By LAURA SWANSON
On October 15, 2008, Peggy McKinney's life was cut short. While I believe she is in a much better place now, she is sorely missed. Whenever I talked to her, Peggy always had an optimistic attitude toward the cancer. We even had a discussion about the power of positive thinking. In my opinion, she was a firm believer in hoping for the best and believing God would grant her a miracle. That is exactly the way that she handled her CASA cases, too.
To say that Peggy sat back and just took whatever came to her would be an understatement. She ran head first into becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) in 1998 and has helped 15 children to find a safe and permanent home. While it may seem like she did not help a lot of children, I would like for you to consider this: One particular case involved two siblings. They'd had involvement with the court since 2000, but after many attempts to work with the family, the children finally came into foster care in 2002.
By the time that they were finally adopted in 2007 (yes, that is five years in foster care), they had been in 10 different foster homes and at least seven different case managers with the Department of Children's Services. In addition, there were countless other doctors, psychiatrists, therapists, contract agencies and attorneys. Throughout all of this, these siblings only had one CASA volunteer, only one person who knew their story from beginning to end.
Peggy did not take information at face value, but instead did a lot of digging and prying. Peggy was able to find information that no one else was able to find. Peggy had a way of talking to parents as if she completely understood what were going through. She was a bulldog and rarely just "let go" of a situation.
The children who were appointed to her knew that she was there for them no matter what. Peggy had been known to ruffle feathers if a child's needs were not being met. She took her volunteer responsibilities very seriously and expected other professionals to do the same. In addition to being a volunteer advocate, Peggy served on the Board of Directors of Wilson County CASA from 2000 until her death and served as Board President in 2005.
Wilson County CASA was a big part of Peggy's life; unfortunately, I was unaware of exactly how important it was to her. In the 10 years she was a volunteer advocate, I knew Peggy for eight of those years. See, I began my career as a case manager with the Department of Children's Services and Peggy's first case was one of my first cases. I knew from the moment that I met her that she had drive and dedication. Knowing Peggy all of these years, I was still unable to see exactly how important CASA was to her. I knew that she was important to Wilson County CASA, but it wasn't until her death that I realized how CASA had affected and enveloped her. Because of this, I have tried to make sure that I let those around me know how grateful and how thankful I am for them. I want them to know how important they are to me. I would encourage others to do the same.
Peggy's death has caused me to look deeper into my faith. I hope that the encouraging words that I have found will help someone else who may be going through a difficult time. "...Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." I Corinthians 16-18 (NIV).
Peggy was a wonderful asset to Wilson County CASA and to others. We will miss her immensely.
Editor’s Note: Laura Swanson is the executive director of Wilson County CASA which is located in Lebanon.