Bay Ridge

Mutual aid groups deliver food and meds to vulnerable Brooklynites

April 3, 2020 Mary Frost
Nicole Mirra searches for the correct brands of foods for her recipients. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

As the death toll from the novel coronavirus outbreak mounts, mutual aid groups have been popping up all across Brooklyn, New York City’s largest borough, to assist neighbors who are more vulnerable to the deadly virus.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Friday morning that 57,159 New York City residents had tested positive for COVID-19, and city hospitals are overwhelmed. Across the state, 102,863 have tested positive, and 2,935 have died. The virus hits the elderly and those with underlying health conditions the hardest.

Covering the western waterfront, a new group called Brooklyn Mutual Aid has emerged to help seniors and other vulnerable neighbors in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Columbia Waterfront and Williamsburg.

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Members have been taping up flyers announcing they will run errands, mail letters, or pick up groceries and prescriptions for people with a high risk of serious complications from coronavirus.

“We will be mindful of important safety precautions,” the group said, adding, “We are here to help!” Call or text 929-314-0899, or email [email protected] with your name, the neighborhood you live in, and the type of help you need, the group says.

A flier for Bushwick Mutual Aid is posted in front of the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center. Photo: Charlie Innis/Brooklyn Eagle

Another volunteer neighborhood group is Bushwick Mutual Aid, which started on March 13 as a Facebook group for neighbors to share tips, such as where to go to find toiletries and for people to offer free assistance running errands and delivering food.

One of the Bushwick group’s main goals is to provide a way for Spanish-speaking volunteers to match with undocumented Bushwick residents who may be wary of calling 311.

In Brooklyn’s southern section, the nonprofit Bay Ridge Cares, a group started after Hurricane Sandy, sends out volunteers to shop, walk dogs or just make friendly phone calls to people trapped inside their homes during the pandemic. Volunteers are paired one-on-one with households from Bay Ridge to Marine Park to provide contact-free aid to neighbors.


Nicole Mirra, a volunteer with Bay Ridge Cares, grocery shops for a couple in Bay Ridge who can’t leave their home. At the supermarket where she’s shopping, employees put up plexiglass windows to separate the cashiers from the customers. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle
Nicole Mirra, a volunteer with Bay Ridge Cares, grocery shops for a couple in Bay Ridge who can’t leave their home. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

Another group known as Invisible Hands volunteers across the entire New York City area and parts of New Jersey. The group calls itself Invisible Hands because social distancing requires that they never come in contact with their beneficiaries. But seen or not, their efforts are making a big difference.

One Invisible Hands beneficiary posted on Facebook, “I can’t leave my apartment due to kidney disease. I’m running low on one of my medications and didn’t have much food left because my big delivery isn’t coming until Saturday. I was starting to panic. Yesterday, I submitted a request, and a kind stranger texted me within an hour, picked up my prescriptions, purchased groceries and even sent screenshots of nutrition labels to make sure the ingredients were okay with my renal diet. I’m so grateful.”

Invisible Hands was slammed with requests by midday Friday, but will be back taking orders on Monday, according to their website.

Other help with food

– The city’s Department of Education is making free meals available to anyone who needs them. Three free “grab and go” meals a day can be picked up at more than 400 “Meal Hubs” across the city. Details here.

– According to an Invisible Hands facebook post, if people are hungry and can’t afford groceries, text FOOD to 726839 to pick up a bag of groceries at a food pantry within walking distance, no questions asked.


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