Bernadette Melton-Plante CASA of NH

16 Years of Guiding CASA Volunteers and Staff Members

Bernadette Melton-Plante CASA of NH

In 1996, Bernadette Melton-Plante was working full-time for Big Brother Big Sister in Nashua when she attended a community presentation about CASA of New Hampshire and the need for volunteer advocates. Intrigued by the program, she applied, and for the next 5½ years, she served as a volunteer advocate before becoming aware of a position that was open for a program manager at CASA. After she was hired in 2002, she worked supervising volunteer advocates for 6 or 7 years before being promoted to program director.

Tell me a bit about your work at CASA, first as a program manager and now as a program director.

It’s incredibly enlightening to be a program manager because you have this wonderful contact with your advocates. Our advocates come to us from all parts of life and I think that one of the things I thoroughly enjoyed was that I was constantly learning from them. Our advocates have worked for school systems, for the police department, people who work in department stores, or in nursing homes. So there’s just a huge array of professions and everyone brings something really different to the table. It’s always so interesting to look at this job from the perspective of a new advocate and how they look at the cases that come in.

For the last 10 years I’ve also had the pleasure of supervising our program managers and I really, really enjoy doing that. I think it’s given me the opportunity to share the skills and knowledgebase that I have acquired over the years. It’s interesting discussing cases with the program managers, helping them problem solve, coaching them to come up with appropriate recommendations to help their advocates prepare for court and although I’m not sort of first hand down in the trenches, I’m still able to stay very involved with the families that we serve by working with the program managers. I’ve learned a lot from the program managers, too.  I’ve learned a lot about people’s learning styles, and again, how they assess different situations. And I would like to think the staff have learned a lot from me, too.

What are some of the biggest changes you seen during your time with CASA?

There’s been changes at the state level legislatively. Some of the legislative changes have certainly benefited the families we work with. But we’ve also seen a reduction in specialized homes to work with young children who’ve experienced trauma. There were more options 8 or 9 years ago and we do have a lot of children in the state of New Hampshire who’ve been significantly traumatized and need to be moved out of state because we don’t have the programs to provide to them.

I think the complexity of the cases, the criminal components, obviously the influx of the heroin epidemic it’s harder for people to get into recovery now because there is such a long waiting list and the courts only give the families 12 months to change the behaviors that brought them into the system and often those timelines don’t always match up.

When I was fairly new to this there were a lot of preventative services that were available to the families that we work with. There was something called voluntary cases where the division did not have to file a petition. They could work with the families and provide them with services to try to keep them out of the court system. That has disappeared but I’m really thrilled to say it’s now being reintroduced to the state and some of those services have been made available again.

It’s a very emotional subject matter that CASA deals with. What motivates you to want to come in to work every day?

I know this sounds really corny, but I honestly can say I enjoy coming into work every single day because I really don’t know how my day is going to look. I’ll have a pre-planned day, but very rarely does it go like that.

I’ve always had a passion for working with children, even going back to my teens I would work in a lot of camps in England during the summer period. But, look, the bottom line is every child deserves a safe and permanent home and that’s the motivator right there.

You’ve seen hundreds of cases over the years, is there one that sticks out as particularly memorable?

One of the things I was most impressed with was one of the first cases that I was working on as an advocate. The two parents had created a lifestyle of robbing banks and there was a young child that was with them. They were finally arrested and incarcerated awaiting trial and we had this adorable little 6-month-old child. I have to say I was incredibly impressed with the way DCYF worked in trying to find family members for this little baby because neither of the biological parents, who were incarcerated, were giving up any information. A maternal grandmother was found in Ohio and I had the opportunity to have a lot of communication with this grandmother due to the fact that I was visiting with the child. Eventually she came to New Hampshire multiple visits were set up and this child eventually was moved to Ohio to live with her maternal grandmother. The way everyone worked together as a team, it was so focused on the best interest of this child and we had the support of the court as well. It will stick with me for the rest of my life, no question.

The Gift of Giving: Gloria Proulx and GYK Antler


Throughout her 33-year career at GYK Antler, Gloria Proulx has been dedicated to making a difference in her career and in the community. She has deftly balanced her professional life while also raising a family and volunteering for numerous causes. Throughout her career at GYK, she has worked as a production manager in various vertical markets including finance, healthcare, high tech, retail, education and tourism, and now serves as Culture and Operations Manager. As a key volunteer on the CASA Cares committee, Gloria collaborates with top notch GYK designer JoAnn Trahan to produce printed materials, from the invitation and signage to the evening’s beautiful program, for CASA’s largest fundraising event, CASA Cares.

Gloria is truly a gift to CASA of New Hampshire. She first learned about CASA 10 years ago, recalling when GYK’s creative director Elaine Krause provided design assistance for CASA’s 20th Anniversary celebration at the Christa McAuliffe Planetarium.

“We pulled out all the stops and broke some rules in the process, but the end result was an inviting experience for CASA’s guests,” Gloria says.

The following spring, they were invited to attend the annual Fashion Show fundraiser, and Gloria was drawn into CASA’s dedicated team and mission — beginning her involvement on the program book committee with the support of GYK Antler. Today, Gloria lends her hand to committee-wide projects, serving as the program book chairman while assisting with event and printing logistics, ad sales, and wine donations.

Gloria’s commitment to giving back comes from her tremendous conviction that “we were put on this earth to serve.” She believes strongly in CASA’s mission.

“The CASA organization has a greater focus on the child – giving them a voice and reassurance in a complicated and sometimes long-enduring process,” Gloria says. “The fact that each child is assigned an advocate is even more admirable and critical in their well-being and safety.”

Gloria appreciates CASA’s unique ability to seek out passionate volunteers and train them to be effective advocates – something she feels is important to all non-profits.

“We all have passions and gifts that are just waiting to be put to good use – within or outside of our work environments,” Gloria says. “If more organizations were set up to identify and train willing community members to help execute their missions, the load would be lighter, more affordable, and more focused on the need.”

She also greatly respects CASA’s successful management of funds, noting the organization’s financial accountability and transparency.

In addition to her volunteer work with CASA, Gloria gives her time and passion to several other organizations. She is president of the Pinardville Lions Club; coordinator of the Children’s Lectionary Program at Ste. Marie Parish in Manchester, co-chairs the annual Easter Bunny Breakfast in her community and supports as many non-profit efforts as she is able – a favorite being “The Ginormous Climb” to benefit the Suffolk County Children’s Advocacy Center, with her daughter Halie, who just received her Master of Social Work from Boston College. Halie will begin her full-time career at the CAC in Boston – a choice that Gloria is extremely proud of.

CASA Cares programs

Gloria attributes her volunteer “bug” to both her dad who served as an active volunteer with various organizations throughout his life, and to her own experiences participating in community-engaging events when Halie was a toddler. She recalls “crashing the PTA’s board meeting before they even began recruiting 1st grade parents,” so she could get involved and help ensure those community traditions continued.

Gloria recently transitioned to a new position at GYK Antler as Culture and Operations Manager – a role that allows her to give back to her professional community and engage her colleagues in values critical to the mission of the company. GYK Antler President and CEO Travis York is deeply committed to retaining and supporting GYK employees, providing thoughtful opportunities for professional growth and community engagement. Travis encourages staff to become involved in any cause that inspires them.

“When CASA was brought to the forefront, Travis understood their need and our team’s passion for what CASA does and welcomed the opportunity to stay part of such a worthy organization,” Gloria says.

In fact, GYK Antler has supported numerous non-profit organizations over the years, more recently: Rock On Foundation, Special Olympics, Stay Work Play New Hampshire, NH Food Bank, CHaD, Manchester Historic Association, DCYF, NH Institute of Art, Big Brothers Big Sisters and The Salvation Army.

Both Gloria and GYK Antler continue to pay it forward through their philanthropic and service efforts to CASA.

“As much as CASA’s existence relies on great leadership, staff, and volunteer advocates, it is the broader community’s generosity, participation, awareness and prioritization of CASA’s unique mission that will help them continue to meet the need, especially with the current opioid crisis,” Gloria says. “I once heard someone say: ‘If you see it, you are responsible for it.’ That is the motto I try to I live by.”


Paying Back in Ways Beyond Imagination: Tom and Barb Sedoric

Tom and Barb Sedoric have been dear friends to CASA for decades. Their commitment to sharing CASA’s mission with others while providing thoughtful and generous financial support to CASA is truly a gift. Often referring to CASA volunteer advocates as “angels on earth,” Tom and Barb fully understand the importance of CASA’s impact on those children who are the innocent victims of substance abuse, poverty, homelessness and mental illness.

Tom first heard CASA-NH CEO and President Marty Sink speak during CASA’s early years while he was serving on the board of another nonprofit aligned with children and their needs. The critical need for the advocacy of neglected and abused children resonated with Tom. He knew “this need would never go away.”

Barb also became interested in CASA’s mission. Her early career path as an estates and trusts paralegal and her personal experience of divorce with two young children, Barb understood the complexities of the legal system.

“The words ‘best interest for the child’ always stuck in my head. I always wanted to do something in the legal realm to help children,” Barb said.

Thus, Barb became a CASA volunteer advocate for three years representing the voice of young children in court cases and found the work “very hard and rewarding, but very important.”

Philanthropy and service are ingrained in Tom and Barb’s DNA. Both of their parents were very active volunteers and supporters in their communities in Beloit, WI, and Rochester, NY. With respect to his father, Tom remarked that “there wasn’t a piece of the community that he didn’t touch—from serving on the YMCA board to volunteering for the community fund.”  The same is true of Barb’s two parents, Bruce and Nancy Bates.

Both Barb and Tom feel blessed and fortunate to be able to give back to the community, both personally and professionally. As a nationally recognized fiduciary  at The Sedoric Group in Portsmouth, Tom takes great care and pleasure in helping people with their charitable wishes and planning. Barb turned her training and expertise as an estates and trusts professional, together with her personal experiences, to found The LastingMatters Organizer is a resource, guide and practical planning tool to assist all adults with the process of planning ahead for incapacity and death.

Barb and Tom believe deeply in CASA’s “competence, efficiency and advocacy.”

“We continue to be impressed with the service they provide and how they provide it,” Tom says, adding they will never forget a family court judge stating openly that, after doing the math, he “believes CASA saves the taxpayers millions of dollars annually due to their volunteer-driven business model and efficiency.” Tom and Barb say they recognize CASA provides services in an incredibly efficient and caring manner in a legal system that is already strained.

With the growing implications of the opioid crisis on families and children, the impact of this epidemic on CASA’s resources has been significant. Without CASA’s volunteer advocates, there would not be enough people to speak on behalf of victimized children.  Barb knows how critical this advocacy is.

“I tell people all the time, if you are retired or have free time, volunteering as a CASA  is something you can do to make a significant difference in the lives of children,” Barb says.

Barb also suggests the importance of spreading the word regarding CASA’s mission by recruiting others to support CASA financially and by hosting an event to share CASA’s mission with others.

“Giving back to our community pays us back in ways beyond imagination,” Tom says.

We are deeply grateful to all our “angels on earth”— from donors like Tom and Barb, and all our donors, to you and your support! THANK YOU!


The Sedoric Group of Steward Partners – 29 Maplewood Ave. Suite C, Portsmouth, NH 03870 603 427 8870. Steward Partners Global Advisory, LLC and The Sedoric Group maintain a separate professional business relationship with, and our professionals offer securities through, Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through Steward Partners Investment Advisory, LLC. Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not offer opinions or services of CASA.

Planned Giving

As you contemplate your year-end contribution—or future giving to CASA—please remember that there are many gifting options available to you. Whether you decide to give the gift of appreciated stock, make a tax-free transfer from your IRA, establish a donor-advised fund or include CASA in your estate plan, you will be helping to break the cycle of child abuse by providing hope and stability for our children.*

As an example, this past year CASA received a very generous bequest from a friend who included CASA in their will, earmarking 50% of the proceeds from their house sale to the organization. This thoughtful bequest is not only an investment in the critical work of our advocates, but also provides an important and impactful legacy for the donor.

Donate a Gift of Appreciated Stock: donated assets such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds or real estate may provide you with an income tax deduction based on the fair market value of the gift and eliminate all capital gains taxes.

Consider a Qualified Charitable Distribution: Qualified charitable distributions (QCDs) are a unique tax strategy that allow individuals who are at least age 70½ and have Traditional and/or Inherited IRAs to distribute up to $100,000 per year directly from their IRA to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with no federal income tax consequences. Gifts made to grant-making foundations, donor advised funds, or charitable gift annuities are excluded from these rules.

Give the Gift of Life Insurance: give a policy you no longer need, take out a new policy or name CASA as a beneficiary of an existing policy. This may provide you with income and estate tax savings.

Establish a Bequest: consider including CASA in your will by adding an amendment.

Create a Donor Advised Fund: make an irrevocable, tax-deductible contribution through the establishment of a donor advised fund.

Your thoughtful planned gift is an impactful way for you to make a lasting investment in the lives of victimized children for generations to come. Your legacy will be one of hope to the most vulnerable. Your meaningful planned gift will transform lives.

For more information regarding CASA’s Legacy Society, please contact Suzanne Lenz, Director of Development, at; 626-4600, extension 2124

For further reading:

Required Minimum Distribution (RMD):

Donor Advised Funds:

Please consult your tax, financial or legal advisor concerning any gift arrangements you are considering.*

Retired Teacher Heather Sweeney Finds New Opportunity with CASA

When Heather Sweeney was preparing to retire from her extensive career in education, she saw an ad on TV that caught her eye. It was for CASA of New Hampshire, seeking volunteers to serve as advocates for children caught up in abuse or neglect cases in New Hampshire’s family courts.

Having long been a champion of children, Heather knew this was something she wanted to do in her post-teaching life.

“I taught for 30 years and I have just seen family units get weaker and weaker, and the problems it is causing for students is just tremendous.”

From children who come to school hungry, or struggle with anxiety and depression, or lacking a warm coat for New Hampshire’s winters, Heather has provided as much as she can for these kids without overstepping her boundaries as a teacher.

“I always had food in my drawers for kids who came to school hungry. Or we had coats and warm clothing,” Heather said. “It just got to be so incredible.”

As a teacher, she said, there is only so much you are allowed professionally to do and say for children and families you suspect are struggling at home.

“I thought, ‘that will finally allow me to do the things that frustrated me over the years that I wanted to do for these kids,’” she said of the opportunity to be a CASA.

In 2016, Heather filled out the volunteer application to become a court-appointed special advocate and started the process. Following an extensive interview with staff, she was accepted into a 40-hour pre-service training required of all volunteers before they can take a case and begin working directly with a child.

Graduating from training in early November, it took less than a week for Heather to jump into her first case with a child whose parents had been reported for neglect. The parents, just young teenagers themselves, lack both the skills to care for a newborn and the support from their own parents to help them.

In her role as a CASA, it is Heather’s job to serve as the “eyes and ears” of the court, making independent, objective recommendations to the judge based on the information she has gathered through visits with the child, foster parents, parents, doctors and other important adults in the child’s life.

She has written court reports and attended court hearings where she is given the opportunity to share in-person her observations and recommendations regarding what she believes is in the child’s best interest.

CASA volunteers are trained to help the child navigate this process efficiently so he or she may find stability in a safe, permanent, loving home as quickly as possible while enduring the least amount of trauma and upheaval.

Though it may sound cliché, Heather said this work is simply a natural extension of her career because it’s what she has done on a different level for years.

“CASA provides me a vehicle to do all the things I wanted to do so badly for these kids as a teacher,” she said.

Certified to teach middle and high school, with degrees in art and science, Heather spent much of her career as an eighth grade science teacher in Merrimack. As a teacher she honed her skills in building a rapport with kids, and with parents. Both are incredibly useful as a CASA, she said. Particularly so on her case where it turns out the parents are kids.

“I’ve learned over the years to be patient with parents. Life is not easy,” Heather said. “I’ve also learned that all parents love their kids, they want to do the best by them, but sometimes it is just too stressful.”

And that, she said comes back on the kids and manifests itself in their behavior. It can make them insecure or self-conscious. It drives a defeatist attitude. As a teacher, you spend your career pushing students to be their best selves, to challenge them and produce the best work they can, she said. But trouble at home can stymy a child’s success in school.

“That’s why being a CASA is great. You can help them on another level,” Heather said. “You can be behind them in a way you couldn’t as a teacher.”

Newly retired, Heather said CASA was the perfect challenge in the next phase of her life. It encourages her to use her skills she’s honed as an educator, but provides a significant amount of flexibility. It’s not like school, where she had to be up early in the morning.

“You can sleep until 8,” she quipped.

She can still travel to see her children on the West Coast and in France, and she knows she has the support from the staff at CASA to guide her through the unknown.

But above all, it allows her to reach children in a new and rewarding way.

“It puts you in the trenches with these kids,” Heather said. “Now you can see what you could only guess. What you suspected as a teacher, you know as a CASA.”