Avondale Mutual Aid is one of a handful of local aid networks that have cropped up amid the COVID-19 pandemic to make donating locally and helping one another easy. The organization offers a number of ways to help people in your community, from supporting unhoused encampments to pairing with a neighbor in need. This Wednesday (Jan. 27) the group is hosting one if its popup pantries at St Nicolai United Church of Christ (stop by 3000 N. Kedzie Ave. to make a donation).
It has been nearly 10 months since the start of the pandemic in the United States, and the resulting lockdowns and economic slowdowns have affected millions of jobs across the country, including here in our neighborhood. To make matters worse, the delay in COVID-19 stimulus from the government, discussion of eviction bans being lifted, and the start of Chicago’s long winter have created even more stress for unhoused residents of Logan Square and Avondale and individuals with low incomes. With Avondale Mutual Aid’s ongoing projects, neighbors can make a difference for one another in these difficult times.
” In such an individualized world, there is so much separation which makes people feel lonely. We are looking to build sustainable community structures. Solidarity, not charity.”– Katie Steel, email administrator and request volunteer for Avondale Mutual Aid
Here are 5 ways you can show solidarity with your community right now:
1. Donate to the local “popup pantries”
In collaboration with the Northwestside Solidarity Network, Avondale Mutual Aid hosts free popup pantries every other Wednesday from 1 p.m .or 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. at St Nicolai United Church of Christ (3000 N Kedzie Avenue), offering groceries to community members in need.
Drop-offs can be made on the day of the popup. Fresh produce is accepted if dropped off on the day; you can also give nonperishable goods, household supplies, personal protective equipment (PPE), and hygiene products. The next Wednesday market is this week (Jan. 27), followed by Feb. 3; the market then returns to a biweekly schedule. Ongoing donations can be made at The Fields (2828 N. Pulaski Rd.) on Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Fridays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. 1 p.m. Finally, you can make financial in-kind donations to northwestsidesolidaritynetwork.com/donate as well as via Venmo at NSSN_for_food.
2. Assist the unhoused encampments based on changing needs
Avondale Mutual Aid is very involved with the needs of the unhoused community, but the requirements vary from one encampment to the next. For instance, some encampments have been overwhelmed with donations, such as diapers and children’s clothing, that do not fit with the demographic of that particular encampment. Meanwhile, others face shortages in overall donations. To help donors support the unhoused in the most relevant way, whiteboards outside of each encampment list needs for that location.
Based on these whiteboards, here are some current donation requests from the unhoused encampments:
- Pet-safe rat repellent.
- Hand and foot warmers.
- XL men’s coat.
- Wallet (black).
- Belt (size 36-38 inches).
- Jeans (men’s size 34-32).
- Laundry detergent
- Ready-to-eat foods that don’t need to be reheated or cooked (trail mixes, bars, ready-to-eat canned goods, etc.).
If you are able to donate any of the items above, please email email@example.com.
3. Get matched up with a neighbor
If you are able to make a longer-term commitment and currently have a more positive financial circumstance for the next four to six months, consider getting involved in the neighbor-to-neighbor program, a growing initiative matching people with neighbors in need. It is a minimum 4-month commitment but a great way to support the community and show solidarity with your neighbors on a more connected level. To get matched up with a neighbor, email firstname.lastname@example.org to reach Matthew Miller, the program’s coordinator.
4. Donate to the Mutual Aid GoFundMe
As the pandemic situation has evolved, a deeper financial strain has arisen as people are requesting higher amounts of financial aid to stay in their homes and feed their families. In order to support these ever-changing needs, a Go-Fund-Me page has been set up for Avondale Mutual Aid. The program will award these funds those most in need during this time.
5. Learn more about mutual aid as a theory and practice
“Mutual aid is the radical act of caring for each other while working to change the world.”–Dean Spade, author of “Mutual Aid: Building Solidatiry During This Crisis (and the Next)
If you want to learn more about the philosophy and practice of mutual aid, Avondale Mutual Aid recommends reading the teachings of Dean Spade. The group also advises learning the difference in community organizing between mutual aid organizations and more traditional nonprofits and social services orograms.
Read more about how local mutual aid programs supported neighbors at the start of the pandemic in this LoganSquarist article.
Featured photo: Avondale Mutual Aid popup market donations being organized in partnership with the Northwest Side Solidarity Network. Photo: Chrissy Ruiz