It’s been six months since Nikolas D. Capitano, Esq. was elected Board President for CASA of Berks County. As a Divorce and Family Law Attorney, helping people during times of transition is what he does for a living, and he’s bringing the same passion and drive to this new role.
The Owner and Managing Attorney of The Leges Group became a Board Member of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) in March 2020 after completing the year-long Leadership Berks program currently offered by United Way of Berks County. Through his work, he had experience with Children and Youth Services (CYS) and saw joining the board as an opportunity to help.
“I went through the Leadership Berks program and absolutely loved it. One of the objectives towards the end was to join a local non-profit. I joined the CASA board because it aligns with what I do professionally,” says Capitano. “I saw first-hand what kids in the foster care system have to deal with, and at that point I was representing parents of dependent children. I knew I wanted to give back and help that demographic of children so CASA made sense.”
CASA supports and trains volunteers to serve as court advocates for abused and neglected children in Berks County, providing a critical service to Berks Family Court. Since joining the Board nearly three years ago, Capitano has seen the organization overcome challenges and grow in many ways.
“We’re a younger organization that’s been in existence for seven years. When I joined the board we had about five board members and we were working with a budget somewhere around $120,000,” he recalls. “My goal is to get our existing and future board members as comfortable as possible with their roles because I’m a firm believer that through the success of the board CASA will be successful.”
According to Capitano, the board has grown to nine members and they’ve started to staff more committees than in years past. The budget has doubled and the number of children they’ve been able to serve has increased.
“Over this last year, we have made great progress towards filling a lot of the policy and procedural gaps that naturally come with a new organization,” he says. “I believe in the service we provide to the court and to the children we serve. I made a commitment to CASA, and I am one to see my commitments through.”
Two immediate action items for the Board are community relations and fundraising. Since its inception, the organization’s online support has grown with a Facebook following of 1,500 and posts that reach over 8,000 people in the surrounding areas. An ongoing goal is to partner with more individuals and businesses in hopes of increasing the resources needed to support more children.
“One of our biggest challenges is people don’t know who we are, so engaging with the community has become one of our focuses this year. We want to drive more awareness to who we are, what it is we do, and why it’s important that the community know these things and support us through our mission,” says Capitano. “Our fundraising committee is working on putting together a special event to engage with the community. We’ve passed a variety of ideas around and it sounds like we’re going with an art auction. We’re looking to partner with other organizations to not only increase the number of people we can reach with this event but to build solid partnerships with other organizations and businesses in our community. While one person can get an organization to a certain point, having a team of people is going to get it much further in my opinion.”
As a business owner, Capitano believes CASA offers local businesses an opportunity to connect with their employees on a different level which can help retention.
“Involvement with non-profits as a business helps boost morale, spurs community involvement, and builds camaraderie amongst employees. Employee retention has become challenging for many businesses so getting employees involved helps promote better employee relations,” he says. “What we do is a noble thing for a business to take an interest in because without kids we have no community.
In addition to attending special events or making monetary donations, Capitano encourages the Berks County community to support the organization by donating items for the gift baskets that are auctioned during the annual Golf event, donating their time by joining a committee, becoming a board member, or volunteering as a child advocate.
“A donation of time and interest is equally important as monetary donations. Our annual meeting is every May and that’s typically when we vote on new board members, but we have a variety of committees and are always looking to the community for individuals interested in getting involved to help progress our goals forward,” he says. “We need people with diverse experiences and backgrounds that can help us develop the best path forward for the organization. I’m a believer in all aspects of thought and one can only grow by being open-minded and working with those who are different than themselves to learn and develop knowledge and experiences that may not otherwise be available to them if they weren’t involved.”
Getting involved with an organization that supports and trains volunteers to advocate for abused children has impacted Capitano, personally and professionally, for the better.
“It feels good to help and know that your efforts are genuinely making a difference in someone’s life. Being a family law attorney, family is very important to me,” says Capitano. “One of my mottos for my practice is I help people move forward. I help people who are at an emotional low in life get to a better place, and the same mentality applies to the work I do with CASA. I am helping people go from one place to another. Hopefully, a better place and that makes it all worth it for me.”