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CASA of Berks County Adds 5 Diverse Voices to its Board of Directors

Story written by Nancy McCullar

Jun 28, 2021

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Berks County is proud to announce the appointments of five new board members: Thomas Baker, PhD, Nicolas Camacho, MDiv, Janell Harakel, MBA, Petros Pappalas, TH.M, MFA, and Destinne Parker-Stewart, BSW.

This announcement underscores CASA Berks’ commitment to a governing board that reflects the diversity and talents of Berks County.

“We are extremely fortunate to have this group join our board to help us achieve our strategic goals of doubling the number of abused children served by our organization.” Said Nancy McCullar, Executive Director, “They come to us with a passion for supporting services that help traumatized children recover and thrive.”

Thomas Baker, PhD, is a licensed psychologist with a focus on adolescents and adults.  His experience includes several years in the Diagnostic Clinic of Berks Juvenile Court, house parent for the Juvenile Detention Center, and as a consultant to several youth serving organizations in Berks County.   “I am honored to be invited to join the board of CASA.  A volunteer advocating for a young person on a consistent and persistent basis in invaluable.” Says Baker.

Nicolas Camacho, MDiv, is the Coordinator Champlain for Reading Police Dept and a Student Support Specialist with Communities in Schools Eastern PA.  He was a Juvenile Probation Office for ten years and while in the military served as an advisor on culture and diversity to the Commander. This role led him to embrace the role of culture, traditions, beliefs, and customs in people’s lives.  He looks forward to bringing his experience to the CASA Berks Board of Directors.

Janell Harakel, MBA, brings years of professionalism and community involvement to the CASA Board.  She has served on the Visions FCU Advisory Committee, as well as served as a volunteer for Junior Achievement and Berks Heim.  Janell has an MBA in Human Resources and a BS in Accounting and Management.

Petros Pappalas, CEO of SYZY Corporation, holds several degrees including a Master of Fine Arts and a master’s in theology.  He has experience in administration, community service, fundraising, as well as speaks Greek as his second language.  “Childhood is the most important and impressionable time in a person’s life.  I want to be part of the solution.” Said Petros, “I am excited to work with a great cast of board members…and help increase the number of young people we are able to serve in Berks County.”

Destinne Parker-Stewart brings 13 years of child welfare experience to CASA.  She has been a Placement Case Manager, a Specialized Foster Care Case Manager, and her current role is Family Based Mental Health Worker. Destinee has a BA in Social Work and is pursuing a Master’s in Social Work with a specialization in childhood trauma.  “I am passionate about addressing the complex needs of children who have been impacted by the foster system and advocating for systemic changes.” Said Destinee, “I look forward to contributing to the mission and vision of CASA.”

“We are proud of the process CASA Berks has gone through to look at its first five years and develop a strategic plan to grow our impact on Berks County.  The new board members are emblematic of our values and vision for the future.” Said Board President Kathleen Felker.

About CASA of Berks County
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Berks County is a non-profit organization that recruits and trains volunteers as child advocates for the children in Berks County who reside in foster care.  We were founded in 2015 under the initiative of Judge Ullman who saw the need for additional “eyes and ears” on the care of Berks County foster children.  Children in foster care who have a CASA volunteer who is a caring consistent adult, in their lives are more likely to succeed in school, more likely to find a forever home, and half as likely to re-enter the foster care system.  There are over 400 children in Berks County who reside in foster care at any one time.  Our nearly 50 volunteer advocates served 103 of the most vulnerable of these children this past year.

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