CAPA's Cato honored for dedication to local families

Susan Cato recently received two nods for her service to children and families of Beaufort County.

Cato was named the Kidsville News! Lowcountry All Star and the S.C. House of Representatives passed a resolution last month honoring her for her 25 years of dedication as executive director of the Child Abuse Prevention Association's Open Arms Shelter for Abused and Neglected Children in Beaufort.

"Susan has literally done it all -- from running hot lines to recruiting volunteers to fundraising," said Gloria Duryea, CAPA's community relations coordinator. Cato opened CAPA's Closet thrift store in 1996. Duryea said Cato, the mother of three and grandmother of two, also has taught children and adults in parenting programs.

Kidsville News!, a monthly educational supplement for kids and parents, honored Cato "for being such a positive influence on the community and for all her hard work and accomplishments in regards to CAPA and the Open Arms Shelter," said Andrew Taylor, publisher of Kidsville News! "We were looking for a person who would truly exemplify the definition of the word 'role model.' "

Cato credits volunteers and employees for the organization's success.

"I've got a whole team of people behind me," Cato said. "There is a good need for CAPA, and that is my passion. I want to make sure there is no one in the community who needs help that doesn't get intervention."

Breaking the cycle of child abuse is Cato's way of paying it forward.

"If you have lived (through child abuse), you have to make a conscious decision to make a change and it is not always easy," Cato said.

Cato said six children have died from child abuse-related incidents in Beaufort County in the past two years. At the same time, she said CAPA has been affected by state budget cuts and lost employees.

"2010 was the toughest year I've ever experienced in my career and receiving the award was affirming, very encouraging and humbling," Cato said.