Volunteer Guardian Program: The Importance of Community

Summit County is known for being innovative and supportive. Thanks to Bob, Susan and more than 100 volunteer guardians like them, you can call it a caring community as well.

Bob Kulinski and Susan Milne are volunteer guardians in the Summit County Probate Court’s Volunteer Guardian Program (VGP). The VGP 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. Susan and Bob have their own reasons for becoming involved in the program, but both share a common appreciation for it.

“I love this program,” shared Susan, who is a volunteer guardian for more than 20 adults. While she might be a person’s guardian, individuals who have a developmental disability also have a team. This team is there to help support them behind the scenes. Susan talked about how the different parts of a person’s supports can work together, explaining that she works closely with individuals as well as their Summit DD Service and Support Administrators (known as SSAs) and providers to make the right decisions for those in her care.

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Bob echoed similar sentiments about the program. He said that he knew the system could work when one of the people he serves was in the hospital for a brief illness. He shared that the person’s SSA, their provider and the hospital’s medical team worked closely with him to come up with a plan that was in the best interest of the individual. At that point, he was sold on the benefits of the Volunteer Guardian Program.

Bob pointed out that ultimately, it is up to the guardian to make the decisions regarding a person’s care. However, having a team of professionals to offer best practices and expert opinions really helps. Bob also carefully pointed out that it is important to always keep the person you serve in mind, saying, “It’s not about you. [As a guardian], you are here to act with the best interests of your ward – making thoughtful prudent decisions.”

“In some cases, people have family who may not be able to make decisions as a guardian,” Susan explained. “This lets them just be family.”

She said that some people had aging caregivers while others may not have any family in the area.

Both guardians talked about the importance of having this program for people in our community. They fully understand how important their roles are in the lives of people who are in need of volunteer guardians. They also urged others to consider becoming a guardian too.

“If there is a remote interest [in becoming a volunteer guardian], just look into it,” urged Bob.

Get Involved

To learn more about the Volunteer Guardian Program or become a volunteer guardian, visit the Volunteer Guardian website or call 330-812-3840.

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