Twenty-two years after she helped one family stay together, she still remembers.
Anne Pringle battled plenty of self-doubt before she first spoke up for a local youngster and recommended to a court judge that the child remain with his parents while they ironed out personal difficulties — and already had demonstrated changes. That family slowly worked through adversity, and the youngster eventually grew up in a healthy environment.
The case marked the first time Columbus’ Pringle worked as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), a volunteer post with the local Advocates for Children nonprofit agency that safeguards the best interests of children in abuse and neglect court cases. Two years later, she would be hired as the agency’s program director, overseeing such cases with 138 volunteers and also staff case workers.
“It’s not easy work,” Pringle said. “And sometimes it’s difficult being a lone voice (for a child).”
Pringle retires from those efforts — at least part of them, anyway — today, the day before her 62nd birthday. As one who prefers to remain out of the limelight, she hopes to step aside quietly with simply a lunch with her co-workers and hold back the emotion of two decades of memories and service.
“Obviously,” she said in the accent from her Scottish homeland, “I don’t think I can just completely walk away.”
So she once again will serve as a CASA volunteer.
When she began that role soon after she and husband Sam moved to Columbus, she recalled her work as a teacher in Scotland.
“I had seen students in my classes who obviously had a terrible home life,” she said. “But as a high school teacher, there wasn’t always much I could do.”
As a CASA voice and also as program director, meeting with caseworkers and CASAs and troubleshooting their challenges, she could do plenty.
Therese Miller, Advocates for Children’s longtime executive director, remembers one characteristic about Pringle more than any other. And it was a characteristic Miller said she believes Pringle helped others to develop.
“She had the ability to stay laser-focused on a child’s best interest,” Miller said. “And she always was willing to step out of her comfort zone if she knew she needed to challenge the system.”
Pringle laughed about those beyond-the-comfort-zone moments as she reminisced briefly this week. She said she was somewhat unaccustomed to such straightforward boldness. But she mentioned that the CASA training, and with each situation in which she really needed to speak up, she grew as a person — and as one who wanted the best for children.
All this unfolded because she was bored when she arrived in Columbus and could not yet work a paid job because of her visa situation. She read about the work of CASAs in The Republic.
With her staff role ending, Pringle said she will be able to spend more time with her husband and grandchildren. But she will continue to remain an advocate — for her own family’s youngsters, as well as others she has yet to meet.
Age: Will be 62 on Saturday.
Hometown: Glasgow, Scotland.
Role: Program director for 20 years for Columbus’ Advocates For Children, which watches out for children’s best interests through the court systems in cases of abuse and neglect in south-central Indiana. Began as a Court Appointed Special Advocate in 1993.
Family: Husband Sam retired from Cummins, Inc. Two children, Jane Landis of Columbus and Fiona Seal of Chicago. Three grandchildren and one step-grandchild.
Education: Master’s degree in German language and literature from Glasgow University. Master’s degree in education from Hamilton College in Hamilton, Scotland.