Senior Alexa Rivadeneira says Lori’s Hands has been the most rewarding experience during her entire time at the university.
Lori’s Hands is an organization founded by university alumna Sarah LaFave that connects college students with the chronically ill of the Newark community.
“It has made me who I am, and I know it is something that I will always carry with me,” Rivadeneira says.
LaFave came up with the idea of Lori’s Hands when she was a sophomore, she says, and founded the organization in 2009 at the university in memory of her mother, Lori LaFave, who passed away after a long fight against breast cancer.
This year, Lori’s Hands celebrates its five-year anniversary, as it has flourished from a simple idea into the organization it is today, LaFave says.
“It’s exciting for me to reach this milestone because it means that we have successfully transitioned to a new generation of student leaders,” LaFave says.
LaFave says since graduation, she has been working with the College of Health Sciences to help develop and expand its service-learning programs.
Seniors Lisa Centrone, a nursing major, and Rivadeneira, a public policy double major, took on the co-presidency role after LaFave and the other co-founders graduated in 2011.
LaFave’s hard work and dedication to better the lives of those in need is what has helped this organization get to where it is today, Centrone says.
Centrone says they went in head first and have done an effective job establishing Lori’s Hands as a lasting and well-known group on campus.
While the members’ main goal in the beginning was to expand membership and pick up more clients, Centrone says their goal now is to spread Lori’s Hands to other college campuses nationally.
“We have had a lot of support from the university and the community of Newark,” Centrone says.
For example, the university now offers a Chronically Ill in America class, which teaches students about the relationship between different chronic illnesses and the Affordable Care Act. As a part of the class, students are paired up with a client of Lori’s Hands in which they help them weekly for the duration of the semester, Centrone says.
“I think the class with the curriculum would be a really efficient way to spread it all over,” Centrone says. “There are so many people in need wherever you go […] I think it would flourish anywhere.”
Junior nursing major Amanda Pedalino says when she first came across the course, she thought it would be similar to her previous nursing field experience.
However, Pedalino says after her first session, she realized she had been mistaken.
“My experience with CK allowed me to grasp the realities of living with Multiple Sclerosis, other debilitating illnesses and stray from scientific or medical fixation,” Pedalino says. “I’ve learned that you cannot appreciate the psychological, economical and social burdens that come along with a certain illness until basically walking in their shoes.”
Rivadeneira says students involved in Lori’s Hands are currently helping 22 clients in Newark who are suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes or cancer.
The services students usually partake in range from household chores, such as laundry and cleaning or grocery shopping and raking leaves, to just sitting around, chatting and playing rummy, Centrone says.
Rivadeneira says Lori’s Hands officers take on the job of scheduling student volunteers with the clients depending on what times work best for both.
“We are pretty much their point people and help keep our clients in their home,” Rivadeneira says.
Centrone and Rivadeneira have been visiting clients Edna and Warren Watts, an elderly couple, each week for over a year now. Both say that Edna and Warren have become like a set of grandparents to them. Rivadeneira says Edna and Warren have told them that they do not know how they lived without them.
Centrone says the relationship she has formed with the couple Edna and Warren Watts has changed her college experience.
Rivadeneira says Lori’s Hands has given her relationships with the clients, as well as officers, volunteers and board members that she will cherish forever.
In a few weeks, Rivadeneira says she and several other Lori’s Hands officers will be attending a Clinton Global Initiative University conference in Arizona to help them better the organization, as well as network.
She says she hopes this will help them move towards their goal of bringing chapters of Lori’s Hands to other college campuses.