Beginning in April 2020, Astoria Mutual Aid Network mobilized a group of dispatchers to respond to community requests for assistance with grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions, accessing health information, running local errands or just providing a human point of connection during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since April 2020, we have responded and supported more than 2,000 direct requests for help in the Astoria community.
Now, a year and a half after starting our dispatch service, both the needs of our community and the ways that our volunteer network can address those needs have evolved.
Requests to our dispatch phone number and email address have declined significantly since peak volume during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Volunteer capacity to staff our dispatch phone and email has decreased significantly and we are not able to provide the level of service we were once able to.
Other mutual aid partners, such as the Astoria Food Pantry, the Astoria Free Store and others operating out of our shared community center at 25-82 Steinway have become cornerstones of our efforts to serve immediate community needs related to food security, clothing, diapers, and many of our most common requests for help. All of these partners are actively serving these needs in our community, and many of our AMAN volunteers (and former dispatchers!) are more active in running these organizations on a consistent basis.
As such, as of October 15, 2021, we are no longer responding to direct requests for assistance via our Astoria Mutual Aid Network phone number, online form, or email address. We will continue to spread mutual aid and help our community members who may need support, by directing them to resources available at our shared community center on Steinway Street.
Through the creation of dispatch, we discovered how AMAN can mobilize to assist our community in urgent situations, like COVID-19 and its lockdowns. Even recently, in the wake of serious flooding for many of our neighbors due to Hurricane Ida, a collective of AMAN volunteers quickly responded to and provided direct financial aid to impacted community members. This action was possible due to the structures we had put in place through programs like dispatch, our fundraising team and our communications channels, and we can continue to mobilize to respond to future emergency situations using these structures.
Evolution is both expected and necessary in a self-organized and decentralized mutual aid group. With this change to dispatch, we are changing how we respond directly to community needs, but our overall commitments to collective action, building solidarity and facilitating community-based problem solving, remain as alive as ever.
If you want to get involved in helping us build mutual aid in our Astoria community, sign up here or donate.