In tough times, Rockaway has proven time and time again that the community comes together to help each other. As coronavirus became yet another big challenge, the Rockaway Mutual Aid & Support Network was founded, becoming another way for neighbors to rise to the challenge of helping neighbors.
As coronavirus started to hit Rockaway, lifelong Rockaway resident Jennifer Krol knew her community was going to need help. As a substitute teacher now out of work and feeling helpless, she decided to dedicate her time by building a network for Rockaway residents to help one another through the crisis. She started the Rockaway Mutual Aid & Support Network as a Facebook group in mid-March and the effort has grown into a big success.
“I knew that after that first coronavirus case was confirmed in Rockaway, that our community was going to need assistance. In Rockaway alone, in addition to other residents who would get exposed to Covid-19, we have 12 adult facilities, 16 nursing homes, a huge concentration of public housing, and one hospital. As the number of cases increased, I knew there was a need for services like groceries and medication, emotional support, assistance with unemployment, and I kept thinking of those individuals who were unable to leave their homes and get the essentials they need,” Krol said. Never having done something like this before, Krol began to look into other mutual aid groups in which locals help locals across the city. “What mutual aid groups are, are a community of volunteers who organize to meet their own needs outside of the formal framework of a charity or not-for-profit. It’s about people coming together to support and look out for one another in a way that creates solidarity,” she said. “I felt like having one in Rockaway could be essential. I didn’t want to sit back and not do anything about it.”
The Rockaway Mutual Aid & Support Network is made up of volunteers who offer services to help those struggling during the coronavirus crisis by picking up and dropping off groceries and prescriptions, supporting access to essential supplies, giving a friendly phone call to those who are isolated, providing resources and referrals to local services that can help someone apply for unemployment, WIC, SNAP and other benefits, all for free to the person in need.
Alexa Paradis, a local resident who handles the communications side of the Network explained further. “We operate in a variety of ways and we offer services. We’re connecting community members to resources that they didn’t know were available to them like WIC and SNAP and things that I don’t think people on the peninsula are aware of, and it’s just as important as food and supply deliveries,” she said.
As we go to press, Krol says the Facebook group of 260 members, includes 60 active volunteers and a core group of 10 dispatchers who handle the network’s phone line, which was established in mid-April. Since that phone line was established, the network has assisted more than 160 families with their needs, and that doesn’t include those who were helped by reaching out through the Facebook group.
Of the growing effort, Paradis says, “In Rockaway, if you give someone the opportunity to help, they’re going to want to help. It doesn’t matter what part of the peninsula you live on, people are going to help out neighbors, which is really beautiful and makes me love the Rockaways even more.”
The Mutual Aid group works with other local organizations to bring people what they need. For example, the Jewish Community Council of the Rockaway Peninsula has helped provide grocery pickups from food pantries and referrals for services. The Rockaway Food Initiative based in the Rockaway Brewing Company has also helped provide groceries for those in need. The Rockaway Head Start program has connected them with people in need of baby supplies like diapers and formula and has helped provide translation services for those who don’t speak English, so they can have access to services.
As the movement grows, the Rockaway Mutual Aid Network is always searching for more help. Many of the volunteers pick up essentials and deliver them to the homes of those who can’t get them. The group is open to more people joining to help make the effort more widespread. “It’s important for people in the community to know that there are multiple ways to help and be involved, whether it’s making grocery and delivery runs, or speaking another language and providing translation services, or being connected to social services, or even phone dispatching,” Krol said.
They have also started an online fundraiser for the effort to help volunteers that are paying out-of-pocket for essential items and food that they bring to those in need. “We’re hoping to raise funds to reimburse our volunteers. With the fundraiser, we can reimburse the volunteer for up to $100 that they spend per family,” Paradis said. As we go to press, the group has raised nearly $3,700. Donations can be made at www.chuffed.org/project/rockaway-mutual-aid-covid-19-relief-fund
As needs change during the ever-evolving pandemic and cases decrease, Krol and Paradis say they hope to keep the mutual aid initiative going during and beyond coronavirus, so that people can continue to show support for their neighbors.
By Katie McFaddenBLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS