Contributed by Barry Katz, Co-Founder at Lotsa Helping Hands
In 2005 version 1.0 of the Lotsa Helping Hands service was introduced to the world. While rudimentary in its design and feature set, it did begin to address the needs of caregivers. This once neglected group now had some building blocks to begin organizing their thoughts and approach to caregiving. As a Lotsa Co-Founder, and one of the providers of basic support to Community members, three early Communities stand out to me:
The first version of Lotsa Helping Hands was actually what we now call an ‘Open Community’. Two women from Wayland, Massachusetts, themselves cancer survivors, were working to ‘give back’ to their community in recognition and appreciation for all the support that they had received during their treatments. They organized meals, rides and visits through the use of spreadsheets and phone calls. Once they began using Lotsa, their membership more than doubled and the number of people that they were able to help grew as well.
Another Community I remember well was formed to support a young mother who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. In addition to needing treatment, she was responsible for a growing family, which included a special needs child. Her Lotsa Helping Hands Community quickly grew to several hundred members, who completely took care of meals and childcare. This enabled all of her energy to be devoted to the healing process.
And lastly, I remember one Community that was formed after a fire destroyed a family home. A single mother with three children suddenly found her family homeless. A Lotsa Helping Hands Community was quickly formed to bring together the many circles of community that this family was involved with – friends, church, neighbors and classmates. Coming together to assist with clothing drives, insurance inventory reporting, and temporary housing all gave this mother the energy necessary to rebuild their home and their lives.
In May of 2012 we introduced version 5.0 of Lotsa Helping Hands to the world. The team at Lotsa Helping Hands, now experts in understanding the needs of caregivers, had combined that knowledge with years of feedback from more than one million users to add and enhance features that have enabled Communities to form and grow at rapid rates.
Today, more than 60,000 Communities have been created through Lotsa Helping Hands. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the support and care that members both give and receive through their Lotsa Helping Hands Community. Friends, family members and neighbors are helping the caregiver organize meals, schedule rides, coordinate childcare and update their Community, all through their Lotsa Helping Hands Community web site.
Our new ‘Open Community’ feature allows local towns or neighborhoods to provide a place for caregivers to go to request help as well as for volunteers to offer help and lend a hand. Many towns and neighborhoods, such as the early Community from Wayland, Massachusetts did, now use the Open Community option to create a network of willing volunteers ready to mobilize when help is needed.
We have also experienced thousands of Communities that have come together in non-medical crisis situations, like house fires, earthquakes and other natural disasters in which community becomes so important. At Lotsa Helping Hands, we understand the power of community.
So, at Lotsa Helping Hands, when we ask the question: what happens when caregivers and volunteers get the support they so desperately need? The answer remains as true today as it did in version 1.0. Community grows. More people help. Connections are made. Caring communities form. Those in need are well taken care of. Helping hands abound.