Meet the CASA Staff

Emily Heglund was named the Executive Director in July 2016. Born in Palestine and raised in Athens, Emily attended college in Fort Worth. After graduation in 2005, she moved to coastal Georgia to take a job in newspapers. She spent nearly 10 years working as a journalist and in 2012 started volunteering with CASA as a board member. She later served as a CASA advocate and a foster parent. Emily became so passionate about CASA and the children it serves that she decided to make a career change, and she joined CASA of Trinity Valley in November 2015 as Resource Development Officer. She is thrilled and humbled at the opportunity to serve as Executive Director and thankful for the support of her husband and daughter. Emily can be contacted at


Vickie Sussen has been with CASA since 1995, when she went through the first volunteer training class.  She was then hired as a part-time Casework Supervisor in 1996.  She was promoted to Program Director due to her skills in working with volunteers, helping them sharpen their skills in advocating for children, facilitating them through the foster care system. To contact Vickie, email her at




Keith Loper is a full-time Casework Supervisor in Henderson County and a former rodeo announcer. Keith has advocated for children throughout his career. He came to CASA in June 2012 and has since dedicated himself to serving the children of Henderson County and the volunteers that directly serve them. Keith can be contacted at





Penny LaPlant is a full-time Casework Supervisor in Henderson County. Penny has a background in estimating, sales order coordinating and internal auditing. She has completed training in Trauma Through the Lens of Development, Trauma Informed Care and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder as well as PRIDE parenting classes.  After a 6 ½ year respite to care for her three granddaughters, Penny decided to restart her career and joined the CASA team aspiring to give back to the community in which she lives. She can be contacted at




Jan Jones is a part-time Casework Supervisor in Henderson County. Jan joined CASA as a volunteer in 2007. She previously volunteered in several child mentoring programs in the Athens area and felt led to join CASA to support a more long-term positive impact for children in need. Jan previously worked for a local telecommunications provider. Jan and her husband, Larry, live in Henderson County and have two children and seven grandchildren. She can be contacted at




Kim Johnson - Kim Johnson is a full-time Casework Supervisor in Henderson County, where she married and raised her family.   Kim has been with CASA for 22 years, alternating between volunteer status and staff.  Her commitment to supporting our stellar volunteers, and fierce advocacy for abused and neglected children runs deep.  Kim lives with her husband of 35 years, Steve, plus one dog, one cat, and three horses.  They have two children and four grandchildren. Contact Kim at




Angela Hinojosa joined CASA in November 2017 as the Office & Events Manager.  Angela and her husband moved to Athens in 2011, put down roots and never want to move again!  They have 2 dogs and 4 cats (depending on whether they've brought in another stray) and are reformed city slickers from Houston.  Angela is interested in all things crafty and a firm believer in the sentiment that "more is more!".  She always has at least 2 or 3 projects going at any time and has a tendency to embellish anything she deems "too plain."  Angela’s concern for fosters (children and animals alike) drew her to CASA, where she is excited to be part of making a difference in the lives of children in need.  She can be contacted at



Ellen Torres is a Volunteer Recruiter/Trainer working primarily in Anderson and Cherokee counties. She has multiple degrees in education, human services counseling and educational administration and became a CASA advocate in 2014.  Ellen recruits and trains new advocates for CASA of Trinity Valley, tirelessly working with volunteers to ensure they are prepared and confident in their role as child advocates.  Even after training is complete, Ellen remains a fantastic resource and support for our volunteers.  She can be reached at




Lee McCain Brown is a part-time Casework Supervisor in Anderson County. She was raised in Palestine and married her high school sweetheart. They have one child and the most precious granddaughter ever! Lee retired from teaching and counseling after 32 years in Texas public schools.  Lee is a beloved member of her community and has touched the lives of many through her work.  She was a member of the CASA board of directors before becoming a Casework Supervisor several years ago. Lee can be contacted at




Donna Parks is a full-time Casework Supervisor in Cherokee County. After working in the criminal justice system for about 16 years and working as a drug and alcohol counselor for 23 years, she decided she needed a change. Donna moved back to Jacksonville in 2016 and applied to work with CASA. She is excited to be working in the community where she was born and raised and to be able to help the children and volunteers in Cherokee County. Donna can be contacted at




Donna Crockett is a part-time Casework Supervisor in Anderson County.  She is the mother of two amazing teenage boys who keep her on her toes, along with their 2 dogs and a cat. Donna and her fiancé have lived on a cattle ranch near Maydelle for the past 3 years.  When she isn’t working cows or going to the sale barn, her hobbies include reading, fishing and just being outdoors. Donna has been a volunteer for CASA of Trinity Valley in Cherokee County and is excited to join the staff in Anderson County. She is looking forward to working with all of the volunteers who give of themselves so freely to the children we serve.  Donna can be reached at