One year later Lori’s Hands helps students see the beauty in helping others

older adult with a young Loris hands volunteer look at music at a piano

YPSILANTI – Lori’s Hands is celebrating its one-year anniversary of allowing students to support older adults with chronic illness in Wayne and Washtenaw counties. With support from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund and in collaboration with Eastern Michigan University, Lori’s Hands launched its third chapter in Metro Detroit, helping more adults with daily activities. 

Christina Marsack-Topolewski, associate professor of social work at EMU and principal investigator, and Jillian Graves, associate professor of social work at EMU, have been instrumental in collaborating with Lori’s Hands to bring much-needed services to older adults and provide meaningful learning opportunities to both undergraduate and graduate students. 

“Lori’s Hands is a game changer because it provides in-home support to older adults who may face social isolation, loneliness, and daily needs for practical support and offers valuable intergenerational opportunities for older adults and our students,” said Marsack-Topolewski. “This program is instrumental in providing service learning and tailored training opportunities for students preparing for multiple professions, including social work, nursing, and occupational therapy.”

Maddi Gale-Laman, who oversees the day-to-day program operations in Michigan, said the organization had witnessed incredible growth and impact since its launch last year. “We have supported over 100 students with their academic and career goals while assisting over 50 adults with chronic illness.”

Some clients have shared with me that their favorite part of the week is when their Lori's Hands students visit,” said Gale-Laman. As a social worker who previously worked with older adults in Washtenaw County, the need for a program was apparent. It is incredibly meaningful to work for Lori's Hands and be a part of the solution,” Gale-Laman added. 

Over the past year, college students from Eastern, Wayne State University, Washtenaw Community College, and The University of Michigan-Dearborn have participated weekly in Lori’s Hands through volunteer opportunities, internships, and as a part of their course curriculum. 

Eastern neuroscience student Antonia Gitau has visited her client Janet for over a year. Together they enjoy playing the piano, doing puzzles, and eating Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. 

“Janet is now part of my family, and I will always be grateful to her for everything she has done,” said Gitau. “It is meaningful to be a part of this organization because it enables me to give back to my community while providing valuable experience in my field. I am grateful because I would not have met Janet if I had not been a part of Lori's Hands."

Graves, who works with social work students, said this program has many benefits. “Students have the opportunity to create relationships with older adults within the context of home visits, which gives them a broader view of the needs, strengths and circumstances of people aging in place,” said Graves. “Lori's Hands facilitates the creation of substantial empathic connections.”

Since its establishment, Lori’s Hands has developed strong partnerships with stakeholders in the community such as hospital case workers, primary care offices, and other non-profit organizations that serve older adults and individuals with chronic illness. Lori’s Hands of Metro Detroit has received an influx of referrals for individuals in the community who would benefit from weekly visits from college students. 

Lori’s Hands is recruiting college students in Washtenaw and Wayne counties for volunteer and internship opportunities. For more information, visit the webpage. Higher education professionals interested in incorporating Lori’s Hands into their curriculum can contact Maddi Gale-Laman at to learn more. 

About Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 14,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and its graduate school. National publications regularly recognize EMU for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. Visit the University’s rankings and points of pride websites to learn more. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website. To stay up to date on University news, activities and announcements, visit EMU Today.

June 07, 2023

Written by:
Media Relations

Media Contact:
Melissa Thrasher