Many of us are fortunate to have a support system of close friends or family who can step in and make important decisions about our lives if we could not make those decisions for ourselves. Unfortunately, not everyone is that lucky. In some cases, an individual’s main caretaker passes away before them. Others may not have loved ones nearby to be their voice. For individuals in those situations, the Volunteer Guardian Program is here to help.
About the program
The Volunteer Guardian Program (VGP) was created by Probate Court Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer. Judge Stormer is one of the appointing authorities for Summit DD’s Board and works closely with the Agency to ensure that people’s needs are met. The VGP is one way to assist people with disabilities. This multi-agency collaboration is made up of Summit DD, the Summit County Executive’s Office and the Summit County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and the Mental Health Services Board. Summit County Public Health administers the program.
The program links individuals who need assistance with qualified, volunteer guardians. Volunteer guardians make decisions that are in their best interest of those in their care. While many of the individuals in need of guardians are older adults, some are adults of varying ages who have developmental disabilities.
“This program is perfect for caring community members who want to make a difference,” shared the program’s Volunteer Recruiter, Julie Falter. “We are in need of seasoned decision-makers who can get to know a person and become their advocate.”
“It’s a great program, but unfortunately, we have a shortage of volunteer guardians right now,” explained Falter about the current state of the program. “There is a misconception that a volunteer guardian needs to be an attorney. That is certainly not the case!”
Training for the Volunteer Guardian Program is included. Additional support from staff and other guardians is available at any time. Falter also clarified that volunteers are assigned cases of individuals residing in long-term care in either group homes or nursing homes. The program also has professional staff, including social workers and an attorney, that handle the more complicated mental health concerns or cases with legal issues.
“The best part about the program is that it works for busy people too,” Falter shared. Volunteers meet with an individual a minimum of four times a year. “The time you put into building relationships is very flexible and can work around other daily commitments you may have. I can personally attest – as a volunteer guardian myself – it is a rewarding and fulfilling experience.”
How to apply to become a Volunteer Guardian
The process is easy. Simply email or call Julie at 330-703-5970 to get a volunteer guardian program application. She can walk you through the process, which includes a background check. After that, you’ll be matched with an individual who is in need of a guardian. It’s that easy.
Summit DD Assistant Superintendent, Lisa Kamlowsky praised the program’s direction. “The Volunteer Guardian Program addresses a need for many older adults supported by Summit DD,” Kamlowsky commented. “Matching individuals to trained guardians is a positive step to ensure that individuals have the resources they need to thrive.”
Want to learn more?
Be sure to look for the Volunteer Guardian Program’s new website coming this fall!