Carlton Mason is a man of passion and heart and he brings those attributes to the people of CASA. As executive director of CASA, (Court Appointed Special Advocates), he has a staff of 10 and 35 volunteers who work with families in crisis. They monitor supervised visits with the individual parents and they help and encourage the children. These kids have often been abused and neglected. They’ve been removed from their homes and find themselves in the courts and child welfare system through no fault of their own.
Mason, who grew up in North Carolina, met his wife, Mirian, while they were both traveling in Europe. They married, eventually moving to Colorado, where they raised their three children. “I had so much fun raising my kids,” he said. “It was a joy. I always said, every day they got older was a better day.”
He finds his job meaningful because “even though I’m not with the youth on a day-to-day basis, I’ve always enjoyed identifying opportunities. I like to see other people succeed and have dreams and help them facilitate those dreams.”
Mason spent 26 years in the construction trades and changed directions four years ago when the director position opened up at CASA.
“Some of the families we serve have had some real difficulties. Some of them are struggling with addictions, behavior patterns that aren‘t that great. Some of the kids are on the receiving end of chaos, but they’re still intriguing, wonderful people.”
Most of the CASAs are from Montrose, but some are from Gunnison, Delta and San Miguel counties, each part of the 7th Judicial District.
You can see evidence of the one-on-ones at the CASA building on N. Third. There’s a colorful playground next door with slides and swings. Inside there are baby car seats, and lots of toys.
“Our focus is on serving the people,” he said. “We respect them and care for them and figure out what they need. Relationships are the only things that change people.”
Mason talks about the supervised visits as a chance for the child to experience affection and approval. “This may give them the chance to connect and create something that they can go back to and say, I remember my mom or my dad.”
The tiny house (240 square feet) brings a smile to Mason’s face. It’s a project that has benefitted more than 30 young people. CASA was contracted by Montrose and Delta counties under the Chafee Service, a federal program for kids being emancipated from foster care. The idea is to teach them some life skills.
Since Mason had been in the construction industry, he thought the trades were a good place for a lot of these kids. “There’s a lot of money to be made; you can take care of a family, and it’s learnable. Additionally, you don’t have to have the greatest social skills. There’s latitude.”
They raised $25,000 and started building the tiny house, which is behind the Habitat ReStore on N. Townsend, in Montrose. Over 450 hours of labor have been put in. Many local businesses have donated supplies and volunteered teaching hours.
Summing up, Mason always comes back to people. “One of the things I emphasized since I started is that it is about people. That doesn’t matter if we’re talking about fundraising or abuse and neglect, doesn’t matter if we’re talking about me and my staff—it’s all about those relationships that go on between people. We serve some challenging individuals. There are times we may stumble, but for the most part we really strive hard to make sure they’re valued, they’re appreciated, they have hope and potential. Those are the kinds of things I want to focus on with this organization.”
Learn more about CASA at casa7jd.org