Helping HANDS for local seniors

Grands as Parents, Inc. partnered with students in Bingo.

A few rounds of Bingo with some good company is all it takes for some Temple students to have a fulfilling weekend.

Last Sunday, more than 35 senior citizens gathered in Mitten Hall to eat food, listen to music and play bingo with members of the Having Ambition N’ Devotion for Service organization. The event was sponsored by HANDS, a student-run organization that is putting a new spin on community service at Temple.

“It’s a really good feeling to be out there making an impact in the community,” said Eric Vidal, vice president of HANDS and junior international business marketing major. “I’m just doing my part to make North Philadelphia a better place to live.”

HANDS provided 10 $25 gift cards for local businesses such as Applebees, Pathmark, Rite Aid and Foot Locker to all of the seniors in attendance. Temple bags filled with T-shirts, key chains and hot chocolate were also prizes for 10 lucky winners provided by the Campus Safety Services’ community outreach department. The grand prize winner took home a $50 Visa gift card courtesy of pre-law major Lamar Wallace, president and founder of HANDS.

“We wanted a community service organization that formed an event every weekend,” Wallace said. “Community service is a two-part definition. The first aspect is going out to the community site and doing the actual work and the second part is actually having fun.”

Most of the senior citizens that attended the event were part of Grands as Parents, Inc. Jean Hackney, the vice president of GAPS, said she was glad she came back for the second senior citizens event host by HANDS.

“If we weren’t here, we’d be home watching the grandkids,” said Hackney, who was one of the Bingo winners of the day. “This gives us a chance to get out, meet other people, and relax without having to watch the kids. Plus they play good music and a couple of people were out here trying to dance. I guess we’ll need Bengay tonight.”

“It makes me happy to be a part of making someone else happy,” said HANDS historian Stephanie Velez, an undeclared sophomore.

Lillian English-Hentz, community relations officer for Campus Police, said it’s “great that the young people understand that elders exist.

“It’s Sunday afternoon and they could be doing something else,” Hentz said. “It speaks to Temple’s philosophy to reach out. They’re an acre of diamonds that have gone out and found other acres of diamonds.”

“It’s great that so many people came out this year,” GAPS President Eileen Brown said. “Temple needs one of those license plates that say, ‘You have a friend in Temple.’”

“I hope the seniors enjoyed themselves, the food, the prizes, the slow jams and I hope they know if they need anything that we’re always there to lend a helping hand,” said senior psychology major Nexus Cook, who is the administrative assistant for HANDS.

HANDS members participate in events such as planning a senior citizen ball, taking children to Temple football games, cleaning neighborhood houses and tutoring Philadelphia youth.

Kelly R. Fields can be reached at

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