As the Founder and Executive Director of Lori’s Hands, Inc., Sarah LaFave has accomplished a lot for someone who finished college just three years ago. LaFave graduated from the University of Delaware’s School of Nursing with Honors and Distinction in 2011, and is the Coordinator for Service and Experiential Learning in the College of Health Sciences at UD. She is a native of Albany, NY and currently resides in Kennett Square, PA. LaFave was also the 2011 recipient of a Jefferson Award for Public Service.
Lori’s Hands, based in Newark, DE, offers community health service learning opportunities to undergraduates through meaningful service to chronically ill clients in the students’ communities. LaFave founded Lori’s Hands, Inc., at UD in 2009 in honor of her compassionate mother, Lori, who died in 2003 after an eight-year battle with breast cancer.
Twitter Handle: @LorisHands
Facebook Page: Lori’s Hands
What are three words that best describe you? Intuitive, empathetic & nester
Could you describe your business? Lori’s Hands is a community health service learning organization. I founded Lori’s Hands with fellow students when we were undergrads at University of Delaware. Lori’s Hands connects college student volunteers with people in their communities who have chronic illnesses. Our students provide in-home assistance (grocery shopping, yard work, light cleaning) and, in turn, our clients teach the students about the human experience of chronic illness. Lori’s Hands provides relief to patients during difficult times, and helps future healthcare professionals become more aware of the every day challenges that come with illness.
What inspires you most about your work? This is literally the hardest question I’ve ever been asked. I’m inspired every single day when I hear a student talk about how her Lori’s Hands experience has informed her political beliefs, career aspirations, or self-confidence. When I see a 56 year old homebound MS patient with a lifetime of experiences bond with a healthy 19 year old who has no idea what she wants to do with her life – that inspires me. Further, it inspires me to see hundreds of people wearing t shirts with my mom’s name on them. I love that strangers know my mom’s name, and connect her life with charitable, inspiring, compassionate things, even though they never knew her.
Was there anything in your past that pointed you in the direction you’ve taken? My mom took the time to understand what people needed and to quietly address those needs. She was humble in her thoughtfulness. We try to channel her in our work with Lori’s Hands!
What experience in your career are you most proud of? A client once told me that he felt a sense of purpose because of Lori’s Hands that he hadn’t felt since his diagnosis. He could no longer work or contribute to his household in physical ways, but he could use his illness to educate our students far more meaningfully than any textbook ever could!
What advice would you share with those still in school? Ask questions, assume people want to meet you, and start Lori’s Hands chapters at your schools!
Why is giving back important to you? My family had a lot of support when my mom was sick. Lori’s Hands feels a bit like paying it forward.
How has giving back helped you? My volunteer work with Lori’s Hands has led to awards and job opportunities. It has also made my relationships with my friends stronger. I think that engaging in our organization’s mission together has made us feel like partners in crime and parts to the same machine, in addition to being shopping and brunch buddies!
How do you incorporate giving back into your life? By working to make Lori’s Hands part of my professional life, it’s become easy to see giving back as my purpose as opposed to something I do on the side.
Which charities are near and dear to you and why? Monkey Helpers (based in Boston) is my favorite organization besides Lori’s Hands. It is a very transparent organization that focuses on helping people to be as independent as possible, and I have a soft spot for capuchins!
When it comes to your own philanthropic efforts, what do you look back and feel made the largest impact on those that you set out to help? When we first started Lori’s Hands, it was all about our students helping our clients (the patients we serve). That was great, but some of our clients felt guilty that they were receiving a hand-out. We developed the service learning model, whereby our students are using the service experience to inform their understanding of chronic illness and healthcare, and the organization has felt balanced ever since. Now, our clients give as much as our students do, by teaching our students about their healthcare experiences. I think there should always be as much reciprocity as possible – no one wants to feel like a charity case and everyone has something to contribute.
What is the most creative fundraising idea you’ve come across? I loved this question and shared it with one of the Lori’s Hands officers. She sent me an article about a fundraiser that involved people dropping money in a bucket in an effort to get Justin Beiber’s “Baby” to stop playing on repeat. That is a definite contender.
What are some must-attend charity events for you? There’s a group in our area called the “Real Charitable Housewives.” They throw a Mom Prom every year – it’s a chance for women of all ages (not just moms) to wear formal dresses from previous occasions and dance, drink, and eat the night away for charity. I’ve gone the last couple years and it’s a blast. This year, the event in our area is benefiting the Andrew B. McDonough B+ Foundation (an awesome group raising money to benefit families affected by childhood cancer) and Lori’s Hands so I have even more reason to get excited about it!
What brands do you wear most often? Gildan. They produce our Lori’s Hands volunteer t shirts.
What is your favorite beauty product? Burt’s Bees Orange Essence Facial Cleanser. With that and a cup of strong coffee, I can feel refreshed even after a short night’s sleep!
How would you describe your home décor? Cozy and rustic. I’ve inherited a lot of mason jars and enamel kitchenware from my grandmother!
What is your secret for hosting a great party? Theme it! Best party I ever threw was a 50s-themed Sock Hop. I got to make pot pie and wear an A-line dress.
Favorite food: Avocado in the morning, avocado for lunch, avocado at suppertime.
Favorite cocktail: Anything with Fireball.
Favorite restaurant: Applebee’s with my boyfriend so I can pretend we’re Eric and Tami Taylor.
If you could host a dinner party for 8, who would you invite living or dead?My mom, Michelle Obama, Jackie O, Jane Goodall, Betty White, Atul Gawande, my paternal grandfather (who I never met), and someone really inflammatory to spice things up – maybe Rush Limbaugh or my brother.
Favorite vacation spot: My family has a cabin on a lake in upstate New York. It’s incredibly relaxing, and it feels like home since we’ve been going there since I was 4.
Do you have any tips for parents? Send your kids to UD!
Favorite TV show: If I say The Mindy Project, will you get Mindy to have lunch with me?
Favorite movie: Oh, God, Beaches. I probably watched it, and cried through it, 156 times with my 14 year old best friends the year my mom died. No therapy can bring you the kind of release that Bette Midler can!
Favorite song: Is it 2 a.m. yet? Don’t Stop Believing by Journey.
Favorite book: Wild by Cheryl Strayed.
Favorite apps: LotsaHelpingHands (we use it to schedule our Lori’s Hands visits), Facebook Pages (we use it to track how people engage with our Lori’s Hands social media), and This American Life (I use it to get through long car rides).
iPhone or Android: iPhone! Some weeks, group messaging and FaceTiming with my long-distance friends and family are the only things that get me through!
Favorite workout: I live in a rural area so I have the luxury of taking long walks and runs in the woods!
Where do you get your news? I get the Wall Street Journal delivered, but I often use it as a placemat for looking at BuzzFeed on my phone.