Mutual Aid Networks

By Maryssa Fenwick

The unexpected and routine altering outbreak of COVID-19 forced rapid changes to peoples’ daily lives and created chaos as individuals and entire cities realized they were not prepared for a disruption of this scale. With non-essential businesses closing such as restaurants, bars, and clothing stores, and limited quantities of essential items including food, diapers, and toilet paper becoming less available it became evident that America as a whole was unprepared. In the midst of the turmoil we are all experiencing during the outbreak of COVID-19, it has provided us the time to look at our current systems and identify areas in our own communities that require change. The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) located in Butte, MT did just that.

Butte is a rural city surrounded by snow-capped mountains in the winter and blossoming wildflowers in the spring. There is no denying the beauty and unique qualities of this little rural town. Many Butte community members work hard for their paychecks and rely on them. When COVID-19 forced businesses to close it took peoples’ incomes and livelihoods with it. A need was seen by an NCAT employee to organize a mutual aid network in town to provide aid to people affected by the virus and thus the Butte Mutual Aid Network (BMAN) was born.

A mutual aid network is a cooperative designed to connect people in need of help with people who are able to help. It provides a safe place for neighbors to connect with neighbors and come together during trying times. My role as an Energy Corps member in the BMAN is to serve as the volunteer coordinator fielding phone calls, answering questions, and connecting volunteers with people in need of help. Serving the community in this way has been both eye opening and rewarding. I have gained a deeper understanding of how and why Butte community members in need of aid are in their current positions. It has been humbling to be in the position to help others in my area and a good reminder to always see the good in people. Although the BMAN was created to help people affected by the pandemic, the organization hopes to continue providing aid and resources to people of Butte in the future.  Aid provided by the BMAN includes, but is not limited to, VISA gift cards, grocery cards, companionship care, tutoring help, and grocery delivery services. It has been amazing to see the outpour of support from community members who have come together and donated their time and money to support the cause.

Mutual aid networks have been around for many years and can be found throughout the United States. Check out the map here to find a mutual aid network and get involved!

Many of us are feeling scared and overwhelmed by the current status of our country. One way to be part of the solution is to get involved in your community. Getting involved may look like volunteering your time, donating money, or simply supporting organizations providing aid. There are many ways to be get involved, connect with others in your community and find a way that best suits you to be a part of the solution. We are all in this together.

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