A plea for Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers and the upcoming renovation to Lonoke Walmart, highlighted the Jan. 4 Lonoke Chamber of Commerce meeting.

Delyce Palik, executive director of Grand Prairie CASA spoke to Chamber members about the CASA program and its impact on children in Lonoke County.

Thanks to the out-pour of love and gifts this holiday season Lonoke County, Palik said 135 children had presents at Christmas.

“This year, as in years past, was just simply amazing,” Palik said.

Palik the asked Chamber members to think about “What is Next?” for the upcoming year.

The children the CASA program represent are either abused, neglected or abandoned, Palik said. With everything happening in their lives, Palik said CASA volunteers are the one stable thing in their lives and the one person the children can depend on. She said of the 145 children enrolled, 105 of those children come from Lonoke County. Unfortunately with the lack of volunteers to service these children, some go without an advocate.

“Help,” Palik said. “Up until a year and half ago, there was no question we would serve on ever case that came through, and that’s not been the case. As a director, that’s hard. How do you make a decision on which child doesn’t get somebody on their side. It’s tough. It’s very tough.”

Palik also spoke directly to the men in the room, saying there are currently 30 children not being served.. She said many are 17 year old males that need a male figure to talk to.

“Giving of your time is crucial,” Palik said.

According to Palik, the max an advocate would volunteer is 15-20 hours per month. There are no education requirements. Training begins Jan. 16

“30 hours of training is the hardest part,” Palik said. “All you need is a heart and commitment to say with them.”

Child advocates stay with their assigned child until they are released from the program.

“Imagine what you can do,” Palik said

More information about the CASA program can be found at www.grandprairiecasa.org.

In other business, Lonoke Walmart store manager Carl Morris spoke to members about the upcoming store remodel. According to Morris, renovations will begin Feb. 6 and are scheduled to be completed the last week of March. He said the renovation will not be extremely major, as it will be painting and upgrades to brighten up the store. The $1.3 million project will include $460,000 in new fixtures and $9,000 in new signage.

Morris said little to no change in product locations are expected, so patrons will be able to navigate the store with the same ease.

“It will be very user friendly,” Morris said.

In addition, Morris said the store will be adding back gun sales as well as big renovations to the photo lab and bakery.

With the renovations soon to be underway, Lonoke Walmart is looking to hire 58 people temporarily to assist with the remodel project. Remodel associates will be hired for all shifts to move and stock shelves, unload trucks and assist customers find items they need. To apply, go to www.applyatwalmart.com

The next Lonoke Chamber of Commerce meeting will be noon Feb. 1 at the depot. Lunch will be $10.