Don’t ever underestimate the power of Hot Cheetos Mac ’N Cheese! CASA volunteer Pam Goacher says that some of her favorite moments with her CASA youth have been while cooking together in the CASA kitchen. “He loves to come up with recipes and gravitates toward cooking spicier meals like Hot Cheetos Mac ’N Cheese,” Pam shared.
Pam has lived in Southern California since she was two-years-old. She was married for forty-five years to her “sweetheart,” whom she lost nine years ago to brain cancer. Together they had two children and six grandchildren. Pam has spent much of her life helping others including almost thirty years as a registered nurse in the emergency room.
Together, Pam and her husband worked with orphan care through their church. When her husband passed away, Pam knew that she wanted to continue working with children. She has spent the past seven and a half years working with junior high girls in a Life Group at her church. During the time she was a leader of the group, Pam first heard about CASA while attending a meeting for orphan and foster care. After learning more about the organization, she decided to sign up.
Pam said of her time with CASA, “I have learned that sometimes just keeping things simple and familiar is very good. Maybe just eating and playing a game together. This always seems relaxing to my youth and to me because there’s no rush and it allows opportunity for relaxed conversation.”
Pam adds, “My biggest challenge has been his transition from a happy-go-lucky ten-year-old to a soon-to-be-teenager who is not so happy-go-lucky, but I think letting him be his own boss in the kitchen is really good for his self confidence.”
When Pam has encountered challenges, she feels that her CASA training prepared her for this work. She says her training was comprehensive and prepared her not only to engage with her youth, but also with professionals on the case. Pam said, “My two CASA supervisors have been great role models for me – supporting me and being available whenever I need advice. They always encourage my youth and make him feel valued and known. They come into the kitchen when he and I are there to say hi and engage in meaningful conversation with him.”
Pam’s current case supervisor, Paloma Ocampo said, “Pam is a true pleasure to work with as an advocate. She is present for her youth, meets him at his level and does whatever she can to bring him joy.” She added, “Recently, we learned that her youth had been chosen from all the students in elementary schools in Orange County to perform in a group orchestra show. Pam was so proud to be there and was the only one there to witness this huge success. This amazing duo is also a regular in the CASA kitchen. Together they make creative dishes and Pam allows him to have an open space to take the lead and create fun meals such as Hot Cheetos mac ’n cheese, pizza, and more. They have been matched for almost three years and have developed a mutual respect and understanding. I have no doubt there is gratitude both ways with this duo!”
Since becoming a CASA, Pam has been matched with two youths. She said she loves the relationship she built with each of them and adds, “Despite their very hard lives, they really want to do good.” She believes that being a CASA has enriched her life as well, “It has made me more appreciative of what I have. It has enriched my life because I have two youth who I will always admire and be connected to.”
When asked what advice she would offer to others considering becoming an advocate, she had this to say: “You're never too old to be a CASA, as long as you can drive, listen, laugh with, and truly care about your youth.”