Archive for Wednesday, August 8, 2001

Guardianship program fills many needs in Kansas

Volunteers help clients with money matters, as well as making decisinos about health care

August 8, 2001

Art Renfro says volunteer work is a key to lowering taxes.

Renfro and his wife, Elaine, Basehor, participate in the Kansas Guardianship Program in which they each act as a volunteer court-appointed guardian for an eligible disabled person.

"If the people in the community who have just a few hours free time a month would be willing to do this sort of thing, it would save us a great deal of money in taxes," Renfro said.

"Because if they don't get volunteers, the state ends up basically hiring bureaucrats to manage people's affairs and that's an expensive thing to do."

As guardians, the Renfros, and others who volunteer in the Kansas Guardianship Program, help their clients manage their money, make health-related decisions, decide on appropriate home care and level of care, and ensure life satisfaction.

This may be as simple as taking the client shopping for a new wristwatch, Renfro said. Or, it may be more complicated, such as helping decide what medical care is needed.

Renfro's client is a mid-40s mentally disabled man who lives in group housing in Leavenworth. The man has difficulty making intellectual decisions, but is able to participate in activities at Riverside Resources, a Leavenworth agency that serves individuals who have disabilities.

For instance, Renfro said his client takes on projects at Riverside Resources, such as filling plastic bags with convention souvenirs, and even doing simple janitorial tasks.

"He worked on a cleaning crew," Renfro said. "He loves to empty the trash."

Jerry Koerth oversees the Kansas City-area office of the Kansas Guardianship Program in Mission. There is a dire need for volunteers, he said.

"We have from eight to 12 people waiting in Leavenworth County now," Koerth said.

Once a prospective volunteer expresses interest, he or she goes through a screening and interview process. When approved, they participate in a three-hour training session, and, finally, they select their client.

"When a volunteer comes on board, they express a preference for a specific individual," Koerth said. "I go over my clients who are waiting and they choose."

Then the volunteer visits with the prospective client once or twice to make sure it's a good match, Koerth said. Most volunteers, Koerth said, visit their clients from two to four times a month.

Renfro said he feels good about participating in the guardianship program.

"I've certainly had a lot of people help me over the years voluntarily," Koerth said. "And I believe everyone should put a little bit more into their own communities."

For more information, contact Jerry Koerth at Mission's Guardianship Office, (913) 236-5207.

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