ANDERSON — For the past four years, a group of local volunteers has provided services to protect seniors and the at-risk population.

Local attorney John Longnaker formed Guardian Advocates in 2018 after being asked by three senior citizens to become their legal guardians.

“It got to the point where we couldn’t care for more seniors,” he said. “That’s when we decided to start the organization.”

The state started a pilot program a decade ago, and now there are 20 organizations providing services in 50 Indiana counties, he said.

“We’re there to prevent exploitation, abuse and neglect of senior citizens or adults that are at risk,” Longnaker said.

The guardianships are established by a local judge, and quarterly reports are required at the county and state level about the number of clients being provided with services.

This Thursday, April 21, Guardian Advocates is hosting an open house from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Anderson Public Library to encourage people to volunteer.

The library’s at 111 E. 12th St.

“We’re providing services for folks that don’t have anyone to look out for their interests,” Longnaker said. “In some cases, there is no family members or family residing in Indiana that can help with medical care and fiscal matters.”

He explained volunteers are matched with a client and are expected to visit at least once monthly.

“The program is modeled after the CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) program, where one volunteer is matched to one person in need of services.”

Guardian Advocates recently expanded from Madison County to provide services in Delaware and Grant counties.

“We get referrals from Adult Protective Services or from hospitals that are discharging patients,” he said.

The first step is a local advisory group has to approve the application through the courts for a legal guardian to be appointed.

Longnaker said the advisory group considers medical, financial and legal issues before accepting a client into the program.

Each volunteer is required to fill out a monthly visit report that includes any change in medications or emergency calls.

Barb Marshall, client care coordinator, said there is a need for volunteers, donations and referrals of people in need.

Marshall said COVID-19 had an effect on the number of people who were volunteering, but that the numbers have been increasing recently.

There are 18 current volunteers, and 26 clients are expected by the end of May.

Longnaker said the Guardian Advocates has received a $56,000 grant from the state and has matching funds of $26,000.

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.

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Senior Reporter covering Anderson and Madison County government, politics and auto racing for The Herald Bulletin. Has been working as a journalist in central Indiana since 1977.