Pro bono spotlight: Another successful event to help seniors

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  • | 12:00 p.m. May 5, 2014
Pro bono volunteers Cecil Grant Jr (standing), Bruce Duggar (third from left), Rita Geer and Ashley Nelson assist seniors with preparation of advance directives documents.
Pro bono volunteers Cecil Grant Jr (standing), Bruce Duggar (third from left), Rita Geer and Ashley Nelson assist seniors with preparation of advance directives documents.
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The location was Riverside Presbyterian House, a local HUD-subsidized senior citizen residential facility.

On April 26, pro bono attorneys and paralegals gathered with a single purpose — to create and execute advance directives documents for area seniors.

The facility was experiencing a power outage as the volunteers arrived, but as an alternate plan was being discussed, JEA restored the power and the event was delayed only slightly.

The Advance Directives for Seniors Pro Bono Project is a quarterly event that provides many seniors 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.

The quarterly events are held in two parts on separate days. On the first day, senior citizens gather for a group session as a pro bono attorney presents information on the purposes of 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 this group information session before the document creation day. Residents who need the documents are encouraged to make an appointment for the second day of the event.

Kathy Rhoden, the service coordinator for the Riverside Presbyterian House, scheduled individual appointments with the attorneys for each resident 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 the attorneys.

Rhoden also assisted the day of the event adjusting appointment times, ensuring residents were prepared and helping with facility details. On April 26, the team assisted 16 residents.

These attorneys provided the legal counsel: Rusty Mead, Debbie Lee-Clark, Bruce Duggar, Cyndy Trimmer, Krista Parry, and Ashley Nelson.

These paralegals drafted documents and helped residents check in:  Visalakshi Ramachandran, Cecil Grant Jr., Donna Hoffman, Margaret Costa, Connie Schoenung, Linda Murphy and Rita Agnew Geer.

The residents ranged in age from 63-94. Without exception, the residents were patient with the power outage and very appreciative of the service provided by the volunteers.

“I have heard nothing but praises and thanksgiving about the day and all that was done,” Rhoden said. “You take all the fear and anxiety away from something that is hard to deal with.”

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.

The quarterly events are made possible in part by support from Mike Jorgensen 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 are two more Advance Directives for Seniors events scheduled in Duval County in 2014 — July 26 at Riverside Park Apartments and Oct. 25 at Pablo Towers. There also is a May 23 event at the Council on Aging in Nassau County.

Attorneys interested in these and other pro bono opportunities throughout the 4th Judicial Circuit are encouraged to contact Kathy Para, chair of The JBA Pro Bono Committee, [email protected].