Volunteer Profile: Margaret Curreri
During the past five years, Passaic County CASA volunteer and Clifton resident Margaret Curreri has advocated for more than 30 children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect. Every single one has really stuck with her.
“I still remember all of their names,” she said.
The children also remember Curreri. A few years ago, she was visiting a local school when she heard a small, familiar voice call out from across the hallway. “Miss Margaret!” the voice said. Curreri turned and saw two former CASA children running toward her. She hadn’t seen them in years.
Curreri found out about Passaic County CASA through a blurb in the local newspaper. The nonprofit organization, which is based in Wayne but serves all of Passaic County, advocates for Passaic County children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. CASA volunteers are court-appointed and trained to ensure that a child’s individual needs remain priority while they are involved with child welfare. Volunteers get to know the child while also gathering information from the family, caretakers, teachers, doctors, and caseworkers in order to make informed recommendations to the family court about the child’s future.
Curreri found out about Passaic County CASA at exactly the right time; one of her close family members had just become a foster parent and she was very interested in learning more about how to support children in foster care.
Curreri attended a CASA volunteer training hosted by current staff member Debbie Morone where she enjoyed learning about the child welfare system, the dynamics of child abuse and neglect, and how to become an effective child advocate. However, she was unexpectedly struck with fear while she was standing in front of the Passaic County judge, waiting to be sworn in as an official Court Appointed Special Advocate.
“How am I going to do this?” Curreri said, thinking about the intensity of the cases she would soon take on.
Luckily for CASA and all of the children Curreri has since helped, that feeling didn’t last.
“Now, I can’t imagine not doing this.”
Born and raised in Paterson, Curreri is Passaic County, through and through. She attended St. Agnes Grammar School on Main Street in Paterson and St. John's High School on Oliver Street in Paterson, and later worked in a Paterson lamp factory, assembling lightbulbs. Margaret comes from a long line of Paterson-ians—her grandmother worked in one of the factories that gave the Silk City its famous nickname.
“By volunteering in Passaic County, I am giving back to the community where I was raised,” Curreri said.
In fact, it was in the heart of Passaic County, at Sacred Heart School in Clifton, where Curreri began her tenure as an active, devoted community volunteer.
Years ago, Curreri was watching her husband George coach basketball when she was suddenly surrounded by a group of seventh-grade students. Each student begged and pleaded with Margaret to start a cheerleading team at Sacred Heart School. Margaret loved the idea, but had one big problem.
She had never cheered before.
Curreri could have easily relayed that to the girls and washed her hands of the whole thing. However, that’s not Margaret Curreri.
Instead, she drove over to the Clifton Main Library, grabbed a stack of books about cheerleading, and read up until she was so knowledgeable on the topic that she not only became the cheerleading coach, but she led the team to numerous first-place wins.
Since then, Curreri has been all about helping children thrive.
Recently, one of her CASA children was being bounced from placement to placement, home to home. In three years, the child had lived in 11 different locations. Curreri fought for the child’s needs in school and requested a variety of evaluations to make sure the child was receiving the proper services. Soon after, the child was placed in the perfect home, and not long after that, the family adopted her. Curreri said that the child is flourishing.
“Her grades went up, she came out of her shell,” Margaret said. “They just have to find a place where they feel safe and loved.”
Margaret loves serving the community that raised her, and hopes others join the cause.
“I wish other people could see the difference we make because we certainly make one."