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STEPHEN HEMELT — Greater Port Arthur The Magazine is ready for you

Step outside of your comfort zone.

That is the unofficial theme of the latest edition of Greater Port Arthur The Magazine.

Many thanks goes to the women and men featured in the November/December edition.

It always takes a certain amount of courage to turn over your stories — which in many cases are the subjects’ passions. However, it is through that courage that we all learn a little bit more about each other.

That communal sharing makes our world smaller, and by that I mean closer. We’re all served positively when we know the motivations behind the stories that grab our attention.

I’ve been blessed with an active and large family. My childhood was spent at countless family gatherings marking the most special occasions and enjoying simple things that were only special because we did them together.

That’s probably the toughest part for any journalist who moves away from home in search of career and story. It’s why I value those who invite our readers and my coworkers into their lives to share what’s important to them.

It is certainly not a courtesy we ever take for granted.

So with that understanding, it was especially poignant for me to interview Ryan Dollinger for a magazine story about Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).

These are special and dedicated volunteers in Jefferson County who go into the foster homes of abused or neglected children to then turn around and speak for those children in future judicial settings.

CASA volunteers are not paid but are driven by a deep passion to speak for those who might otherwise be voiceless.

Dollinger is a former foster child who benefited from his connection to the CASA program. Today, Ryan helps lead the program’s efforts to recruit more male volunteers and serves as an important Board voice, providing firsthand knowledge as the group continues to do what it can to positively impact those children who might otherwise feel completely forgotten.

“So many people leave foster care and they have no support system, no parents to lean on,” Dollinger said. “The government was our parent.”

Ryan opened my eyes to a world I never considered, challenging me to expand my horizons as my wife and I work to raise our own children.

It is our hope that his story and the rest of the stories shared by local residents in the latest edition of Greater Port Arthur The Magazine do the same.

You can come pick up a complimentary copy of the magazine at The Port Arthur News between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Better yet, call 409-729-6397 about our reasonable rates to receive the next six copies mailed directly to your home.

Stephen Hemelt is publisher of Greater Port Arthur The Magazine and The Port Arthur News. He can be reached at 409-721-2445 or stephen.hemelt@panews.com.