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Most Hands in the Community Beneficiaries are Local Seniors

"We are serving the senior community," said Lester Moon about Hands in the Community (HNC), the charitable organization he founded twelve years ago. "Sixty to 70% of our clientele are seniors."

These elderly clients usually need things like ramps, home repairs, or yard and home clean-up. Sometimes their needs reveal a sad situation.

Moon shared the story of one client he called "Althea," an 81-year-old woman who lived in an 850-foot apartment in the north part of Visalia.

She told Moon that she was living in the dark and had nowhere to go for help. She wasn't a church member and she didn't trust her neighbors. She had no relatives in the area.

"As each light bulb burned out, she would move into another room," said Moon, adding that she didn't have the $8-$10 to buy new light bulbs.

It took the Hands in the Community volunteer longer to drive across Visalia than to fix Althea's problem. She later told Moon that the volunteer "gave me my home and my life back."

"You just want to believe there are people who will help these kinds of folks," said Moon. "They just want to stay in their homes."

Some seniors are unable to clean their property and as a result are visited by the local fire department.

"We don't want to ticket that elderly couple but we have to if they don't clean up their yard," one fire department inspector told Moon, knowing that HNC would solve the problem.

"There's no organization that does what we're doing," said Moon, who noted that seniors are also active in helping others as HNC volunteers.

"A lot of our volunteers who work in the office are seniors because they are available during the day," said Moon. "We have to rely on seniors. If volunteers are younger than 50, they're between jobs."

Over the years, HNC has partnered with community agencies including Visalia Rescue Mission, Visalia Emergency Aid Council, Family Services of Tulare County, Habitat for Humanity, United Way, Health and Human Services, Veterans Services, the District Attorney's Office, CSET and Samaritan's Center.

Volunteers have been the grease that makes the whole engine run, said Moon. With over 1,200 volunteers, there are usually 15-20 volunteers in the office daily, answering phones and doing everything from repairing computers, counseling families and individuals, preparing for a fundraiser, and running programs for elementary school students and seniors.

Through the program last year, more than $2 million in goods and services were donated back to the community, assisting over 700 families throughout Tulare, Kings and Southern Fresno County.

In the coming decade, Moon hopes to see HNC become more self-sustainable, with the increase of paid administrative staff and growth in business and church participation. His vision is for the organization to assist an increasing number of clients while expanding the volunteer base to meet their needs.


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