By Missy Davenport, JBA Pro Bono Committee Chair
For many students, spring break is an opportunity to catch up on sleep and spend time relaxing with friends at the beach or pool.
Instead, University of Florida Levin College of Law first-year students Ryan Babb, Alexa Goldstein, Kelley Graham, Jordan Grana, Sama Kaseer and Kelsey Kilpatrick spent their break from school helping the community by assisting low-income seniors create advance directive documents.
The Alternative Spring Break Advance Directives Project at Jacksonville Area Legal Aid began with a day of orientation and training when the students created documents for each other under the supervision of an attorney.
Students drafted the same documents they did for the seniors: Durable power of attorney, designation of health care surrogate, living will and designation of preneed guardian.
Then, along with notaries public and volunteer attorneys, the students went to three senior residential facilities. Retired attorney Pat Vail volunteered to visit the facilities in advance to provide an informational presentation to residents about the advance directives service.
Here’s how the students’ spring break week unfolded:
March 2: They came to Jacksonville Area Legal Aid for orientation and training to create the documents facilitated by volunteer attorney Rick Stockton.
The students also had lunch and conversation with judges at the Bryan Simpson U.S. Courthouse.
March 3: The students met at PSI Mandarin Center, an affordable housing community for seniors.
Eight seniors created advance directives documents, served by the students under the supervision and guidance of attorneys Latoya Williams Shelton and Marquita Green.
The event was organized by the JALA staff and Lilliana Torres Perez, service coordinator at PSI Mandarin Center.
March 4: At Mount Carmel Gardens, 12 seniors prepared documents with students under the supervision of attorney Debbie Lee Clark.
JALA staff attorney Michael Pelkowski trained the students on legal issues facing seniors, including scams, reverse mortgages and contract issues.
JALA staff and Erin Olton, service coordinator at Mount Carmel Gardens organized the event.
March 5, the final day of the project: The students assisted nine seniors at Riverside Presbyterian House under the supervision of Gregory Redmon, an elder law attorney and past president of the D.W. Perkins Bar Association.
Andrea Spencer, ElderSource director of communications, spoke to the students about the challenges and issues faced by senior citizens and provided information about the resources that are available in our community.
The event was organized by JALA staff and Kathy Rhoden, service coordinator at Riverside Presbyterian House.
The law students came to the Alternative Spring Break Project willing to learn and with a desire to help. They brought enthusiasm, professionalism and compassion to each event.
The students increased access to legal assistance. The experience allowed them to understand that too many people in our community lack the financial resources to access legal assistance. It also provided them the opportunity to bring comfort and peace of mind to the seniors.
The end result: Dozens of people in our community were helped.
Attorneys interested in pro bono opportunities throughout the 4th Judicial Circuit are encouraged to visit floridaprobonomatters.org and type in their home county to view a list of ways to help.
Attorneys also may learn of clinics and one-day events by emailing [email protected]