Juneau’s mutual aid network rallies neighborhood support groups

Illustration by Grace Hernandes
(Illustration by Grace Hernandes)

Community organizing has blossomed around the country in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Mutual aid networks” are volunteer-led, grassroots efforts to connect people with resources that might be more difficult to access during social isolation.

Sarah Lubiner, one of the facilitators of Juneau’s burgeoning mutual aid network, said it simply on Tuesday’s Juneau Afternoon: “We’re a group of neighbors in Juneau. … We work together in solidarity to connect folks who can give things and who need things.”

The scope of Juneau’s mutual aid network includes people’s “daily, timely needs,” which have been made more difficult to fulfill due to social isolation: “Things like grocery shopping and delivery, prescription pickup, remote tutoring, checking in via phone …” Lubiner said.

“We’re not replicating the service of any direct service agencies or connecting individuals to existing organizations,” she clarified in a later interview. “We want to connect neighbors.”

How you can help

The network is entirely volunteer-led. All information can be found at the Juneau Mutual Aid website.

There are three ways anyone can get involved:

  1. Person-to-person help: Anyone can offer resources, skills or time to others through the network. “If you have an ability to drive to the grocery store, and you aren’t immunocompromised and someone is … we can help connect those two types of people,” Lubiner provided as an example.
  2.  Neighborhood coordination: For smaller-scale neighborhood support networks, “we’re hoping to have folks act as neighborhood point-people to get groups of between five and 30 people, whether it’s your apartment building or on your street, that you reach out to, to make sure that needs are met,” Lubiner said. “If, you know, one person is going to the grocery store instead of 5 people … that’s even furthering this goal of social distancing and making sure we’re not spreading the virus.”
  3. Resource coordination and organizing: Volunteers can coordinate requests for assistance with those who have offered to give help. Volunteers can also take charge of various behind-the-scenes coordination efforts. “We’ve had people volunteer to build the website, map out neighborhood networks,” Lubiner said. “If you want to get creative and contribute your strengths, we’re here as a platform. Just reach out.”

The mutual aid effort isn’t meant to be a last resort to supply people with resources amid scarcity. Rather, Lubiner said it’s an opportunity for anyone to feel more connected within their communities: “While we are starting this organization in a time of pandemic, we hope that it creates connection and value in the community long beyond this time.”

Lubiner closed her interview by reminding listeners of the ethos of mutual aid networks: “It comes from the idea that person-to-person connection and organizing is the root of justice, and is the way we can support in each other in hardship and day-to-day life. … We want to honor that history.”

There are more than 140 mutual aid networks across the country, self-organized by volunteers equipped with shared spreadsheets, Zoom calls and the belief that effectively responding to societal crises means taking care of one another.

Those interested in learning more and getting involved with the mutual aid network can visit juneaumutualaid.weebly.com.

The full interview can be heard below:

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