Article Originally Published by Maria Lawson on North Texas Daily
As of March 31, there are over 200 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Denton County. Due to the growing number of cases, a coalition of organizations and individuals has come together and formed Aid Network of Denton in hopes of addressing the COVID-19 crisis through mutual aid.
Aid Network of Denton is helping residents by providing multiple outlets of support for those in need during the pandemic. As everyone may be affected differently, the resources provided aim to address a wide range of needs including grocery delivery, care package delivery and activism for a rent freeze.
“We’re providing free care packages of food, hygiene and over-the-counter medicine, and we are providing self-paid grocery delivery upon request,” said Kristen Fox, Aid Network of Denton founder and Denton resident. “We are also helping organize tenants. I just posted a list of other organizations for people to reach out to for rental assistance, so we can help direct people toward those free sources and advocate that they be made more available right now. Rental subsidy is only at $50,000, which we don’t think will be enough to address this crisis at all. We want them to increase the rent subsidies to $1 million, [and] by using emergency funds, we think they could do this.”
Mutual aid networks use a unique approach to helping others. As opposed to charities, in which the help goes from one organization to the people in need, mutual aid networks aim to provide help to all parties involved. Volunteer and Denton resident Ian Campbell said this approach is important for a health crisis because everyone needs to work together.
“Mutual aid: if you picture a table, we’re all sitting around a table together and we’re all serving each other,” Campbell said. “Ultimately, my well-being is your well-being, and we’re bringing ourselves up and our communities up together.”
Fox said she has always been an activist, so naturally, she wanted to form a group of people who could help those affected by COVID-19.
“If there is a problem, I’m going to work with people trying to solve it,” Fox said. “We’re just people who don’t do nothing about something, which is difficult during this crisis and as activists, we would usually come together, have meetings, things like that. Now we’re exploring the world of Zoom calls and webinars and things like that.”
Aid Network of Denton is taking the initiative to do what it feels the government has been failing to accomplish.
“It’s important because I don’t think the government at the city, state or national level has done enough to address the COVID-19 crisis,” Fox said. “We don’t wait for the government to help us — we go ahead and start helping ourselves while advocating measures that they could pass that could help us.”
Those involved with Aid Network of Denton wanted to join to continue helping others and forming relations with neighbors.
“I felt like this crisis is a time when a lot of people are more likely to be suffering than before, but people were already suffering,” Campbell said. “When I saw this organization, it made perfect sense to me because I was already working to organize my neighbors to create better and healthier and stronger relationships [among each other].”
One volunteer, Denton resident Taylor Sealy, values having a strong sense of community and thinks it is important to be there for those who need her the most, so she felt called to join Aid Network of Denton.
“I’m serving the community because I’m helping people [who] can’t leave their houses, [or who] may not have a lot of money,” Sealy said. “I’m at least trying to help out the people I can and trying to raise awareness, so that maybe other people who are interested in doing what I and other people are doing would like to join in.”
In order to remain safe, the volunteers have had to be cognizant of the risks when working with those in the community.
“People are putting themselves at risk to take care of each other, and they don’t want to spread the virus, so they’re being conscious of the risks, but they are making sure that there’s some sort of support structure, and it’s happening worldwide,” Campbell said.
Campbell said it has been inspiring to see people rise to the occasion to help others.
“This whole process, it’s letting people know that we can all step in and play a role in our community,” Campbell said. “We all have needs, and we all have some sort of gift we can provide for others.”
Aid Network of Denton is currently applying for nonprofit status, Fox said. It is currently funded through a GoFundMe, donations of food and supplies and members chipping in when necessary.
People interested in volunteering with Aid Network of Denton can fill out the volunteer form on their Twitter page, @AidDenton.
“They’re a really great group of people,” Sealy said. “I may not know them very well, but the fact that they were able to come up with this group and utilize the resources that they had to try and put the word out there to get people and help people in Denton, that is a phenomenal thing to me. I’m glad that they were able to do something like this so efficiently with such a short window of time.”
After the pandemic concludes, Aid Network of Denton plans on still working to support the community. It wants to be prepared to provide disaster relief for other types of disasters, such as floods or tornadoes, Fox said.
Aid Network of Denton has been able to show others the importance of serving the most vulnerable populations and building positive relations with neighbors.
“I think it’s important to build a strong community and for neighbors to know that they will be there for each other in a crisis, even if they can’t be near each other,” Fox said.
Courtesy Aid Network of Denton
Source: North Texas Daily