If you’re in need at this most turbulent time — in need of help, in need of advice, or if you just want to assist someone else — the members of Mutual Aid Toledo are here for you.
“Mutual Aid Toledo is a group of residents in the Toledo area who are all mutually helping each other. So you have people that make requests and you have people that make offers,” said Veralucía Mendoza, organizer of Mutual Aid Toledo.
“People make requests, and somebody comes in to fulfill that request, to help that need. And sometimes somebody will make an offer and somebody will say, ‘Hey, I have a need for that.'”
The idea is simple: Individuals who join either fill out a form on Google Docs listing what kind of help you may need in the days to come and what kind of help you can give to others, or ask for assistance directly through the Mutual Aid Facebook page. Thus individuals facing a dire situation can be quickly connected with someone with the skills to provide them assistance.
“It’s already grown to 4,000 people, and 300 people have filled out the form,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza describes Mutual Aid as a “political practice,” aimed at solidarity rather than charity. The idea of organizing an online group to aid in a time of crisis has risen up a few times around the world in recent years, whether during disasters such as the California wildfires or in response to the mistreatment of immigrants.
“It’s important that as much [of the] community as possible takes ownership of it. Mutual Aid belongs to all of us. I’m an organizer, so my job is to help with the groundwork.”
Mendoza has a great deal of passion for the power of community rising up in support of one another. As the COVID-19 crisis began to escalate, a friend pointed to the recently-founded Mutual Aid Central Ohio group to her. Also created on March 12 by Kevin O’Donnell— who Mendoza knows— the Central Ohio group already has over 11,000 members.
“I messaged him right away and said, ‘Help me set this up,'” Mendoza said. “And instantly we had something going. And people have a need right now, and there are others that want to help.”
In just over two weeks, Mutual Aid Toledo has grown even bigger than Mendoza would have ever expected. Beyond connecting individuals who need emergency assistance, the Facebook discussion page has also become somewhat of a hub for area residents to ask advice and offer supplies to others in a time of uncertainty.
“I think, at the end of the day, we know that we have each others’ back as neighbors. We have a society that really comes through for one another, but we also see the ways in which people are affected. We’re humans, and we see humans in need, so we want to help. It’s our natural instinct,” Mendoza said.