Serving others gives VASIA volunteer a purpose again

When Dyer resident Marcey McCann retired from Delta Airlines, she took on a new role that wasn't in her plans. For over 10 years, McCann was a caretaker, first for her mother after a stroke, and then for her husband as he battled terminal cancer.

In 2016, after they both had passed away, McCann felt lost. "I was used to waking up in the morning knowing that I was needed," she says. "In addition to grieving the loss of loved ones, I was grieving my loss of purpose." 

McCann says it wasn't long before "God tapped her on the shoulder" with a plan. It showed up as an ad in the Franciscan Health Foundation newsletter for Volunteer Advocates for Seniors and Incapacitated Adults (VASIA). The VASIA program is funded in part by the Franciscan Health Foundation.

VASIA is a mission-based program founded by Franciscan Health in partnership with the Lake County Superior Court. VASIA volunteers serve as court-appointed legal guardians for seniors and adults who can't live independently and have no one to advocate and make decisions for them.

"I thought, 'Maybe taking care of someone in need could be my new mission,'" McCann recalls. "I immediately saw that VASIA was for me." 

VASIA director LaVonne Jarrett says they receive an average of 10 referrals a month of people who can no longer live independently. VASIA staff works to find the least restrictive living situation possible that still meets their needs. Over the last 20 years, VASIA and its volunteers have served nearly 700 clients living in long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities and group homes. 

McCann, the 2018 VASIA Volunteer of the Year, says she quickly learned you don't need job-related experience to be a VASIA volunteer. "The most important qualification is a strong desire to be of service," she says. That desire, with comprehensive training and ongoing support from "a terrific staff," equips her to serve her two clients. "We're the contact for anything that happens with clients. Whatever their need, we strive to ensure they get it," says McCann.  

VASIA director LaVonne Jarrett says preserving a client's dignity is also essential. "Volunteers bring dignity to the person from beginning to end, making sure someone is relevant." That involves putting end-of-life planning in place. "Volunteers are often the only person at a client's funeral," Jarrett says.

Before COVID restrictions, McCann visited with clients three times a month, attended quarterly care plan meetings, and celebrated birthdays, holidays and special functions with clients. Due to COVID, McCann now relies on phone calls with staff and more online reports.

"We become the voice for these dear ones," says McCann. "There's nothing I've been involved in that's been so gratifying."

You can impact a life too! Share your financial support by clicking Give Now button below or be a VASIA volunteer by calling (219) 933-7907.