Heather Upton, CASA Executive Director
Heather was born and raised in Hillsdale, MI but spent 14 years in Kansas working for the federal government as an administrative assistant for the military housing office on Ft. Riley. While in Kansas she was a CASA volunteer from 2013-2015. She decided to become a CASA after having a personal situation that involved one and she saw the true importance that they make.
In 2015, Heather moved from Kansas back to her hometown of Hillsdale. She worked for the VA in Battle Creek as a program support assistant for the homeless veteran's program. After about 6 months she left the federal government to work as the building secretary at Davis Middle School. There she met a board member for the CASA program and after 2 years at the school, she accepted the position of the CASA volunteer coordinator and then became the executive director in 2018. There was some realignment of the program, and the ED position was made the only position in the program, so Heather is in charge of every aspect of running the CASA program. Her duties include recruiting new volunteers, training them and retaining them. Case management including assigning cases and case monitoring, reviewing and submitting the volunteers court reports and attending court hearings. She is also in charge of marketing, social media and website information, financials and fundraising, policies & procedures, program management and community outreach. Heather has a bachelor's degree in Family Studies & Human Services from Kansas State University.
Heather is a member of the Hillsdale County Human Services Network since 2017, Family Treatment Court since 2018, the Jonesville Chapter of 100 Women Who Care since 2018, Hillsdale Exchange Club since 2022, and Great Start Collaborative since 2023. She also volunteers for Hillsdale County Hospice's Camp Courage, a grief camp for children who have experienced the death of a loved one.
Working for the CASA program has been a dream come true for Heather. She has been able to grow the program a lot and has so many ideas for the future of the program.
Heather is married to her husband Nathan and has one daughter, Rachel. She also has one dog, Suri and 3 cats, Charlie, Scarlet, and Feron. Heather is an animal lover, passionate about victim advocacy, loves to watch true crime documentaries, spending time with her friends and family, and listening to 90's music.
Hillsdale CASA Board of Directors
Pictured L-R: Shannan Clevenger, Nichole Ellis, Jessica Bradley, Amber Gibbs, Sue Caulkins, Sharon Turnbull, Gale Fix, & Tim Haylett. (Not pictured, Norris March)
Hillsdale CASA Board of Directors
Tim Haylett, Board President (2017)
(Tim Haylett, LLC)
Gale Fix, Vice President (2022)
(Jonesville Walmart, Store Manager)
Sue Caulkins, Treasurer (2023)
Shannan Clevenger, Secretary (2021)
(Lifeways Community Mental Health, Chief Operating Officer)
Sharon Turnbull, Member (2018)
(Camden Frontier School, Counselor)
Nichole Ellis, Member (2021)
(Pediatric Place, Pediatrician)
Jessica Bradley, Member (2022)
(DHHS, Adult Protective Services, Case Worker)
Norris March, Member Since 2022
(Hillsdale Surgical Group, General Surgeon)
Heather Upton, CASA Executive Director, and Hon. Judge Michelle A. Bianchi, pictured in the fall 2022 edition of Michigan Parent Magazine.
Hon. Judge Michelle A. Bianchi Probate & Family Court Judge
Judge Bianchi has been the Probate & Family Court Judge since 2014. Prior to taking the bench, she was an attorney, practicing family law for 25 years.
Judge Bianchi is a huge supporter of CASA. Community members came to her while she was running for Probate Judge with the hope of bringing the CASA program to Hillsdale County. After educating her on CASA, she used it as part of her platform while running for judge. When she won the seat, she brought the program to Hillsdale County.
"CASA volunteers do the deep dive into these cases. They build a relationship with these kids, the advocate for their best interest. And they do this for no monetary gain. They do this out of the goodness of their heart."
Kelly Gelzer, Judicial Assistant to Hon. Judge Bianchi
Kelly was born and raised in Wallingford, CT. She moved to Hillsdale in 2017. She has been married to her husband Drew since 2017. She began working at the courthouse in 2019. Kelly has a range of duties including being a certified court reporter. Heather works closely with Kelly and Judge Bianchi to identify the cases that need a CASA the most.
"My favorite part of CASA is how they include in their court report, what the child's wishes are. So that the court knows, no matter what, what they want."