The most common question that I am asked from my fellow peers, friends, professors and family members is simple but one that I cannot put into such few words. They ask me with a blank stare, “So what is Lori’s Hands? What do you do?” I usually respond with, “Oh you know, we hang out with some old people,” and then break out into a laugh before I proceed. It is then that I give everyone the run down that Lori’s Hands is a service organization that serves chronically ill elders in the community. And then I give them detail after detail until I think I have given them a sufficient glimpse into what it is we do. I know my words will never be enough and it is something that you have to experience yourself.
Why old people? I think it is a common misconception that all of us Lori’s Hands members have adored the elderly since birth. I think other people that listen to what the organization does, think we have taken on a strong passion for nursing homes, illnesses and plain and simple, old people. However, that is very wrong for the most of us. Although I absolutely adore and take care of all of my grandparents and have always respected the elderly, I had never previously volunteered for any organizations pertaining to that subject area. But when I got an e-mail giving out the meeting time, as a freshman I was open to trying out everything. I went to the first meeting and really liked the people but I still wasn’t completely hooked. I thought, “How am I going to clean someone else’s house when I can barely manage to keep my dorm room neat and organized?”
But being a lost freshman, it seemed worth a shot. It’s funny because I don’t even remember signing up for Lori’s Hands at the Activities Fair or remember how I managed to make it to that first meeting in Gore. I’m not sure by what act of fate I wound up there, eager to try something new, but I know for sure that an act of fate it was.
I’ll always remember my first visit. Sarah had sent an e-mail out asking if anyone was comfortable with working Blackberrys. Being a big fan of all types of electronics, I thought it would be a good way to start my Lori’s Hands experience. The client that needed help was Sandy. Sandy had several strokes so she is confined to a wheel chair and has trouble formulating her thoughts. She needed help setting up her new Blackberry and after my first visit with her she named me the technology guru. Every problem with technology she had, she thought I would be the answer to. There were plenty of times where I couldn’t even fix what she was talking about but she still managed to think that I was some type of angel that straightened it all out for her. Sandy became a family figure to me throughout my extremely long freshman year. When I was homesick, going to her house was a reminder that there was life outside of the campus and I’d be reunited with my family soon. I’ll always remember in the spring, we set up her house with decorations for her daughter’s baby shower. While volunteering, I became very light headed and had to sit down outside. Sandy made sure to check on me every few minutes and ended up calling me hours after I had left her house to see how I was feeling. It was then that I felt how strong the Lori’s Hands community really was. Sandy and I formed a friendship much larger than just a volunteer to client relationship. I became someone who she could confide in and someone she knew would get the job done whenever needed. And for me, Sandy became a woman who I knew cared for me in Newark, Delaware- a faraway place from my home.
After my life-changing year volunteering for Lori’s Hands, I applied for President of Internal Affairs. I have been in that position since my sophomore year (now entering my senior year) and it has been one that has changed me for the better. I started scheduling for Edna and Warren, a couple visited weekly. Warren has two types of cancer amongst many other things and he is completely homebound. Because of that, Edna is as well. We do their grocery shopping for them and then always sit and chat. They have also become like a second family to me. There are many days where sitting on their couch and talking to them have made my day that much better. They are so appreciative of what we do for them and they always make sure to let all of the volunteers know.
I can go on and on with stories about our clients and how not only do our volunteers make a difference in their lives, but how they make a difference in ours as well. But it is still something that I believe you can hear about and read about but you don’t fully feel the effects until you are out there volunteering. The love and passion that the volunteers gain come from within. When we say we volunteer for chronically ill elders, we understand that it doesn’t sound too enticing. However, I know that I can speak for everyone that it is one of the most rewarding experiences. Like I said, it wasn’t like all of the volunteers had this passion for old people from the start, but once you volunteer it’s something that happens.
I am so fortunate to have gotten involved in Lori’s Hands and to have formed all of the friendships with the volunteers, clients and founders who are doing everything to keep Lori’s Hands flourishing within the UD community. We have now received non-profit status, successfully completed the first semester of HLTH 267 (the Lori’s Hands service learning class), won a local and national award and have been getting great publicity, attracting more and more members. It saddens me that come the fall, my time being President and being able to volunteer frequently with all of our clients will be coming to a close, but I believe this is just the beginning for Lori’s Hands. I know for certain when my time ends at UD, my time will not end with Lori’s Hands. I plan to be just as actively involved working towards the future of this amazing organization.
Written by: Alexa Rivadeneira