Sometimes the seemingly small decisions we make can create a ripple effect that leads to incredible outcomes. Such is the case with Jodi Hudspeth, who in 2014 happened to work in the office next door to CASA when it was located on Valley Road. Jodi owns her own business booking hotels for educational and student groups, and noticed the “incredible group of women” she saw coming and going at CASA. One day she decided to attend an information session to learn more about what they were doing.
After the information session, “I knew I wanted to get involved,” she explains, “but it wasn’t the right time.” This busy mother of two from North Haledon was juggling work and family, but knew she wanted to volunteer when life calmed down a bit. It took two and a half years, but Jodi went through training and was sworn in in May 2016. She was assigned to the case of a youth with special needs.
Shortly after being sworn in, however, she was thrown a curveball. The youth she was assigned to was moved to a special needs group home in southern NJ. For some people, an hour and a half drive each way to see a child would just be too much. But not Jodi. “I didn’t volunteer for my convenience,” she explains. “I did it to give back and provide specific, tangible benefits.”
So for the past two years, Jodi has been visiting the youth twice a month. She recalls when she first met him, and he asked her, “are you a doctor?” A lawyer? A teacher?” These were the people he interacted with, so it makes sense that he would assume Jodi was one, too. Jodi smiles when she talks about getting to know him, and the time she’s spent with him since then. His favorite activity is cooking, and Jodi has watched him blossom as he develops his skills in the kitchen.
Another curveball came Jodi’s way when he asked her to help him become baptized. With zero contacts at churches in his area, she knew it might be a challenge to find someone willing to go the extra mile to welcome a child with special needs. Nevertheless, Jodi began making phone calls.
And here is another example of small decisions having a big impact. It was around 6 p.m., and Jodi was calling churches, planning to leave voicemail messages explaining the help she was looking for. However, at one church, to Jodi’s surprise a woman picked up. Jodi explained that she knew a child with special needs who wanted to be baptized, but he didn’t have much religious training or even transportation to get to or from church. Not a problem, the woman said. She had a nephew with special needs and would be happy to help.
In the time since then, this woman has volunteered to transport him to church and has helped him take the classes necessary to be baptized. And of course, when that baptism day came, Jodi was there.
Now Jodi is focused on helping him pursue vocational training, and arranged for him to visit a local community college. He’ll be graduating from high school in a few months, and she’s practiced interview and communication skills with him in anticipation of the transitions he’ll need to make. She’s not sure what these next few years will hold, but she intends to be there, continuing her twice-monthly trips up and down the Parkway, proving that a busy working mother can also be a great CASA.