HYATTSVILLE, MD – This Veterans Day, CASA/Prince George’s County recognizes Mr. Jerry Thigpen, 75, for his service to the United States of America as well as his dedication and passion for assisting abused and neglected children who have been removed from their homes and placed into foster care.
An Upper Marlboro resident, Thigpen is currently a volunteer for CASA/Prince George’s County, but in years past he was a member of the United States Air Force, having enlisted in 1960. In his time with the Air Force, he defended our nation from various stateside and overseas locations and was awarded various medals, but on reflection, he believes that one of his most gratifying moments was the decision to become a CASA.
CASA volunteers are everyday members of the community doing extraordinary work by choosing to speak up for abused and neglected children in their communities. They are screened and trained, then appointed by the court to advocate for the best interests of a child or sibling group in the foster care system.
Jerry’s most recent CASA assignment (July, 2010) involved a fourteen year old young man with attachment problems, anger management problems and mental health issues. Notwithstanding the challenges, the young man was able to graduate from Bowie High School, attend two semesters at Prince George’s County Community College, complete a Job Corps Program with skills in welding and is currently acquiring skills as a Smart Meter Reader. Although the young man has emancipated from the CASA Program, he is in weekly contact with Jerry.
“After seven years as a proud volunteer, it is very important that I continue to play a part in the collective efforts to make a difference in the lives of our young,” said Thigpen. “Although success was not always the results of my efforts, my affinity for disadvantaged children is a passionate one,” he added.
Ann Marie Binsner, Executive Director for CASA/Prince George’s County concurred, stating that Jerry is committed to ensuring that the young men he serves make the most out of their lives. She believes that commitment stems from his experience in the military, as Jerry is the type of person who gets things done and has high expectations of others. “He has always held himself, the young men and those in their lives accountable for their actions and promises,” she added.
To those who have the capacity to volunteer, Thigpen poses the question: “How many of you reading this have made a visit to your local county court system? If you have, did it bother you to see the many young men and women going before a judge to receive a fast-track ticket to our correctional system? If you have not observed that sad recital, I implore you to do so and by doing so I am convinced that you will be motivated to help make a change for the disadvantaged.”
CASA/Prince George’s County is actively seeking dedicated men and women who care about children to volunteer. Male volunteers of color are especially needed: currently, only 10 percent of CASA/Prince George’s County CASA volunteers are male, while 50 percent of the youth it serves are male and often lack a positive male role model in their lives.
Volunteers must be 21 or older, submit an application and complete phone and in-person interviews prior to training. To learn more about being a CASA/Prince George’s volunteer, call (301) 209-0491 or visit www.pgcasa.org for an application.
About CASA/Prince George’s County
Founded in 2001, CASA of Prince George’s County is one of 15 local CASA programs throughout the state, working to ensure every victim of child abuse and neglect the right to grow up in safe and permanent homes. This mission is carried out through the efforts of professionally-trained volunteers, appointed by the court to speak up for the best interests of children who are under the protection of the courts. Currently, CASA programs serve children in 21 of the state’s 24 jurisdictions. For more information, visit www.pgcasa.org.
About Jerry Thigpen
Jerry Thigpen was born 29 September 1941 in Crystal Springs, Mississippi. After dropping out of high school in 1958, he completed study for and received a high school equivalency certificate from the state of Mississippi in 1963 after joining the Air Force. He received an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science for Material Management from the Community College of the Air Force in 1985. He completed the USAFE Noncommissioned Officers Academy in 1976 and completed the Air Force Senior Noncommissioned Officers Academy in 1981; he graduated Cum Laude from Strayer University in 1997 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration.
He entered the Air Force in 1960 via Lackland Airforce Base (AFB), Texas. He attended the Supply Technical School at Amarillo AFB, Texas and was assigned to Forbes AFB, Kansas for his first permanent duty assignment. Jerry’s last duty assignment was at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, with the 1776 Supply Squadron where he served as the Chief Enlisted Manager of the 1776 Supply Squadron and Chairperson of the Top 4 Council. He also served as the President of the Andrew’s Chief Group.
Thigpen’s military awards and decorations include the Bronze Star; Meritorious Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters; Air Force Commendation Medal; Distinguished-Presidential Unit Citation; Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with One Oak Leaf Cluster; Air Force Longevity Service Award Ribbon with One Silver and One Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster, to name a few. He was promoted to Chief Master Sergeant on December 1, 1983 and retired from the Air force in December 1988.
Thigpen went on to join the United States Secret Service in April 1989 where during his tenure he served as a Property Management Specialist, Deputy Chief of the Property Management Branch, Chief of the Facilities Management Branch, and Deputy Chief, Administrative Operations Division (GS-15). He retired October 31, 2006, as the Deputy Chief of the Administrative Operations Division, Office of Administration, United States Secret Service.
Jerry is married to the former Mary Catherine Veronica Rafferty of Cork, Ireland; they have one daughter, Léola Simoné.