Retirees Bring Life Experiences to Court as Volunteers
By Stephanie Beougher - November 24, 2015
Each Thursday morning, you'll find 92-year-old Jack Kinsner at the Avon Lake Municipal Court.
Kinsner is one of five volunteers who've retired from long-time professions and now spends a day each week helping Judge Darrel Bilancini and his bailiff with paperwork and other duties during court days.
"I look forward to this because it's something to do and I just enjoy watching the judge and how he handles all these people. We get all walks of life in here," Kinsner said. "It's an education, and we speed up the court process."
Judge Bilancini got the idea for volunteers in the courtroom from a newspaper article about a similar program in another court, with the initial thought it could help speed up the court process if the bailiff didn't have to leave the courtroom to escort defendants to the clerk's office. The added benefit is the unique skillsets each volunteer brings to the courtroom.
"I know all of them so I know that they're good people, kind people; very professional, very caring. They want to be here because they want to help out and they care for the people who are here," Judge Bilancini said.
Paul Benson has 40 years of sobriety and has connected defendants who have alcohol and drug problems to recovery programs like Alcoholics Anonymous.
Benson is inspired by the state motto, With God, All Things are Possible, on the wall behind the bench: "I get here at seven and I sit in that courtroom in the jury box and I look at that and think of the four years how many people we've been able to help."
Retired NASA engineer James Davis also feels he and his fellow volunteers are helping defendants.
"People are not familiar with the court and are very nervous about it, so you have an opportunity to kind of help them settle down and realize that they're going to be treated fairly," Davis said.
"I feel like I have a whole new circle of friends," retired teacher Kathy Leopold said. "I have a whole set of knowledge (about the court) that I didn't know before."
Dennis Morgan is on the volunteer team with Jack Kinsner: "I love it. It gives me something to do. Gets me out of the house, and it keeps you moving. I enjoy it."
Judge Bilancini suggests if another judge is interested in replicating the volunteer program: "I think the judge, assuming he had good friends who are retired and liked to help people out, those would be the people I'd look to."
The volunteer team aids in the court process without putting a burden on the budget - and adds to the homey atmosphere at the Avon Lake Municipal Court.