Volunteer Guardian Program: Change a Life Today

Submitted by JJ. Mesko-Kimmich, M.Ed., LPC
Director of Volunteers – Volunteer Guardian Program of Jewish Family Service

Have you ever wanted to positively change a life, but didn’t know how? Have you thought about making a contribution of your time, but didn’t know where? The answer to both of these questions is the Volunteer Guardian Program of Summit County. We all value our independence and ability to make decisions for ourselves. However, if a person cannot make these choices, the Probate Court will appoint, train and monitor a Guardian to serve as an advocate and surrogate decision maker. Through the vision of Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer, the Volunteer Guardian Program matches a passionate volunteer with a person under guardianship and residing in a Summit County nursing home or group home that has no one.

Volunteers must be twenty-one years of age with a valid driver’s license and must pass a background check paid for by the Volunteer Guardian Program. Only in our second year, the impact has been amazing. I am truly surrounded by the best people I have ever met in my life. What makes them unique? Passion! The volunteers come from a variety of different backgrounds and almost 60% are working full time. They have 1-2 hours a month to call or visit someone and make sure their needs are being met.

To answer a big question, is this a legal guardian? The answer is yes, you would serve as Guardian of the Person only. As Guardian, your primary focus is to provide support through companionship and assistance if there are medical or placement decisions. To prepare you for this role, we give you initial training, ongoing program support, optional quarterly education events and the support of our Coordinated Care Team (CCT).

How are you matched? During the interview process, we explore the options with you to find the best match for you. We ask for a one year commitment. Ideally, you would assist this person throughout their case, but we can appoint a successor guardian if your life changes and you are unable to serve. Volunteers are in great demand and the initial trainings are scheduled one-on-one at your convenience. Due to our aging population, the need for trained guardians grows every year. How can you help? Please call me today to learn more about becoming a volunteer Guardian and become part of our impressive volunteer team. If you want to see the wonderful things we are doing, like us on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/VolunteerGuardianJFSAkron or learn more at www.jfsakron.org/volunteer-guardian.

The true heart of the program is when the volunteer guardians meet their match for the first time. I am quite often brought to tears. Judge Stormer says, “Sadly, many people do not have anyone to help them. Many of our best guardians are volunteers. Please consider becoming a Volunteer Guardian.”

Every day, I am inspired by how caring, compassionate and giving our community really is. The only thing missing in this story… is you.

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