PORTLAND, Ore — From doorstep to doorstep, strangers are taking care of strangers. The PDX COVID-19 Mutual Aid Network is making sure of that.
“It is absolutely one of the most inspirational things that I have seen,” organizer Louie Redmon said. “The goal is just to make sure that everybody has their needs met right now.”
The group formed about a week ago and already have more than 2,300 volunteers signed up to drop off food, pet supplies, medications and other essential resources. They aim to serve the entire community, but right now they are focused on the most vulnerable populations in the Portland metro area.
“We have huge populations in our community who were never able to afford supplies in the first place, but now, specifically, when our supplies and resources are scarce, they really don't have access to these things,” Redmon said.
The grassroots organization is made up of diverse and seasoned organizers, with backgrounds in everything from the health care to the tech industry. Many are still working their 40-hour-a-week day jobs while running the PDX COVID-19 Mutual Aid Network. Redmon is a social worker for the state.
“We're seeing people who are at severe risk of impact; whether that's losing their jobs, our houseless community, our immigrant community. These people are needing support more than ever and I think that's why people are coming together,” she said.
The PDX COVID-19 Mutual Aid Network works alongside established nonprofits. They just launched their first food distribution alongside the Oregon Food Bank. Wednesday, volunteers delivered more than 70 boxes of food.
They are planning to set up five different drive-up sites to distribute food in the coming days.
“It's vital, but it's also restoring hope, I think, for people,” Redmon said.
Volunteers are taking safety precautions by wearing gloves and practicing social distancing.
“We are just dropping off what people need and leaving,” Redmon said.
They take requests for aid online. As soon as the site went live, they started receiving about four requests an hour, according to Redmon.
Those who are able can also sign up to volunteer online. If you cannot give your time you can donate to the PDX COVID-19 Mutual Aid Network GoFundMe page.
They are using those funds for supplies for community members and to reimburse volunteers. As of Wednesday evening, they had raised more than $32,000.
“We're seeing our community financially support other people in the community right now and it's been truly amazing,” Redmon said.
Organizers have gotten calls from around the country from other groups who want to replicate their community action.
The PDX COVID-19 Mutual Aid Network is also working with Rep. Earl Blumenauer and his office to create a one-stop-shop website for aid and resources in Oregon during the coronavirus outbreak. KGW will post a link as soon as it is up.
Those who may have felt as though there was nowhere to turn now have hope, delivered right to their doorstep.
“People are talking about how they feel hope now. How they understand that we need each other, as Americans, more than ever right now,” Redmon said.
How you can help:
The PDX COVID-19 Mutual Aid Network is collecting non-perishable food donations and hygiene donations at the Q Center and JOIN in Portland. They are most in need of items that are in scarce supply: toilet paper, hand sanitizer, germ-killing cleaners, masks, gloves, etc.
How you can help: