Nothing says Thanksgiving like a delicious meal and some companionship. Thanks to a group of dedicated volunteers, 38 Newarkers living with chronic illness will have both this Thanksgiving.

Volunteers from Lori’s Hands packed the meals Wednesday morning and delivered them to many of the clients that the service organization works with.

“I think it's very important for them to be able to receive a nice, fresh-cooked, warm meal to celebrate with the rest of us,” said Shelby Gold, one of the volunteers and a student at Del Tech. “I'm just thinking about one of my clients who I'll be delivering to today, who otherwise probably would not have a meal if it weren't for Lori's Hands.”

Lori’s Hands was founded in 2009 as a student club at the University of Delaware. Founder Sarah LaFave, then a UD sophomore, named the organization after her mother, who died from breast cancer in 2003.

Interest in the club increased, and Lori’s Hands became an official nonprofit organization in 2012. In 2017, it received funding to hire its first staff member.

Last year, a second chapter opened in Baltimore. Eventually, the organization would like to have chapters across the United States.

In Newark, Lori’s Hands has more than 100 clients on its roster, and more than 150 students are involved each year. Working in pairs, students are assigned one or more clients, who they visit weekly to assist with a variety of non-medical tasks like getting groceries, cooking, doing yardwork or completing household chores.

Lori’s Hands began the Thanksgiving meal deliveries several years ago. Normally, the meals are cooked by volunteers from UD’s College of Health Sciences, but the organization switched to store-prepared meals due to the pandemic.

Shoprite donated the meals, and volunteers met to pack them into bags at the house of State Rep. Mike Smith, a Lori’s Hands board member.

“Not every client has a loved one that can get over there and make them a meal,” said Smith, who got involved with the organization because his grandmother was a client. “This makes sure they have a warm Thanksgiving meal that they can look forward to. And it's just a way for them to not feel as lonely around the holidays.”

Jayna Lennon, manager of Lori’s Hand’s Newark chapter, said the Thanksgiving meal delivery is popular with clients.

“It's one of the things our clients most look forward to it,” Lennon said. “For us, it's one of the smaller things we do. But to them, it just means so much. They get so excited.”

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