TAVARES — Less than a dozen seats remain for a Lake County Mediation Program training session scheduled for Oct. 4-7 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. VolunteerLAKE is extending an open invitation to the citizens of Lake County to fill these coveted positions by Thursday, Sept. 7.
The free 20 hours of training will enable volunteers to facilitate the process of settlement and to suggest possible solutions in Lake County small claims cases. Mediators are not judges, though they enjoy some of the same benefits.
The goal of the volunteer mediator is to be impartial as they try to build a consensus between the parties while encouraging a resolution. Mediators make no decisions and express no opinions. Information obtained through the process is confidential. Information from the process cannot be used if the case goes to trial, and the volunteer mediator cannot be subpoenaed to court to testify on behalf of either party.
“Volunteer mediators help keep the dockets down for the judges so justice is served quickly,” said Helena Osborne-Ponsi, Lake County volunteer coordinator. “This is an invaluable service to the public.”
Mediation cases are heard on Wednesdays at the Lake County Judicial Center in Tavares from 8:30 a.m. to about noon. The process of applying for mediation training includes an application, interview and background check. Of the few prerequisites, the most important are that a mediator be a good listener, excellent communicator, at least 21 years of age and of good moral character.
“We would like to have the Lake County Court Mediation Program reflect the workforce of Lake County,” Osborne-Ponsi said. “One of the mediators owned a barbershop for 30 years. When he retired, he became a great mediator and you can see why — he had excellent listening skills.”
According to Osborne-Ponsi, this is the fourth training for the Lake County Mediation Program in 12 years.
“This doesn’t happen every day,” she said. “If you miss this one you’re looking at maybe two or three years down the road until the next mediation training in Lake County.”
To learn more about the program, request an application and to set up an interview, call Osborne-Ponsi at (352) 742-6590 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. All mediator training spots will be filled by Friday, Sept. 8, at 4:30 p.m.