At 83, Charles French figured he still had plenty to give.
So, this Navy veteran, ex-police officer, retired federal investigator and former golf instructor began a new adventure after the death of his wife of 62 years, Sylvia, “the love of my life.” He became a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA).
“I needed something to do, and knew I could do this,” Charles said. “I’ve always helped children, going back to when I was a police officer” in Washington, D.C., in the 1960s, and later as a member of Big Brothers and as a coach with a youth golf program.
Based on his own experiences, Charles has a sense of where the youth we working with are coming from — and what they have gone through.
“When I was on the street as a police officer, I was a member of the youth division,” Charles said. “I assisted Social Services in the removal of abused and neglected children from their biological parents. I listened to these children. They need help.”
With five grown children, three grandchildren and two great grandchildren, Charles said all children need “good role models. Boys need good male role models. They need someone who has been successful and who can help them become successful.”
Charles is helping CASA/Prince George’s County by assisting in its efforts to recruit more male CASAs, a top goal since volunteers are overwhelmingly women. He is one of the founding members of “Men 4 CASA”, a group dedicated to bridging the gap.
“We need more men,” Charles said. “A lot of them are looking for something to do, and they can do this – if they can make a commitment to help a child.”
Charles preaches a simple mantra that helps explain what keeps him going.
“I must aspire.”
Charles has aspired and succeeded on many fronts, including as a teaching golf pro for 19 years. His students included then-Vice President Joe Biden. Afterward, Charles received a vice presidential thank-you note for helping straighten Biden’s drive.
At CASA/Prince George’s County, Charles isn’t looking for thank you notes. He’s looking to make a difference.
“I understand young people. A lot of them won’t talk to you because they don’t trust you. Everyone tells them what to do,” he said. “Somebody needs to listen to them. I listen.”