A class of three volunteers were the third and final group in 2021 sworn in as Volunteer Advocates for Seniors and Incapacitated Adults (VASIA), joining Franciscan Health Hammond’s program to represent those unable to advocate for themselves.

Jada Jarrett and Jaylah Jarrett, who joined virtually, and Caitlyn Lent were sworn in at a ceremony at Lake Superior Court. They join 15 volunteers who had been sworn in earlier in the year as part of spring and fall classes.

“This is a program that is sorely needed in our community,” said Lake Superior Court Probate Commissioner Ben Ballou, who performed the swearing in. “You are doing God’s work, and we appreciate that.”

VASIA Director LaVonne Jarrett and Program Manager Barbara Melendez welcomed the newest volunteers, with Melendez noting that “even though this is our smallest group, it has been one of our most fun groups.”

Speaking to the newest volunteers, VASIA Volunteer Coordinator Francisca Mendoza invoked a quote from author Leo Buscaglia: “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a. listening ear, an honest compliment or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

The VASIA program, instituted in 2001 and the brainchild of then-hospital President Tom Gryzbek, is a collaborative effort between the hospital and Lake County Superior Courts. It provides trained and supervised volunteers to serve as court-appointed legal guardians to assist the elderly and incapacitated adults. VASIA also partners with service delivery programs to develop a continuum of elder law advocacy and guardianship services in the Region. The program is partially funded by grants from the Indiana Supreme Court, Retirement Research Foundation, Indiana Bar Foundation, Legacy Foundation, Inc. and other local, state and national funders and generous local donors. To donate, go to FranciscanHealthFoundation.org; and to learn more about the program or find out how to become a volunteer, visit www.franciscanhealth.org/VASIA.