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Kari Viola-Brooke

Featured Article

Hometown Heroes

Do you know someone who has done something amazing in the community? Nominate them by emailing

Andran Brooks

Retired Army Veteran, Adoptive Mom

“I am a 24-year retired Army veteran. While serving, I participated in numerous efforts here in our homeland and abroad,” says Andran. “I have two adult daughters and three adult grandchildren.”

“I initially chose to go into foster care because I felt it was my way to give back to my community,” she explains. “When I was approached about possibly adopting, the Counselor said three kids.  THREE KIDS! Of course, I contemplated because of my age at the time… I didn't know what kind of parent I would be. So, I decided to give it a go. After spending time with the sibling group and experiencing the enjoyment, love, and happiness that was formed, I chose to adopt. I am 62 years old with three young children. They are three beautiful kids, and all three have special needs. I love them, I enjoy them, and they are a blessing in my life.”

Jill Marier

Mad Hatter Farm

Mad Hatter Farm is a 501 (c)3 animal rescue that started as two parents wanting to bring some joy to their kids and help horses in need. Francois and Jill Marier are foster parents to medically fragile and special needs kids and they originally rescued a horse for their kids to take care of. After rescuing the first horse, they noticed the need there was for horse and farm animal rescues. 

     In honor of their daughter Cassie, who passed away in July of 2022, Francois and Jill decided to open Cassie’s Care Farm. “We’re working to make it handicap accessible so that kids like Cassie can take part in it. Basically, they get to come and visit whenever they want to during open hours,” says Jill. 

     Cassie’s Care Farm is expected to open later this month. If you would like to volunteer at Mad Hatter Farm, follow their page on Facebook where you can also read updates about animals they are caring for.

Rebecca Van Loenen

Augusta Locally Grown

Thirteen years ago, Augusta Locally Grown started as an online farmers market with two women owned farms. Now, they have over sixty predominantly women owned farms, an online farmers market, three in-person farmers markets, and multiple wellness programs. “We accept EBT dollars to make it affordable for everyone and we also have a lot of educational programs that go on to connect the community to local agriculture,” says Rebecca Van Loenen, Executive Director of Augusta Locally Grown.

     “Every year, we take a group of participants who have diet related diseases. It’s a six month program with monthly clinic visits where your biometrics are taken and you have a one-on-one consultation with a dietitian,” says Rebecca. Participants are given a personalized meal plan and leave the appointment with a dollar amount to purchase healthy foods for them and their family. 

For more information or to volunteer with Augusta Locally Grown, please visit You can find Augusta Locally Grown on Facebook and Instagram at @augustalocallygrown.

Kari Viola-Brooke, Executive Director

Child Enrichment

“Since 1978, our mission has been to provide a voice and a path forward for children who have experienced abuse and neglect. We do this through two programs,” explains Kari. “Our CASA program, Court Appointed Special Advocates, where we recruit and train community volunteers to advocate for children in foster care. Children paired with a CASA volunteer, who is a dedicated advocate, will spend half as long as they normally would in foster care and reach permanency quicker. We also have our Child Advocacy Center where we do forensic interviews. When there is an allegation of abuse, whether that's sexual abuse, physical abuse, witness to violent crime, or child sex trafficking, we are the ones who interview the children.”

As a nonprofit organization, Child Enrichment relies on community support and offers several different ways for community involvement. These options include becoming a CASA volunteer, seeking education by completing one of the center’s free trainings on how to recognize signs of abuse and how to understand how adverse childhood experiences impact kids and adults, and donating money or supplies.

For more information, visit

  • Andran Brooks
  • Mad Hatter Farm
  • Rebecca Van Loenen
  • Kari Viola-Brooke