Press Release, Franciscan Health:

Franciscan Health’s partnership with the Lake County Courts to provide volunteer advocates for elderly and incapacitated adults who are unable to represent themselves now has three new members.

Lake Superior Court Probate Commissioner Ben Ballou swore in a class of three Volunteer Advocates for Seniors and Incapacitated Adults (VASIA) in a ceremony March 11. The new advocates are LaFayette Boone of Crown Point, Steven Bowling of Portage and Dr. Celeste McGill of Chicago.

The court collaborates with Franciscan Health to provide trained, supervised volunteers to serve as court-appointed agents to assist elderly and incapacitated adults. The program, now in its 22nd year, partners with programs serving elderly and incapacitated adults across Lake County to develop a continuum of elder law advocacy and guardianship services.

Volunteers are vetted through an application screening process. Once approved, volunteers must complete 40 hours of initial training and 12 hours of continuing education annually by legal, social service, health and mental health experts. Advocates serve as guardians on one case at a time.

“You’re joining a family of very talented and special people,” VASIA Director LaVonne Jarrett said.

“What you’re doing is so important to our community,” Ballou said. “You’re a voice for the voiceless. You advocate for people who don’t have anyone to advocate for them. From the court’s perspective, you’re filling a huge void for us.”

Lake Superior Court Judge Bruce Parent said the volunteers are, “doing God’s work.”

“God sees all and His light is shining upon you all,” Parent said. “We very much appreciate you.”

VASIA Volunteer Coordinator Francisca Mendoza read a quote from Mother Theresa during the swearing in ceremony: “Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.”

“You will see the dying,” Mendoza said. “You will see the poor and you’ll see the unwanted, by society and their families, but you will become an extension of the family. They’ll look forward to your visits.

Boone is retired from the U.S. Navy and served as a nurse for 27 years. She said she’s been an advocate for her patients for years and now will be able to advocate in a new way in her community.

“I just like to be of service,” Boone said.

McGill, a college educator with City Colleges of Chicago, said she started her career as a home health social worker.

“I don’t think anyone’s socio-economic status should determine the kind of care, services and support they need and deserve,” McGill said.

Bowling is a barber and goes to nursing homes to cut residents’ hair free of charge.

“To get a blessing, you’ve got to be a blessing,” Bowling said. “I just like to make others happy.”

The VASIA program is partially funded by grants from the Indiana Supreme Court, Legacy Foundation, Inc. and other local, state and national funders as well as individual donors.

To donate to support VASIA’s efforts, go to To learn more about the program and how to become a volunteer, visit