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Published: Tuesday, 5/16/2006

Program will seek volunteers for seniors

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

In nursing home beds all over Lucas County are elderly residents too sick to take care of themselves and too poor to hire help.

Years after identifying the problem of the lack of guardianship for some of the county's most vulnerable residents, community leaders have cooperated to create a program where volunteers will serve as guardians for indigent senior citizens.

The Adult Volunteer Guardianship Program will be outlined today during the meeting of the Lucas County commissioners. The announcement will precede the opening of the 29th annual Senior Citizen Day at the Lucas County Recreation Center in Maumee.

"We feel it's a valuable program. It will help our seniors during their most vulnerable time of life," said Tina Skeldon Wozniak, president of the commissioners.

The volunteer program will be run through Lutheran Social Services of Northwestern Ohio.

Under Ohio law, to be appointed by the Probate Court as a guardian, volunteers must be 18 or older, a resident of Ohio, and a "law-abiding citizen."

The program is solely involved in guardianship of the person; volunteers will not be responsible for the senior's finances.

Nancy Yunker, chief executive officer of Lutheran Social Services of Northwestern Ohio, said the program will supply services to those who have "no income, no money, and no family."

"We're going to recruit volunteers and train them.

We'll make sure they're equipped to handle the medical decisions for these people," she said. "Many are patients who are not visited by anybody else."

The $70,000 funding for the program will come from the Lucas County Job and Family Services, the county's senior citizen levy, and a grant from the Stranahan Foundation. The seniors who will require guardians will be referred from Lucas County Probate Court.

Probate Judge Jack Puffenberger said there is a huge need for guardians of the elderly. Once a job taken on by attorneys on a pro-bono basis, volunteer guardians for the elderly ensure that the county's aging population is taken care of.

"There are a lot of people in our community who are indigent and have no family," he said. "This is a segment of our population that some people don't know exists."

The unveiling of the program coincides with a day at the recreation center for senior citizens.

Senior Citizen Day, hosted annually by the Area Office on Aging of Northwestern Ohio, lures thousands of area seniors who gather information from about 130 exhibitors. The free event is from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

For more information on how to get involved in the Volunteer Guardianship Program, go online at www.lssnwo.org or call 419-243-9178.

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-724-6076.



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