Meet Our Board Members
The members of our Board of Directors come from various walks of life, including law, banking, private industry, federal government, and public advocacy. Together, they work to help give foster children in Prince George’s County a chance to enjoy a full and successful life. Here is a brief look at each of them.
LaVerne Byrd: LaVerne, our Board President, quotes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as saying, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of convenience and comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” In the spirit of the late civil rights leader, LaVerne sees helping foster children as a “challenge” that must be met. “People need to step up,” says LaVerne, who works at the U.S. Census Bureau. “You can’t just say, ‘Things are horrible.’ Yes, they are. But what are you going to do about it?” she says. “You have to look and see where you can make a difference.”
Randall Thomas: Randall is the Vice-President of the Board. As a Washington-based tax attorney with KPMG, Randall advises public charities, private foundations and other nonprofits on a variety of technical issues affecting their tax-exempt status. A board member since March 2015, Randall sees CASA as “a good investment,” one that helps both “the child and the community.”
He is confident that we can reach our goal of providing a CASA for every foster child in the county. “We just need to increase awareness of what we do and why we do it, and how we improve the lives of vulnerable children. We get results.”
Bruce Edwards: Bruce is our Board Secretary. After representing parents and abused and neglected children for over 12 years, the Maryland Office of the Attorney General has recently appointed Bruce as the social services attorney for Caroline County. He has seen CASA volunteers in action in court. “I have the greatest respect for CASAs,” Bruce said. “Their reports are comprehensive and objective. They interview all sides. They present a full picture of what’s going on with the child.” As a board member since March 2013, Bruce believes in our goal of eventually having a CASA volunteer for every foster child in Prince George’s County. Figures show that foster children with CASAs are more apt to graduate from high school and escape poverty. “Every foster child would be better off with a CASA,” Bruce says.
Keith Olfus: Keith is a Washington area banker and our Board Treasurer. He’s also a long-time youth mentor and basketball coach who works with kids from different social and economic backgrounds. He has had players directly impacted by random acts of violence and homelessness. Keith has consoled players, and helped mend their emotional wounds. “A lot of kids need help,” said Keith, a CASA board member since June 2013. “When I saw an opportunity to help kids by serving with CASA, I jumped at it. At CASA, we have limited resources, but we make a difference. With more resources, we’d make more of a difference.”
Members of the Board:
Michele Dearing: Michele explains her long-time interest in kids living at risk by saying, “Children are the most vulnerable segment of our community. They need and deserve our help.” Before joining us in November 2016, Michele served on the board of Courtney’s House, a nonprofit that assists child survivors of human trafficking. Two decades ago, while a student at the University of Miami Law School, she was an intern at a clinic that helped older youth age out of foster care. Now an attorney at the U.S. Department of the Interior, Michelle says, “It takes a lot of different players, from the courts to volunteers, to give children what the need. We all need to work together.”
QC Jones: Before co-founding his own information technology company, TMI Solutions, Inc. in 2001, QC worked at the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services where he often came across CASA volunteers. He saw first-hand what they do for vulnerable children. So, when QC was asked to serve on our board in September 2016, this former child-welfare specialist turned business entrepreneur quickly agreed. “I knew it would be a good fit. I want to help CASAs advocate for the child. I want to help them help children reach their potential.” QC said he would like to see more foster children enter the IT field. “It’s an IT world,” QC said. “And there are programs right here in Prince George’s County that can provide foster children the needed training.”
Shondriette Kelley: Shondriette is an attorney with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. She earlier worked as a lawyer with Maryland Legal Aid. There, she saw social workers and CASA volunteers in action. Shondriette said CASA volunteers were generally far more effective simply because they each had one child while a social worker often had more than two dozen. “CASAs are routinely able to be better versed on a child’s case. They know their problems. They know what they need,” said Shondriette. A board member since November 2016, she said, “CASAs are indispensable, particularly to young adults aging out of foster care and transitioning to independent living.”
Dan Klotz: Dan is a senior writer with Burness Communications, a global company based in Bethesda, that supports nonprofits on a variety of fronts, including expanding healthcare, protecting the environment and curbing poverty. “I’m trying to make the world a better place,” says Dan. His career in public relations started in work with vulnerable children at the New York City Department of Juvenile Justice. As a board member since March 2016, Dan has had a crash course on neglected and abused children. “Foster care is extremely rough – both in terms of how children get there at no fault of their own to helping them once they are there,” Dan said. “I want to make sure every child has a chance at a good future.”
Kara Onorato: Kara describes herself as “a survivor of child abuse,” one who graduated from high school and college and became a chief financial officer for the D.C. city government while completing a PhD in Public Policy and Leadership. Kara also calls herself “a leukemia awareness advocate.” She says she “picked up the torch” after her 20-year-old daughter, Sonny, succumbed to the disease after an 18-month battle with it. In November 2016, Kara joined our CASA board. “I want to give back,” Kara said. “I want to help CASA grow so that it can help every child that needs help.”
Rosema (Roe) Taylor: Roe is a skilled medical professional. She holds an advance degree in nursing and founded a consulting company that helps the elderly, the young and others in crisis. Roe is also working on a research paper as a Ph.D. candidate in psychology. “My passion is helping kids,” said Roe, a board member since March 2015. “I see life this way: We are only on Earth a limited time. If I can help one kid living at risk, I’ve done my part as a human being. I want our community to be more aware of kids who need help. I want to see CASA expand. We have a lot to offer.”
Tami Watkins: Tami’s mother and father demonstrated the importance of love and compassion as foster parents. “I remember my parents with all these kids. I remember being ingrained with the belief that one should help others,” Tami said. She’s now an adoptive mother and works in government relations with Pepco, one of our longtime corporate supporters. “I want CASA to continue to be the best organization that it can be for the children who need their services,” said Tami, a board member since March 2015.