Interview by Abernathy Cochran intern Grace Slayton
Meet Janet Walden! Janet Walden is the current Executive Director for Hall-Dawson CASA. She was born and raised in Ohio. She is married to John, and the couple has two daughters.
“I have an empty picture frame on my wall, and what I say CASA does, is it makes sure every child has their picture on somebody’s refrigerator. Every kid is one caring adult away from a success.”
We want to thank Janet for spending time with us recently and telling us more about her life and love of Hall County.
Question: What inspired or led you to your current career?
Answer: “Family, I think. I came from a large family, I had five brothers and sisters, and my parents have 25 grandkids. We grew up on a farm, and family was always around. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we were always surrounded by love. The work we do, we intercept when families break down, and when families are broken, so for me I just really want every child to have the good life that I had. To be surrounded, to know that they are loved, and that they matter. To know that they are worthy.”
Q: How long have you lived or worked in Hall County?
A: “I’ve lived and worked in Hall County for about two years. I was the director of the CASA program in Forsyth County for six and a half years, and when Connie Stephens retired, I moved over here. My husband, John, works at the hospital. So, when we were in Forsyth County, he was commuting. When we moved here, he now loves the commute.”
Q: What is something unique about Hall County?
A: “We love the small town feel, even though, population wise, Forsyth and Hall aren’t that much different in numbers. We love the square, the community events, and the friendliness of people. It’s just really easy to dive into this community and feel like you’re apart of it.”
Q: What is something special about CASA that you really want people to know?
A: “I’ve been in volunteer management for about eighteen years, and what I typically tell people about CASA is that there is nothing like a CASA volunteer. What we ask these volunteers to do is to step into the midst of a really chaotic time in a families life, probably their rock bottom, and walk with them to help them get where they need to be. It is a difficult task to ask somebody to do, and it’s a beautiful thing when it works.
“I have an empty picture frame on my wall, and what I say CASA does, is it makes sure every child has their picture on somebody’s refrigerator. Every kid is one caring adult away from a success. That’s what we’re looking for. We need volunteers that are willing to step in a say that they can make a difference for a child, and let us help them in doing that. It’s important work.
“We also collect gently used clothing and offer it to the foster parents and the relatives, you know sometimes grandparents are raising their grandkids. Toys are needed, too. We often get a lot at Christmas, so that we can hopefully have enough throughout the year. But we really need them right around October.”
Q: Who’s the most interesting person you’ve met in Hall County?
A: “Being new to the area, one of the things that we did- this probably isn’t going to answer your question- we ate our way through Gainesville. Every Friday night, we would put all of the restaurants that we saw along the roads in a basket, and we drew which restaurant we would go to for date night. We always met interesting people that way. I don’t know if one stands out, because we just enjoy meeting people, and getting to know the community. I was in Leadership Hall County, that was another way to meet incredible people.”
Q: What’s your favorite restaurant in Hall County?
A: “There’s lots! I love Atlas Pizza. I love Yellowfin. Those are probably my two favorites.”
Q: What advice would you give a crowd of people?
A: “I think the advice I would give anyone, from my kids to coworkers to adults, is to always have integrity in what you do, and follow your passion. I think those two core values will take you where you need to go.”
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would you go? And why?
A: “Today, I would want to have my toes in the sand somewhere. Just because it’s been a cold few weeks, and I grew up in Ohio, so the cold shouldn’t bother me.”
Q: What is something on your bucket list?
A: “I’m not sure what’s on my bucket list. I don’t really do that, because everyday I try to do something new, or learn something new. I would love to just travel from here to the West Coast, driving, stopping, and meandering. I love to stop and act like I’m a local.”
Q: What current local business represent Hall County to you?
A: “Any of the businesses on the square, I just love that most of them are not chain restaurants or chain stores. I love Rahab’s Rope, and Purchase Effect, because they have a mission behind what they’re doing. That’s kind of what we do. I am also drawn to the companies that support the work that we do.”
Q: Choosing anyone alive and non-relative: with whom would you love to have lunch with? Why? Where in Hall County would you take them?
A: “My seventh grade teacher, Mrs. Martin. She was most influential in my educational life, teaching me to cast my fishing line out and hook the big dreams. And reel them back into reality. I would love for her to hear my gratitude for her as she took this shy kid who didn’t always think the same her peers and gave me an appreciation for the differences and the confidence I needed to succeed. And I would take her to Avocados.”
Q: What three bands would you like to see (dead or alive)?
A: “Now you’re going to age me. I would love to see Chris Stapleton. I would love to see Jackson Brown. I would love to see James Taylor again, or Elton John.”
Q: Where do you see yourself in five to 10 years?
A: “Oh, so this puts pressure on my kids. They don’t have kids yet, but in five to 10 years I’m hoping I’m a grandma. That’s what I see. For me it’s all about family. We have two daughters, one lives in Acworth and just celebrated their first wedding anniversary, and I have one in Marietta.”
Q: What is something that most people don’t know about you?
A: “When I was growing up I really thought that I was going to be the statistician for the Cincinnati Reds. I grew up outside of Cincinnati and was huge baseball fan. I would keep score on a notepad during the games, and I just knew that that was what I was going to do. I love math, but most people know that here. I am kind of a math geek. I tutor, well I haven’t for a while.”
Q: What three words or phrases come to mind when you think of the word “Home?”
A: “Home is a really important word for me. Home for me is faith. It’s family. It’s love.”
The Faces of Hall County is a project to showcase the amazing people that live or work in our community. If you would like to nominate an interesting person to be featured please email email@example.com.