Coordinator John Giomi is recruiting a new class of volunteer advocates to protect Douglas County’s elderly and disabled from abuse and exploitation.
Classes begin April 29 for Special Advocates For the Elderly who will be trained to visit and monitor referred cases and provide the courts with information.
“The program is such that we deal generally with seniors, but we are getting more and more young adults with autism and other issues. There are a variety of people we deal with,” Giomi said.
Participants are to meet at 3 p.m. April 29 in District Judge Michael Gibbons’ Department 2 courtroom at the Judicial and Law Enforcement Center in Minden.
“The first direction by the court is to present a report so the court can evaluate whether a person should be in a guardianship, who should be the guardian, and where the placement might be if necessary,” Giomi said.
Giomi said applicants shouldn’t be concerned they lack skills to volunteer. All the issues advocates deal with will be covered in training.
“Everybody is qualified who has a concern for others, who can listen to people. I am with them (the advocates) every step of the way to help them with their particular situation. I am a very hands-on coordinator so they don’t feel lost,” Giomi said.
Giomi said he is hoping to recruit additional male volunteers to deal with an increasing caseload of male clients.
He said SAFE works closely with Public Guardian Claudette Springmeyer.
If volunteers can’t make all the classes, arrangements can be made to cover the information. He said the schedule would be determined at the first session April 29.
SAFE volunteers visit and monitor referred adults of concern in the community and various institutions, and provide the courts with additional information collected by a trained and independent volunteer who can take the time to check out the facts, one client at a time, and report directly to the court, Giomi said.
If court proceedings are instituted, a SAFE advocate may be appointed to speak for the best interests of the adult, he said.
The SAFE advocate may also work with the referred adult or family to help them find local resources to meet their needs, Giomi said.
Volunteers will be trained so that they have general knowledge of state and federal laws governing the care of fragile adults in a variety of situations, he said.
Volunteers will also be trained so that they understand common medical conditions affecting elderly adults, appreciate differences based on culture or age, and the family process, and become familiar with the services available in this area.
Volunteers need to be at least 18 years old, and a background check is required before advocates are sworn in.
Advocates do not need to live in Douglas County, Giomi said.
“We’re also looking for Lake Tahoe residents because we have clients up there,” he said.
Since SAFE began in 2009, Giomi said volunteers have saved the county hundreds of thousands of dollars and made a positive difference in hundreds of lives.
“All you really need to volunteer is a kind heart and a concern for your neighbor,” he said.
People interested in becoming SAFE advocates are asked to call Giomi at (775) 461-9393, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.