Astoria, Community, Neighborhood
May 01, 2020

Meet The Community Faces Behind The Astoria Mutual Aid Network

When taking a (socially distant) walk around the neighborhood, or picking up local takeout, you may have noticed flyers like the below when the effects of the virus were first (…)

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When taking a (socially distant) walk around the neighborhood, or picking up local takeout, you may have noticed flyers like the below when the effects of the virus were first cropping up on NYC (and Astoria)…

The flyers were first put up by locals Ross Mudrick and Maryam Shariat Mudrick on Saturday, March 14 as an “effort to refocus their daughter’s cancelled spring break trip into an opportunity to support their community.”

And that was only the start.

As of May 1, the Astoria community has banded together in the form of 733 volunteers who have already helped 338 fellow Astorians with 477 deliveries of food, prescriptions, and essential supplies!

“We knew that our community would rise to the occasion in this incredibly challenging time,” Ross said. “Maryam and I just wanted to create a framework to get things moving.”

Though the organization is tackling all sorts of projects to help the community, most of their work involves getting food to those who are immunocompromised or otherwise can’t leave the house to access groceries. Volunteers (which could be you, find out how at the bottom of the page!) pick up groceries or their prescriptions, or connect them to the food pantry system if they can’t afford food. They are also serving as a resource connection, helping people get more significant help (through nonprofit programs or city and state resources) if they need it.

The Network even has groups of volunteers who are taking ownership of specific needs, like helping families who are handling the realities of distance learning; and an anti-incarceration group led by a volunteer who is writing letters weekly to those in prison so they feel less alone; and much, much more.

“Mutual Aid is a concept that has room for everyone to be an organizer,” Maryam said of all those now involved. “Ross and I may have been the first to put up flyers, but…

  • Evie Hantzopoulous created a Facebook Group ‘Astoria Responds to COVID-19.’

Photo of Evie Hantzopoulos delivering groceries through a partnership with The Connected Chef.

  • Peter Valdez, who created the Astoria Tech Meetup, was one of the first to volunteer and get them set up with a tracking system to capture information.
  • Alexia Makrigiannis (Deputy Chief of Staff to Aravella Simotas) got in touch very early on to offer the Assemblywoman’s resources and support.
  • Meghan Wright and Emma Kate Lindsay were early out the gate to leap into social media and communications.
  • Genna Goldsobel (Campaign Manager for Zohran Mamdani for Assembly) helped connect them to other communities across Astoria.

Now they have 30 dispatchers who are on the front lines receiving emails and phone calls from neighbors in need.

Chloe Seibert and Margaret Horning are Dispatcher Managers, staying constantly up to state with requests, which food pantries are serving when, etc.

Photo of Margaret Horning picking up food from one food pantry and taking it to distribute to various households in Astoria.

It’s a truly heartwarming example of residents coming together and utilizing their special talents to help the community.

And as for the story behind those flyers?

“Flyers have been our best bet,” Maryam explained. “So many of our neighbors don’t have internet at home or simply aren’t comfortable searching for information online. Plus, they don’t often speak English fluently – so we have flyers translated in 10 languages. I’d estimate we’ve distributed over 3500 flyers in March, but had to slow down on flyer distribution once NY went on PAUSE. Now we ask volunteers to drop them at the grocery or pharmacy if they’ll already be out and about.”

Want to get involved? Here’s how you can help:

  • Sign up as a volunteer (and get their “snazzy newsletter”) by filling out the form at www.astoriamutualaid.com/volunteer. They match volunteers to requests based on addresses—trying to keep things hyper local. But you can also sign up to be a Dispatcher, work in one of their working groups, help them communicate/organize/build connections, and more.
  • Print and share their flyer with your neighbors—print one and slip it under every door in your building (wear gloves! use santizer!); post the flyer in the lobby of your building; or drop off a short stack at your grocery store or local pharmacy.
  • Or stay in touch by signing up for their newsletter via our website, follow them on Facebook, or connect with them on Instagram.
  • Make a donation to their fundraising campaign here to help meet the needs of your neighbors.

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