Lori's Hands college student volunteers provide in-home support to people with chronic illnesses like cancer, MS, Parkinson's Disease, and heart failure. While our students assist with grocery shopping, yard work and other tasks made difficult by disease, clients provide valuable insights into the human experience of chronic illness. Students serve through the student club and through service learning classes. In both cases, their volunteer experiences are life-changing parts of their academic careers, preparing them to be compassionate, informed professionals. Older adults with chronic illnesses who are enrolled in Lori's Hands report increased confidence in their independence, stronger connections to the community, and fewer symptoms of loneliness.
Lori's Hands was founded in 2009 by Sarah LaFave, an undergraduate nursing student whose mom, Lori, had passed away from breast cancer. Having witnessed firsthand the effects of chronic disease on one's daily life, Sarah knew her peers had great potential to positively impact the lives of community members. Today, Lori LaFave's legacy lives on through the consistent, meaningful visits Lori's Hands volunteers make to support the independence of older adults and individuals with chronic diseases.
Lori's Hands consistently receives accolades from clients, student volunteers, and community members. Read on to learn about the impact of Lori's Hands, directly from those who participate.
From a client: "Just wanted you to know how much I appreciate you and your organization. My young friends have been wonderful! [We] keep in touch by text, e-mail and phone calls while they are doing their virtual studies from their family homes out-of-state. We have formed a close friendship. I love this connection with these young women. We love one another and learn from one another."
From the daughter of a client: "Telling him stories, showing him pictures, asking him questions, "reading" and "appreciating" his stories are SO VERY meaningful to him - we can see the difference in him for a couple days after the student visits. Please make sure they know they are the particular highlight of his life right now."
From a student volunteer: "My experience with Lori's Hands was very different than I expected. Calling my client once a week felt less like an assignment and turned into a time that I looked forward to every week. I was excited for the time I blocked out for her and felt myself get disappointed on the weeks she had something going on and wasn't able to talk. I could tell how happy she was to talk to me every time, which made the experience that much better for me. This program gives my client the opportunity to talk to people, tell them about her life, ask about theirs, and just have a conversation that she otherwise wouldn't be able to. It helped me to realize how important these seemingly small interactions really are to people and I learned to really enjoy my time with her. From this experience I will definitely take away the importance of reaching out to my elders, especially during COVID, because they really appreciate the communication more than we think."
Lori's Hands builds mutually beneficial partnerships between community members with chronic illness and college students, fostering empathy, connection, and resilience. Students provide practical assistance to support community members' independence at home, and community members share their health and life experiences to support students' learning.