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Star of the Month

February 2024

Michelle Galat
School of Nursing

Congratulations to our Star of the Month for February 2024, Michelle Galat from the School of Nursing! For the past year, Michelle has been volunteering with our amazing partners at Lori's Hands and, as a SOURCE Service Scholar, is also involved in their "Client Storytelling Project". Read our interview below to learn more about her experience volunteering in our community!

Tell us a little bit about yourself! What brought you to the School of Nursing?

Hello! I’m Michelle Galat, a nursing student currently in my fifth semester at the MEN Program. I grew up near Sacramento, California, and went to college not too far away at UC Davis. My non-nursing degree is in Cognitive Science with a Neuroscience emphasis, as I have always been fascinated by the workings of the brain. After graduating in 2020, I worked at a skilled nursing facility in the Bay Area where I reaffirmed my passion for caring for older adults through nursing. I was drawn to the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing for its emphasis on equitable aging. 


Can you share a little background about your experience in the Baltimore community through your work with the SOURCE Service Scholars program and Lori’s Hands? What made you want to get involved and what work are you doing? 

At the start of my nursing program, I was searching for opportunities to be out in Baltimore and engage with older adults in a non-medical setting to gain a better perspective of aging in place. Lori’s Hands came to my attention through a SOURCE email with the blurb, "Do you have an interest in chatting with older adults?". Eager to combine my academics with hands-on experience, working with Lori's Hands presented itself as the perfect match for me.

The mission of Lori’s Hands is to build mutually beneficial partnerships between community members with chronic illness and students, fostering empathy, connection, and resilience. Lori’s Hands envisions a more equitable world in which every person can age with dignity and interconnection in their community. 
This February marks my one-year milestone as a volunteer with Lori’s Hands! In this past year, I experienced an enriching journey with the community member I am paired with. My weekly visits to her home have blossomed into a friendship that is beyond traditional volunteering.

"In this past year, I experienced an enriching journey with the community member I am paired with. My weekly visits to her home have blossomed into a friendship that is beyond traditional volunteering."

Throughout the changing seasons, we tended to her garden in the summer and set up Christmas decorations in the winter. We also navigated through technology together, like Zoom meetings and the intricacies of attaching pictures to text messages. We also engaged in activities like Thai Chi, neighborhood strolls, and guided meditations during our visit. Our conversations are my favorite; we enjoy talking about family, sports, and the things most important to us.

Lori’s Hands also extends its impact to other community members aging in place in Baltimore City. Through the Service Scholars program, I am involved in the "Client Storytelling Project," a critical service-learning initiative that involves interviewing older adults to understand their background and experiences from a social justice lens.

Michelle and her volunteer partner celebrate the end of the year with their client who they've been visiting for more than a year.


What service activities does your organization have planned in the future? Are there any activities where others can get involved?   

If you are interested in getting paired with your own community member, click here! Service events are also hosted throughout the year, including Neighborhood Clean Ups. For specific questions about Lori’s Hands Baltimore Chapter, please contact Maddie Hagerty, Chapter Manager, at 


How does your community work complement what you’re learning in the classroom at the School of Nursing?   

Two courses in the MEN program, “Community Outreach in Underserved Communities in Urban Baltimore” and “Population and Public Health Nursing,” lay a solid foundation for the context of East Baltimore. Here, we learn about historical government policies such as urban renewal, slum clearance, and redlining, which resulted in serial forced displacement. Homeowners, local businesses, and public schools located inside the Black Butterfly communities were impacted the most. These insights prompt reflection on how such policies shaped the aging process of today’s older adult population in Baltimore City. When interacting with community members, whether in their homes or over the phone, I am conscious of the upstream factors contributing to the prevalence of chronic diseases in this population. These lessons in the classroom remind me to approach my work in Baltimore intentionally and build more meaning in all my interactions. 


What advice would you give to other students looking to engage in service-learning in Baltimore?   

The most valuable, yet simple, advice I have received is to understand the community you are serving. With this comes acknowledging the history of the relationship between Johns Hopkins University and East Baltimore. There are accessible resources to start with, like the online SOURCE modules, and books like The Black Butterfly by Lawrence T. Brown, and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. I also recommend checking out the article, "Traditional vs. Critical Service-Learning" (2008) as you engage in community partnerships. The best resources, though, will come directly from the people living here!


What is the most important experience you’ve had or thing you’ve learned? 

While interviewing clients of Lori’s Hands, I spoke with a community member who endured a two-year waiting list for assistance through the Baltimore City Health Department. Eventually, she found relief with Lori’s Hands. Diagnosed with lymphedema, she faces mobility challenges and relies on a wheelchair and walker. Reflecting on her time with Lori’s Hands, she shared that her student volunteers not only made her home life more manageable but also facilitated the delivery of her medications, eliminating the need for her to venture out. This teaches me the need for continued investment in community-based programs to ensure their sustainability and ability to keep assisting those who benefit from them. 


Thank you to Michelle for your commitment and continued service to our community!