Since he was a bright-eyed Belmont University student, Ernie Reynolds has been working in the landscape and hardscape businesses—first growing a startup in Middle Tennessee into a full-service landscaping company that won multiple awards and completed projects for the likes of Vanderbilt University and Opryland; and most recently, launching Outdoor Classic Structures, a design-build firm with a studio in downtown Franklin that focuses on non-climatized areas and outdoor construction.

He’s spent nearly all of his years in Williamson County, but it wasn’t until three years ago that the native learned of Williamson County CASA (WCCASA) and its vision for the community.

Since he found WCCASA, it seems that Ernie has invested much of his time in the non-profit: as a board member, he helped spearhead the organization’s first CASA Playhouse construction and raffle event.

Several months ago, Ernie made a bold decision: he stepped down from the WCCASA board, and straight into CASA advocate training. He says it was veteran advocate Mark Bellotti who inspired him to make the boots-on-the-ground transition.

“Mark came and spoke to the board one evening, and I was completely inspired. He mentioned that there were only three other male advocates that serve, out of all the volunteers,” he says. “I was motivated by his work. I thought that perhaps my best place was in the field.”

During the month of February, Ernie will join a handful of other volunteers who will spend 35-plus hours in training and court observation. He says he hopes to have an active case by March.

When WCCASA asked Ernie—then a board member—back in July 2013 why he enjoyed his CASA involvement, he drew a straight line to the volunteers.

“It’s really the advocates that inspire me. They are the ones who make it work,” he said seven months ago. “CASA is made up of people wanting to help other people. There’s no glory and very little recognition. It’s just all good people with good intentions.”

That, he said way back when, helped grant him even more gratitude for the organization’s impact on the community. 

“As I learned more about CASA, I have been completely humbled by the passionate service of the advocates,” he said. “I’ve especially enjoyed getting to serve with such a vibrant, diverse set of people in our community and hear their stories.”

Still, it goes back even further than that: when Ernie first joined the WCCASA board, the non-profit went through administrative changes.  The small business owner says it was during that period that he really came to admire the organization’s mission and the volunteers who believe in it.

“It was in that period of staff changes that I realized how truly dedicated our advocates are, and how they absorb this CASA mission,” he said. “They were very involved and helped make their voices heard during a transitional period. They never drifted from the true vision of CASA. 

“That’s where my true appreciation for this organization stems from: the determination of the volunteers to make WCCASA work. They fought for it.”

As for his unique position as an board-member-turned-advocate, Ernie hopes to use his experience make a impact within the organization.

“I certainly hope that I can act as a liaison between the board to advocacy group, but I will do such as I’m asked,” he said. “I do have a unique perspective, and will make CASA a main priority.”

To learn more about our volunteer and advocate opportunities, go here.