St. Petersburg’s Linda Zolper Wins Statewide Award from Guardian ad Litem Program for Advocacy for Children

lillyhallwaylocker4lg[Tallahassee, Florida] – Linda Zolper is making a difference in the lives of children who have been abused, abandoned, and neglected as a Guardian ad Litem Program Volunteer and was recently named the Program’s 2016 Audrey Lincourt Schiebler Volunteer of the Year.

The Guardian ad Litem Program (GAL) advocates for the best interests of children in dependency court, and Linda was selected as one of the “best of the best” from the Program’s 10,000 volunteers.

Since becoming a GAL volunteer in 2013, Linda has demonstrated outstanding advocacy for abused, abandoned, and neglected children both through her work on individual cases and by working for systemic change.

Donna Rasmussen, Sixth Circuit GAL Director said, “It is difficult to highlight all of her accomplishments . . . to get a sense of Linda’s heart for teens.”  Rasmussen recounted the story of a teen whose life was changed due to Linda’s advocacy and commitment. The young man was in his senior year of high school when a court ordered his placement be changed, requiring him to move to a different school. Instead of allowing his education to be disrupted and his senior year ruined, Linda got up every morning to drive him to school, and advocated in court for transportation to be provided until the end of the year.  “The list goes on and on of the time, energy, talent, and devotion that Linda has given to enhance the lives of children, especially teens,” said Rasmussen.

Linda serves as a member of the GAL Foundation of Tampa Bay, Inc. Board of Directors.  She created a GAL Service Club at Shorecrest Preparatory School to educate teens about the GAL Program and conduct recruitment and fundraising activities.  Linda has innovated the search for and support of new GAL volunteers through monthly “meet ups” via social media and online posts.

Alan Abramowitz, Executive Director of the Statewide GAL Office remarked, “A GAL like Linda who is tirelessly advocating for individual children and at the same time working to improve systems in the community to help abused and abandoned children as a group, is someone very special – she is a person whose inspiring leadership and passionate advocacy deserves to be celebrated.”

The GAL Program Volunteer of the Year Award was established in honor of Audrey Lincourt Schiebler who dedicated over 40 years in service as a volunteer children’s advocate. In 1979, Schiebler created and directed the first GAL Program in the state and in securing funding to expand statewide.

The GAL Program advocates for more than 25,000 children each year who have been victims of abuse, abandonment, or neglect. There are nearly 2,400 such children in the Sixth Circuit (Pinellas and Pasco Counties), some of whom must go to court without a volunteer like Linda to give them a voice and serve as their advocate.

To become a volunteer Guardian ad Litem or learn more about the GAL Program visit www.GuardianadLitem.org or call 1-866-341-1GAL. To learn more about helping children go to the Florida Guardian ad Litem Foundation at www.FLGAL.org.

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