Mutual Aid Southeast Ohio has been a way for those with extra to find those in need and vice versa.
The group was started after a similar group, Mutual Aid Central Ohio. The design of the group is set up so that both those in need and those who are able to help can connect or be connected. The group has gained a large Facebook following, hosting over 1,400 people, but the organizing and reaching out does not stop there.
“There's a Google form you can fill out, and that was created pretty much right away with the Facebook group,” Ilya Kogan, an organizer with the group, said.
Kogan said that although the form is a bit complex, the results have led to a spreadsheet with around 170 rows, including those providing or needing housing, food, childcare and more.
Additionally, the group has had a large outpouring of support on Facebook, including posts about general charitable resources, businesses reaching out and even neighbors just looking to share a pot of soup.
“There's so many posts from so many people offering assistance, offering information about local resources, asking questions, sharing information about coronavirus, virus preparedness,” Will Myers, another organizer of the group, said. “I just didn't think Facebook could be a place for people to really gather in any meaningful way.”
Despite being active on Facebook, the group’s activity has also been highlighted in places inside and outside of the internet.
“It's essentially, in its own way, the general public just coming out and doing what people can,” Kogan said. “I've seen that outside of the Facebook group as well. It's not limited to that at all.”
The Facebook group consists of many different types of people, Myers said.
“It's pretty amazing to see what the Facebook group is. There's just a wide variety of people from all around the area who are in the Facebook group,” Myers said.
Those involved with the group have hosted regular meetings to discuss a better organizational scheme and how they can make the group work best to help and connect as many people as possible.
Lori Boegershausen, an organizer with the group, said that on a recent call, they discussed how to organize volunteers delivering groceries. Boegershausen has been working on logistics for the group, which echoes the sentiment of mutual aid in her work.
“I guess a lot of my role is doing logistics at this current moment,” Boehershausen said. “I guess when it comes to mutual aid, it's all about someone being able to fulfill a need. So right now, the need that needs to be fulfilled is logistics.”
These meetings do not consist of all the same participants, Myers said, but different people from around who want to try and help on the organizing end.
“In terms of people who have been more involved … we have organizing calls every Sunday now, just anyone that isn’t interested in doing some more of the coordinating work,” Myers said.
To Boegershausen, the idea of mutual aid is the reciprocal exchange of resources that is generally for mutual benefit. People offer their services in hopes that the person could reciprocate by offering their services to someone else in the area, Boegershausen said.
So far, the experience has been both fulfilling and a learning experience for Boegershausen.
“I think just because the people who have gotten involved are people who are really passionate about the community and helping one another, and they're really driven by their passion,” Boegershausen said. “Since it is a time of such stress and uncertainty and we're trying to fulfill such a direct need soon, it can often be overwhelming, just in the sense that there's a lot that we need to get into place to be successful and to fulfill all the means that the community has.”
Kogan said that mutual aid groups similar to this one are currently popping up around the world.
“I think that I would encourage anybody to find one, or start one and connect together because we're going to need each other,” Kogan said.