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Pro bono attorney Sally Anne Brown assists a client with her advance directives.

Pro bono spotlight: Advance directives created for seniors

By Kathy Para, The JBA Pro Bono Committee Chair

On July 26, pro bono attorneys and paralegals gathered at Riverside Park Apartments to create and execute advance directives documents for area seniors.

The Advance Directives for Seniors Pro Bono Project is a quarterly event that provides many area senior citizens with the opportunity to create important legal documents free of charge. The project is a collaboration of Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Florida Coastal School of Law, The Jacksonville Bar Association and the Northeast Florida Paralegal Association.

Each event is special because each senior brings a lifetime of stories and experiences.

One might be a former activist for the United Auto Workers. Another might be a veteran whose parents were foreign born. Another, recovering from life-threatening health matters, is the first to arrive and pitch in to complete the set-up of the event.

Each brings a passion for life and sincere gratitude for the services provided by the pro bono team.

The quarterly events are held in two parts on separate days.

On the first day, seniors gather for a session at which a pro bono attorney presents information on the purposes of each of these important life-planning documents: Durable power of attorney, designation of health care surrogate, designation of pre-need guardian and a living will.

Mike Jorgensen presented the group information session prior to the document creation day. Residents who need the documents are encouraged to make an appointment for the second day of the event.

The service coordinator for the Riverside Park Apartments, Mari Heron, scheduled each resident for an appointment with the attorneys on the second day.

She also was responsible for publicity of the service to the residents, reserving the meeting space and ensuring residents were prepared for their appointments with their attorneys.

Heron assisted on the day of the event adjusting appointment times, ensuring that residents were prepared and helping with facility details. On July 26, the team assisted nine residents.

“We’re all so grateful. You not only brighten our day, you also provide our seniors with legal assistance, assurance and peace of mind,” said Heron.

The goal of creating a set of advance directives documents was accomplished. More importantly, attorneys, paralegals and seniors encouraged and inspired each other with their stories, with their service and with their presence.

Attorneys Debbie Lee-Clark, Bruce Duggar, Cyndy Trimmer, Sally Anne Brown, Rachael Ardanuy and Barbara McGriff provided the legal counsel. Paralegals Donna Hoffman, Margaret Costa and Connie Schoenung drafted and notarized documents and scanned executed documents for archiving in the Jacksonville Area Legal Aid case management system.

The quarterly events are made possible in part by support from Mike Jorgensen, Esquire, and the firm of Senior Counsel Law; Vicki Joiner Bowers, P.A.; Robert M. Morgan and Associates; the Law Office of Imani Boykin, P.A.; Margaret Costa; the Florida Department of Elder Affairs; and the General Practice, Solo, and Small Firm Section of The Florida Bar.

There is one more Advance Directives for Seniors event scheduled in Duval County in 2014: Oct. 25 at Pablo Towers. There are two events scheduled in Nassau County on Aug. 22 and on Nov. 21 at the Council on Aging.

Attorneys interested in these and other pro bono opportunities throughout the Fourth Judicial Circuit are encouraged to contact Kathy Para, chair, The JBA Pro Bono Committee by emailing kathy.para@jaxlegalaid.org.

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