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. 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 of 2017 as the Office Manager and Event Coordinator.  She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1998.  Angela is passionate about animal rights and has acted as a foster and caretaker for local rescues since her move to Athens in 2011. Angela and her husband have 2 dogs and 4 cats and have converted part of their home into an arcade.  Angela’s enthusiasm for activism is what drew her to CASA, where she is excited to be part of making a difference in the lives of the children served by CASA.  She can be contacted at



Ellen Torres is a Full-Time 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. In addition to working in resource development, Ellen will also be training new advocates for CASA of Trinity Valley. She can be reached at



Lee McCain Brown is a full-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. She was a member of the CASA board of directors before becoming a Casework Supervisor about five 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 in which she lives and was raised and to be able to help the children and volunteers in Cherokee County. Donna can be contacted at



Yolanda Muhammad is a part-time Casework Supervisor in Cherokee County. Yolanda spent 26 years in 911 Emergency Communications and 15 years as a foster parent. She has now decided to use her experiences and skills to benefit CASA. Yolanda can be reached at




Kristi Pickard has been married to her husband, JJ, for 11 years.  Together they have 3 amazing kids (ages 17 to 21), 1 not-at-all spoiled grandson, and 3 Yorkies. They reside in Neches, where she and her husband are both on the volunteer fire department and he is the new fire chief! Kristi began with CASA as a volunteer in Anderson County in October 2017.  She has a love for children and a passion for helping those in need. Kristi is excited to have the opportunity to combine that love and passion into a career as the full time CASA Casework Supervisor for Anderson County. Kristi can be reached at


Donna Crockett is our newest 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, TX 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 for almost a year now and is super 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