The strength of any community's safety net can be gauged through its volunteers.
Maria Turner, executive director of CASA of the Fox Cities, said her already strong appreciation of the community is growing.
She's excited to see compassion in action among those who were willing to take on high responsibility, a significant time commitment and difficult effort for the sake of abused and neglected children.
Appleton's Robin Burgess, one of 18 volunteers in training, said she's found excitement in the chance to make an impact.
"It's an opportunity to really make a big difference in a child's life," Burgess said.
CASA last week began training for its first pool of volunteers who will serve as advocates for children deemed in need of protective services. In Outagamie County, that's about 225 children every year.
Each of the volunteer advocates will serve one child. They'll learn all they can about the child assigned. They'll spend time with the youth and provide some stability. Through those efforts, they'll provide richer information to judges to guide crucial decisions.
CASA, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates, is a local chapter of a national organization. About 1,000 chapters are across the country.
Turner said much is expected from its first advocates. Leaders have nothing but confidence.
"In terms of the level of commitment and passion, we really couldn't ask for a better first crop of volunteers," Turner said.
Volunteers will talk to doctors, neighbors, teachers, family members and foster parents. They'll file monthly reports with judges.
Michael Day of Appleton signed on to participate after having served in the Outagamie County Mentoring Program for those in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.
He said he developed an appreciation for the needs of children in difficult situations.
In an idyllic community, a lot of people aren't cognizant the issues exist, or at least of the degree of struggles out there, he said.
"Somebody has to get involved," Day said.
He figured he could be "somebody."
Community support has gone beyond volunteers. The Appleton Fox Cities Kiwanis Club, for instance, provided $2,200 to fund training.
Volunteers will undergo 40 hours of training over six weeks. Judges will be able to rely on those advocates by the new year.
Turner acknowledged he needs run far deeper than what those initial volunteers can meet. She's confident, however, that CASA will grow quickly and more children will gain the support of advocates. It's how the Fox Valley works.
"The generosity and spirit of volunteerism is so great here," she said.