Some people are born to help children, and that’s certainly the case for retiring CASA Volunteer Coordinator Marie O’Dell.

“I jokingly say that I’ve always been a child advocate even when I was a child because I’m such a mother hen,” O’Dell said. “I’ve always been a child person.”

This love of children has made her a perfect fit for CASA, a nonprofit organization that works with state and other local agencies to help support children in the foster care system. When the court appoints a CASA volunteer to a specific case that volunteer then works to make sure everything goes as smooth as possible for that child. Since 2004, O’Dell has helped train and support these volunteers.

“You train them about what they need to do and learn in CASA and then you stick with them when they take a case,” O’Dell said. “You talk to them, lead them through the process, and answer their questions if they have any issues with a case.”

Though she became a volunteer coordinator in 2004, O’Dell has been with CASA since 1995 when she took the job as office manager. She had recently moved to Ardmore and she went to church with Ann Blizzard who was the organization’s director at the time. Blizzard explained what the organization did, and O’Dell was eager to be a part of it. In addition to her duties in the office, O’Dell also volunteers as an advocate herself — something she plans to continue doing even after her retirement.

O’Dell said she has been amazed at the outpouring of support CASA has received from the community over the years.

“The community works very well with the program, and I’m very thankful for that,” O’Dell said. “When you’re dealing with children, there are a lot of soft hearts out there, and this is one of the most generous communities I’ve ever been in. I’d like to especially thank BancFirst who have generously chosen to support our program by bringing gifts for us to give to all the children this Christmas.”

O’Dell’s official last day in the office will be next Tuesday, December 31. She already has several projects lined up around her home, and she has no doubt that she’ll find plenty of ways to pass the days — including volunteering for CASA.

“CASA will always be in my heart because I’m still a volunteer, and I’ll stay a volunteer,” O’Dell said. “’I’m always busy, and I’ve never been bored in my life. Whatever doors God opens for me, that’s what I’ll do.”