Pro bono spotlight: Advance directives matter to area seniors

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  • | 12:00 p.m. April 18, 2016
Law Student, Nick Boyle and attorney, Lisa Dasher, assist senior citizens at Jacksonville Townhouse.
Law Student, Nick Boyle and attorney, Lisa Dasher, assist senior citizens at Jacksonville Townhouse.
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Pro bono attorneys, paralegals and law students in the 4th Judicial Circuit continue to join forces to help ensure senior citizens have the support of people they trust as they manage their health, housing and financial matters.

Recently, teams of volunteers assisted senior citizens by creating advance directives documents at Jacksonville Townhouse and Riverside Presbyterian House, two HUD-subsidized residential centers.

The Advance Directives for Seniors projects are presented in three segments.

In the first segment, a pro bono attorney speaks in a group session at the residential facility. For the events at Jacksonville Townhouse and Riverside Presbyterian House, Debbie Lee-Clark and Pat Vail were the presenting attorneys.

Senior citizens gathered to hear about the purposes of each advance directive document: durable power of attorney, designation of health care surrogate, designation of pre-need guardian and living will.

Seniors who were interested in getting the documents created worked with Brian Swanner, service coordinator at Jacksonville Townhouse, to schedule a time to meet with an attorney.

Seniors at Riverside Presbyterian House scheduled appointments with Service Coordinator Kathy Rhoden to meet with attorneys.

Document creation at a single event is the second segment of the project. At the two locations, 24 senior citizens completed advance directives.

The third segment of the project provides assistance for seniors who were not able to attend the group event but indicated they would like to have the service.

The following attorneys provided free legal counsel at the events: Lisa Dasher, Drew Krieger, Elizabeth Teelon, Leslie Wickes, Kimberly Jones, Belkis Plata, Jim Dixon and Shannon Schott.

Florida Coastal School of Law students who also assisted were: Lolita Burts, Elizabeth White, Nick Boyle, Matthew Brost, Darren Foster, Neileen Shoemaker, Victor Nazario, Willishia Plant, Chantol Edwards, Suzanne Love, Stephanie Feldman and Samantha Swain.

Before the conclusion of each event, all documents are notarized and scanned for archiving in the Jacksonville Area Legal Aid case management system.

The seniors left their appointments with fully executed advance directives and clear instructions on how and to whom to dispense their copies.

“Please send my thanks to all those who participated in the advance directives event. The residents said that all of you were extremely helpful,” Swanner said.

“Above all they felt very comfortable with the process. What can be a stressful experience was very pleasant. We are grateful for JALA and the other associations’ hard work and selfless dedication for serving seniors and low income individuals in our community,” he said.

Sincere appreciation is extended to the volunteer teams for stepping up for senior citizens who would not otherwise have access to legal assistance.

The Advance Directives for Seniors Pro Bono Project is in its fifth year of service. Seniors who live in Northeast Florida are provided valuable legal assistance at HUD residential centers, medical clinics and Council on Aging campuses.

Attorneys interested in pro bono opportunities in the 4th Judicial Circuit should contact Para at [email protected].