison said about the turnout and support the organization received for the event.
She said the event sold out and the organization sold more sponsorships than it did last year.
“We have a goal to always do better than the last year, and we have done that again this year,” Jamison said. “So we are coming in ahead of the game and they already have a theme picked out for next year.”
Saturday’s theme was Moonlight Masquerade and people in masks were looking over silent auction items while others lined up for Mexican food and chocolate, although not at the same time.
“It keeps people excited and keeps them coming back for more,” Jamison said of the changing themes for the event.
Chocolate Indulgence is CASA’s premiere fundraising event of the year. It supports an organization that helps the county’s youngest residents find a voice of their own when they are involved, through no fault of their own, in the legal system. CASA provides a volunteer who meets with all of the parties involved in a case, including the children, their parents, grandparents or other family members, teachers, therapists, doctors and lawyers to find out what is in the child’s best interest. The CASA volunteer appears at any court hearings and prepares a report that goes to the judge in the case. But more than that, the volunteers become a steady point of contact for the children who are sometimes housed outside of Grayson County. They watch over the situation until the children are removed from foster care either through adoption or return to their homes.
Judge Larry Phillips, of the 59th state District court, said he was delighted to be able to attend the event for a group that helps local volunteers work with local families to build better lives for local children.
“The public would probably be just blown away by some of the devastating circumstances that these kids and their families find themselves in,” Phillips said.
He said the county’s family drug court run by District Judge Jim Fallon works, along with CPS and CASA to make sure the children are safe and secure.
“They (the CASA volunteers) are there for the kids,” Phillips said. “And the event is always a good time.”
The chocolate at Saturday’s event comes from places near and far and includes places as close as East Texas and as far away as Switzerland. The greatly prized Champagne truffles are provided by Teuscher, which is headquartered in Zurich. The toffee comes from Mary of Puddin Hill, a Palestine company which has been providing a sweet crunch as far back as 1839.
“The toffee is a real favorite,” Jamison said to the Herald Democrat earlier this year. “We always order extra, but we always run out.”
Jamison said she orders more than 60 pounds of chocolate for the event, including flavored chocolates and other specialties that come from Rose City Chocolate of Martinsburg, West Virginia.
She said the CASA volunteers pour their hearts and souls into the project each year to make sure that attendees leave knowing they have helped a worthy cause and have fully satiated sweet tooths.