Merrimack College’s community service program Hands to Help in Lawrence, Massachusetts quickly shifted priorities in March when COVID-19 affected its community members. With students forced to stay home from school and families experiencing unemployment, the program offered local families food, cleaning supplies and online learning assistance.
“When students were sent home to continue learning online, Hands to Help moved the tutoring program online,” Director Rosana Urbaez said. “The kids and students really enjoyed reconnecting, even if it was virtually.”
With support from Merrimack, Hands to Help has been able to assist those most affected by COVID-19 and help them avoid going into severe poverty.
“We’ve called more than 70 Lawrence families and an overwhelming number told us they need food and cleaning supplies,” Urbaez said. ‘“We have been able to supply families with gift certificates to help with these basic necessities.”
K-12 students are also in need of school supplies for the upcoming year – whether they return to school full time or continue with remote learning. Hands to Help’s annual Back to School Supply Drive is collecting items for students.
Hands to Help has created an Amazon Wish List for the supply drive. Donors can add requested items to their shopping carts and ship them directly to the Hands to Help office. Requested items include notebooks, folders, pens and pencils, sharpeners, binders, looseleaf paper, backpacks and more. The event is from July 20 to August 3.
Last year’s supply drive distributed more than 300 backpacks and additional school supplies to students. With the additional challenges students are facing with COVID-19, Hands to Help is hoping to distribute even more backpacks and supplies this year.
In the recent The Restless Hearts Podcast, Fr. Raymond Dlugos, O.S.A. reflects on the fact that this is the second year in a row that school and learning for Lawrence students have been turned upside down by events beyond their control.