Sullivan County Child Advocate Named CASA Volunteer of the Year

Award given posthumously to Paul Hughes at Nashville ceremony

NASHVILLE, Jan. 27, 2011 — Paul Hughes, formerly of Fall Branch, has been named the 2011 CASA Volunteer of the Year by the Tennessee Bar Association Young Lawyers Division. The award, given posthumously, recognizes Hughes' four years of service as a volunteer in the Bristol area.

Each year, the Young Lawyers Division (YLD) selects a Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) volunteer from nominations made by Tennessee's local CASA agencies. The award recognizes a volunteer who goes the extra mile in his or her work with children in the state. CASA volunteers are appointed by the courts to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children and to ensure they do not get lost in the legal system or languish in an inappropriate group or foster home.

Hughes was nominated by Connie Steere, executive director of CASA for Kids Inc. in Kingsport, which serves children in Hawkins and Sullivan counties. In choosing Hughes as this year's award recipient, the YLD selection committee focused on his commitment to abused and neglected children, his willingness to sacrifice personally for his work and his dedication in the face of physical limitations.

During his time as a volunteer, Hughes worked with 46 children -- including siblings who had been assigned to CASA for Kids Inc. on four separate occasions. Convinced that the family's instability was harming the children, Hughes worked with multiple agencies to permanently place the children with relatives in Virginia. In granting the custody request, the presiding judge thanked Hughes for the "extraordinary and extra work" required in the case, including the need to work across state lines.
 

In addition to being an extraordinary advocate for hurting children, Hughes exhibited a profound commitment to personal and professional development. He attended more than 30 continuing education training sessions, and was so impressed with one program on how to recognize signs of child sexual abuse that he lobbied to bring the training to all of the agency's volunteers. In addition, because of his commitment to quality training, CASA for Kids asked Hughes to mentor new volunteers.

Hughes overcame both emotional and physical challenges to serve as a CASA volunteer. Having lost his wife and infant son years before, Hughes struggled with alcoholism until finding recovery through Alcoholics Anonymous. More recently, a back injury and then a heart attack threatened to derail Hughes. But he did not let these limitations hold him back. Hughes continued to check in on his cases and provide whatever information or assistance he could. According to those who worked with him, Hughes demonstrated passion, enthusiasm, dedication and professionalism in every case he worked before passing away on Nov. 2, 2010.

Knoxville lawyer Katrina Atchley, chair of the YLD Children's Issues Committee, said that in selecting Hughes as the 2011 CASA Volunteer of the Year, the "YLD hoped to keep his memory alive and provide an example of selfless service for all current and future CASA volunteers."

The award was presented in Nashville on Jan. 21 during the TBA's annual Leadership Conference. Steere and Jan Mitchell, volunteer coordinator for CASA for Kids Inc., accepted the award on Hughes' behalf. Their agency also was recognized and received a cash gift.

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The Tennessee Bar Association (TBA) is the largest professional association in Tennessee with more than 11,000 members. Founded in 1881, the TBA provides opportunities for continuing legal education, professional development and public service. The TBA’s dedication to serving the state’s legal community is evidenced by its membership roll, which represents the entire spectrum of legal practice: plaintiff and defense lawyers, corporate counsel, judges, prosecutors, public defenders, government lawyers and legal services attorneys.