“Everyone has something to give, and everyone probably has a need as well,” said Hannah Williams, a co-organizer with Miner Mutual Aid. “which is important because mutual aid is solidarity, not charity.”
Saturday, March 6 is the next Miner Mutual Aid community tabling event. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., members of the school community will be in the Miner Elementary School parking lot (601 15 St. NE) with items such as free food boxes, winter clothing, diapers and PPE. District neighbors are invited to come by and take what they need.
Williams said that this is the community’s ninth tabling event. In addition to meeting some material needs, the committee also handles requests for support made by filling through an online Google form. Williams said the team has helped connect folks with needs for transportation, technology support, child care and even employment.
The idea for Miner Mutual Aid came out of the school’s Equity Team. Back in spring 2020, the team was looking for ways to help alleviate the effects of the pandemic on the school community. They had heard about the concept of mutual aid and decided this was the approach for Miner. Four people spearhead the work, including Williams, fellow parent Chris Deutsch, equity discussion facilitator Azeb Kinder and Miner’s FoodCorps representative, Sydney Lawson.
Using Google forms, they reached out to the community via email and the school’s social worker. While they had moderate success, Williams said, it was difficult to get the word out without face-to-face interaction.
Deutsch reached out to Maurice Cook of Serve Your City DC (SYC DC). The not-for-profit offers additional experiences to students without access and already had a history with Miner. Since the pandemic, SYC had shifted to working with Ward 6 Mutual Aid (W6MA), through which neighbors provide support and advocacy for one another in nearly every area of community need. Cook had a long conversation with the team, helping them to refine their approach. They learned a great deal from Cook, Williams said, and that conversation led Miner to the community tabling concept.
On Saturday mornings once a month, volunteers set up tables with donated food (W6MA contributes about 15 boxes of groceries), masks, PPE and diapers. There are additions for special occasions: back-to-school supplies, books, holiday gifts –last month, there was a food truck handing out grilled cheese sandwiches. All of the items are donated and available free of charge, supported by a corps of volunteers from the school, community and from Christ City Church. Located in the school, the church has been a big part of the effort, Williams said.
Every event is more successful, said Williams. Before an event, the team distributes fliers and calls a list of contacts. But most of the participants aren’t from Miner, Williams said. “We’ve had people come month-to-month, and we’re developing relationships with them,” she said.
Built on a Foundation of Relationships
Relationships are the foundation of the work, Williams said, and the relationships built around Miner are strong. So strong that Williams herself is still part of the Mutual Aid team, although she no longer has a student at the school. “Priced out” of the Hill by her landlord, Williams took her then-pre-K4 student out of the school to move to Arlington, where she is homeschooling her son. Mutual Aid had just gotten off the ground when they moved, Williams said, and she wasn’t going to walk away just because they were a few more miles away.
“I love Miner,” she said. “I’m just going to stay as connected as I can.”
Anyone in need is welcome at the event, or to reach out through the intake form. “We’ll do our very best,” Wiliams said. The only thing mutual aid does not offer is financial support. Through material support and connection to resources, financial resources are freed for other necessities, Williams explains.
You can be part of the work. Miner Mutual Aid asks community members to challenge themselves to consider other ways they reach out in solidarity. This may include donating groceries, toiletries or other essentials; offering transportation; providing, technical, administrative or legal support; offering child care or just checking in with your neighbors.
Financial and in-kind donations to support Miner Mutual Aid can be made through the Miner PTO via the Donation page.
Learn more about Maury Mutual Aid efforts, the next tabling event, or find the google and inquiry forms at www.minerelementary.org/mutual-aid-network.html