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A ‘looking out for each other’ program

Volunteers work to assemble care packages for people across central New Mexico at a space provided by the SouthWest Organizing Project. (Courtesy of ABQ Mutual Aid)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

By the community, for the community is one of the main principles guiding the ABQ Mutual Aid project.

Born out of a want to immediately address the needs of the community during the coronavirus pandemic, the new organization has been working nonstop since mid-March to distribute care packages filled with food and essential supplies across central New Mexico.

Two ABQ Mutual Aid volunteers pose with fresh greens. The organization tries to provide fresh produce to package recipients. (Courtesy of ABQ Mutual Aid)

All told, nearly 12,000 people have received help from the organization since March, organizers Selinda Guerrero and Zoey Craft said.

“We took that initiative because we felt that it was really important to support each other during this pandemic,” Guerrero said.

One of the group’s goals was to ensure that community members unable to shop for themselves – such as those with compromised immune systems or those unable to afford supplies – were still having their basic needs met.

“We see that this was a need that was really compounded by the pandemic, but it’s a need that has existed for a really, really long time,” Craft said. “And we’re really glad that, through this project, we’re able to do this in a way that the community can help each other and we can build those relationships in our communities, as well.”

As residents raced to grocery stores at the beginning of the pandemic to stock up on essentials, volunteers with the organization were there as well, searching for hard-to-find and in demand items, such as bleach and toilet paper.

Volunteers quickly assembled to create the care packages and begin distribution.

Craft estimates that between 30 and 50 people are helped each day, five days a week.

“Since the beginning, we’ve had packages and deliveries going out every weekday,” Craft said.

The area covered by the organization has continued to grow, as well.

“It’s just amazing the area that we’ve covered,” Guerrero said. “We’ve had volunteers that have covered all of Albuquerque, Tijeras, Edgewood, Moriarty, Sandia Park, Belen, Los Lunas, Rio Rancho, Jemez Pueblo and Santa Fe.”

Guerrero said the group has been working with local farmers in the South Valley to source fresh fruits and vegetables, and restaurants have also pitched in to donate produce.

“We are giving lots of good, healthy options, but we’re also able to give them food that’s sustainable,” Guerrero said.

This is all made possible by many small donors who are committed to helping the community, Guerrero said.

Craft said since the organization is a mutual aid project, it does not require proof of income and anyone can apply to receive a care package. People can even apply for a care package each week.

“This is not a needs program, this is a ‘community looking out for each other and building with each other’ program,” Guerrero said.

Care package recipients just need to fill out a Google form identifying their specific needs.

As with other mutual aid networks, ABQ Mutual Aid is made up of loosely organized individuals and groups that come together to support a community-oriented goal – in this case, to provide food and essentials during a time when many families are unable to access those on their own.

While Guerrero and Clark act as the de facto organizers, Guerrero says their role is more administrative and organizational, and that community members themselves act as the “real leaders.”

Though the mutual aid project is its own separate organization, it is hosted on the Fight For Our Lives website and that other local community organizing groups, such as the SouthWest Organizing Project and Black Voices ABQ, are involved with the work.

Craft and Guerrero said monetary and in-kind donations of non-perishables are always needed, as are more volunteers to put the packages together or to help distribute the packages around town.

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