Hands to Help

Welcome to Hands to Help

Merrimack College’s Hands to Help is a neighborhood resource center whose mission is to enlighten minds, engage hearts and empower the lives of members of the Lawrence community.

Contact Us & Location

Hands to Help
60 Island Street
Third Floor - Suite 320
Lawrence MA, 01840
Hours: 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Phone: 978-258-1632 | handstohelp@merrimack.edu

About Hands to Help

In 2015, Merrimack College partnered with St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Lawrence, MA to found Hands to Help. A community resource center, Hands to Help’s goal is to assist and empower members of the Lawrence community. The center operates out of the Bell Tower Building in North Lawrence.

Hands to Help offers a number of services and events, including after-school tutoring, drop-in support, the Food Recovery Network, food outreach, and snack box preparation and distribution. Events include our signature Mack Gives back event, Lunch in Lawrence, drives for back-to-school supplies, Thanksgiving baskets, holiday toys, and more.

Additionally, Hands to Help acts as an information referral site to other local non-profits and offers resources, such as computers, for public use.

Meals Prepared

Mack Gives Back volunteers prepared 90,000 non-perishable meals for 10 local nonprofit organizations at its Nov. 2022 event.

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School Supplies Collected

Hands to Help’s 2023 school supply drive collected more than 3,500 items, including backpacks, notebooks and folders.


Snack Boxes Packaged

The Hands to Help team put together 1,257 snack boxes – more than 1500 pounds of food –  for the 2022-23 academic year.

Our Services

Learn more about the free services offered at Merrimack College’s Hands to Help. 

After School Tutoring

The Hands to Help Tutoring Program was created by Merrimack College for the Lawrence community based on their needs. The Tutoring Program focuses on strengthening students’ academic achievement. Merrimack students work with students in 1st through 8th grade in all subjects, including math, science, social studies, reading, writing and more.

Tutoring Schedule: Monday – Thursday: 3-5:30 p.m.

Location: 60 Island St., Suite 320, Lawrence

Drop-in Services

Stop by Hands to Help for the following drop-in services:

  • Tutoring in all subjects
  • Applying to colleges
  • Job preparation
  • Creating resumes

Drop-in Schedule: Monday – Thursday: 9-5:30 p.m.

Location: 60 Island St., Suite 320, Lawrence

Food Recovery Network

Visit the Food Recovery Network for more information.

Food Services

In an effort to respond to the needs of the community and expand our existing efforts, Merrimack College has built a kitchen at Hands to Help with the purpose of providing free culturally appropriate food to hungry people.

Our goals are to:

  • improve food access to local people in need
  • build and strengthen relationships with community partners working with low-income residents
  • fight food insecurity
  • provide hands-on experience to Merrimack College students

With the installation of this kitchen, our student workers help pick up food donations at a local food bank and create a menu for the week based on the food that has been donated.

With the help of our ServSafe-certified staff, student volunteers cook culturally appropriate meals from scratch. The meals are delivered and either served or handed out to those at local community centers and public fridges.

Student volunteers have the opportunity to learn basic food safety guidelines and principles from our ServSafe-certified staff. Students also have the opportunity to put into practice theories learned in their nutrition-related courses. In addition, our student volunteers get to visit Lawrence and hand out meals at the local community center.

Snack Boxes

As a non-profit organization that fights to end food insecurity across our local communities, we understand the importance of nutrition for our children and teenagers and the positive impact we can have in their learning journey.


In the fall of 2022, we created our snack boxes program with the intention of providing snack boxes to non profit organizations in the city of Lawrence providing educational programs to local youth. The organizations served go from Si Se Puede, Top Notch Scholars, Youth Development Organization, Hands to Help Tutoring Program, to our local community fridge.


Snack menus are created by our student workers based on the needs of the organizations served and the number of kids involved in the recipient programs. Snack boxes are put together by our student workers and/ or student volunteers.

Our Events

Back to School Drive

At the start of every school year, Hands to Help hosts our Back to School Supply Drive. Community members, businesses, faculty and students donate a variety of school supplies ranging from backpacks to folders. Hands to Help staff sort, organize, and pack all of the backpacks filled with supplies and then donate them to families in the community.

Thanksgiving Basket Drive

Merrimack’s annual Thanksgiving Basket Drive is hosted by the Food Recovery Network Program. We collect culturally appropriate food items from the Merrimack community to bring a dignifying Thanksgiving basket to 100+ families in need in the city of Lawrence and surrounding areas. Baskets are packaged and decorated at Hands to Help by Merrimack students and distributed the week before Thanksgiving.

Holiday Toy Drive

Hands to Help collects toys for low-income families in the community. Participants who’d like to donate can select toys from an Amazon link and ship them directly to us for distribution. 404 toys were donated to 100+ children during the Dec. 2023 toy drive.

Mack Gives Back

Mack Gives Back is one of Merrimack’s most beloved traditions of service, community and togetherness on campus. Traditionally held each fall, the program has been in operation for over a decade, and provides members of the Merrimack College community opportunities to come together, to give back and to make an impact on the surrounding communities.

Weigh the Waste

Weigh the Waste is a fun and interactive way to engage students in understanding how much plate waste an individual can produce at the end of a meal. Once a semester, Food Recovery Network hosts a Weigh the Waste event at Sparky’s Place to create food waste awareness among Merrimack College students, faculty, and staff and to help promote conscious consumption.

Documentary Screenings

Documentary screenings on campus are shown to expose Merrimack’s community to the reality of food insecurity and food waste in the U.S. and worldwide and the corruption of the global food supply chain. Some films we’ve showed include WastED, A Place at the Table, Rotten: Troubled Water, and Feeding Frenzy: The Food Industry, Obesity and the Creation of Health Crisis.

The Paper Bag Project

The Paper Bag Project is a fun and interactive 3-day event to celebrate Social Justice Month. The project encourages Merrimack students, faculty, and staff to write their food insecurity experiences, and stories on a paper bag. The paper bags are displayed visible areas of the college. Our goal is to create awareness of food waste and food insecurity among Merrimack College students, faculty, and staff and encourage our audience to value food security.

Lunch in Lawrence

Lunch in Lawrence offers the Merrimack community the opportunity to experience a Lawrence eatery, take a break from the ordinary work routine, meet new friends and enjoy some delicious and diverse cuisine. Transportation to and from the restaurant is provided.

Hands to Help's name pays tribute to St. Augustine, whose Homily on the First Epistle of John reads, in part, “What does love look like? It has the hands to help others.”

In the News

Hands to Help News


Just a few weeks after the official opening of Hands to Help’s brand new community kitchen this fall, Merrimack College students have already prepared hundreds of meals for those in need in Lawrence, MA.

Kyla Stern ’24, Haleigh Teixeira ’24, Wil Hingston ’24 and Jillian Corrdiori ’24 have spent Wednesdays this semester at the kitchen as part of a community nutrition course taught by Eleanor Shonkoff, associate clinical professor. 

“Out of the four of us we each get handed a different task,” said Hingston during a recent preparation of a pork dish. “Jill and Haley did the meat for the dinner, Kyla has been doing the vegetables and I’ve been doing the rice.”

Our Team

Rosana Urbaez

Executive Director of Hands to Help

  • Rosana graduated with an M.Ed. in Higher Education/Higher Education Administration from Merrimack College.
  • Rosana was named an Engaged Scholar by the national Campus Compact Engaged Scholars Initiative – a yearlong leadership and professional development program to help advance civic and community engagement. 
Vivian Villaman

Director of Community Outreach and Operations

  • Vivian graduated with a Master’s in Higher Education from Merrimack College.
  • During her master’s program at Merrimack, she has served as an Academic Advising Graduate Fellow in the School of Nursing & Health Sciences. 
Lineth Garcia

Lineth Garcia

Hands to Help Coordinator

Robert Fernandes

Community Engagement Graduate Fellow

Araiyah Willis

Araiyah Willis

Community Engagement Graduate Fellow

Nayeli Villa

Nayeli Villa

Food Recovery Network Office Assistant

Jaydahrius Levy

Jaydahrius Levy

Food Recovery Network Office Assistant

Avery Brillo

Avery Brillo

Food Recovery Network Program Coordinator

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Samarah Alteon

Kitchen Supervisor

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Demilade Abosede

Kitchen Supervisor