“How does she do it? Her dedication in planning activities, acting on behalf of seniors and their entitlements, and organizing programs, consistently bowls me over with amazement.” That’s how one of her nominators described 2009 Women of Achievement Bobbi Casanova.
Bobbi grew up in Europe and eventually settled in Kailua, Hawaii when her father retired from the U.S. Air Force. She came to Vancouver in 1987 with her husband Cas, a native of the Philippines, who was transferred to Portland while serving in the U.S. Coast Guard. He retired after 23 years of service and they chose to remain in Vancouver.
For the past 15 years, Bobbi has played a vital role in the services provided to residents of Southwest Washington through the Human Services Council (HSC).
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As manager of Volunteer Connections (an integrated version of HSC’s Retired & Senior Volunteer Program RSVP and Volunteer Center), Bobbi directs a program that recruits and screens volunteers for more than 200 nonprofit organizations.
Today, under Bobbi’s direction, Volunteer Connections also sponsors an AmeriCorps*VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) program and the Senior Health Insurance Benefit Advisors (SHIBA) Helpline program. The SHIBA Helpline offers no-cost counseling and information to uninsured and under-insured individuals. In addition, she worked with Vancouver’s Parks and Recreation Department to establish a nonprofit coffee shop, Connections Café, in the Firstenburg Community Center. Proceeds benefit Volunteer Connections.
Working with the Clark County District Court officials, Bobbi helped establish the Guardianship Monitoring Program, which detects abuse and neglect of the elderly. She has also played a key role in building the Latino Community Resource Group, which provides outreach, education and community connections including an annual Health Resource Fair at St. John’s Catholic Church. Bobbi has also been involved in establishing a local Prescription Assistance Program, which provides referral services for free prescription medication for low-income individuals. Bobbi was also a key player in building a volunteer cohort to provide transportation to elderly, low-income and disabled individuals.
An active parishioner at St. John’s Catholic Church, Bobbi recently started volunteering at St. Vincent de Paul in Vancouver, which provides assistance to people in need. Her husband Cas works part-time at Fort Vancouver Seafarers Center. The family hosts seafarers in their home several times each year, particularly around the holidays.
With diverse backgrounds and life experiences, Bobbi and Cas most value their family (which includes four children and five grandchildren), friends and freedom. Having lived and traveled extensively, Cas and Bobbi “have experienced firsthand the poverty and limited freedoms people of other countries have.” Bobbi notes, “Although, on the outside, people may look and sound different, we are all part of the human race. Everyone deserves respect and dignity.”
At the Columbia River High School 24-hour Cancer Relay each summer, Bobbi and a team of volunteers sell luminaries to help raise money for cancer research. Bobbi can be seen helping to prepare and staging the dramatic candlelight ceremony, walking the track and encouraging others.
One of her nominators noted that, as a role model, “Bobbi truly leads by example. No task is too menial, no responsibility avoided when the need is clear and others are not responding.” Bobbi says she is motivated by being in a position to help people with needs. “The rewards you get back are tremendous,” she says.
Hanging above Bobbi’s desk, you will find a quote by anthropologist Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Both thoughtful and committed, Bobbi Casanova proves that adage every day.