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Carin Deitler, paralegal, and Robert Bernard, attorney, assist a client with the creation of advance directives documents.
Jax Daily Record Monday, Jun. 2, 201412:00 PM EST

Pro bono spotlight: Nassau attorneys, paralegals step up for senior citizens

by: Kathy Para

On May 23, pro bono attorneys and paralegals gathered at the offices of the Nassau Council on Aging in Fernandina Beach to create and execute advance directives documents for 16 local senior citizens.

Some seniors arrived relaxed and jovial. Some arrived anxious and unsure. All received one-to-one assistance and all left the event with fully executed advance directives documents.

All left with reassurance that they had taken the steps necessary to ensure that their trusted friends and family members will be able to advocate for them in times of need.

The Advance Directives for Seniors Pro Bono Project in Nassau County is made possible in part by a grant from the Florida Department of Elder Affairs. The event was a collaboration of Nassau Council on Aging, The Nassau County Bar Association, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and the Northeast Florida Paralegal Association.

Volunteer attorneys included: Jan Carver, Robert Bernard, Kristen Drake, Tammi Bach, and Harvey Slentz. Volunteer paralegals included: Lisa Hunt, Michelle Custer, Barbara Herring, Sophia Davis, Carin Deitler and Courtney Brown.

The event was held in two parts on separate days. On the first day, senior citizens gathered for a group information session at which attorney Jan Carver presented 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.

Seniors who needed the documents were encouraged to make an appointment for the second day of the event. Janice Ancrum, the executive director, and the staff of the Council on Aging, scheduled each of these seniors for individual appointments with the attorneys on the second day.

The Council on Aging was also responsible for promoting the opportunity to area seniors, reserving the meeting space and ensuring that the seniors were prepared for their appointments with their attorneys.

Some of the seniors had lived in Nassau County their entire lives. Some had come later in life due to employment opportunities or to retire.

Ancrum described the effort by saying, “This is such an important and vital service. Senior citizens often feel vulnerable. Their world is changing and it can be the source of great stress and even isolation. By designating their advocates it reminds them that they have people available to help, if needed. We all like to be reminded of that. It can make an unstable and scary world seem a little safer.”

The goal of creating a set of advance directives documents was accomplished, but perhaps more important was the opportunity to provide competent and compassionate service to another. Plans are in the works for two more events this year in Nassau County.

Attorneys and paralegals interested in assisting should contact Kathy Para, member of the Nassau County Bar Association, and chair of The JBA Pro Bono Committee. Para can also provide information on pro bono opportunities throughout the 4th Judicial Circuit, [email protected]

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