The charitable nature of the Stern community has become more evident than ever during this crisis. Sternies have gotten involved with nonprofits that raise money for PPE and feed our healthcare workers. Classmates have been checking in on me and other frontline Langoners to make sure we are doing okay. Friends have ensured that my coworkers and I are being fed during shifts with gift cards and food donations. Professors have been incredibly understanding of hospital on-call scheduling and flexible with attendance and assignment deadlines. Although we are apart, we are more unified than ever.
I cannot gloss over that these are scary and uncertain times. I have had some hard firsthand experiences being a healthcare provider during this pandemic. Fortunately, I, personally, don’t need anything. The hospitals I work in have enough PPE to get by, many organizations have been incredibly generous by donating food, and I’ve been able to talk to loved ones about the angst related to experiencing this pandemic up close.
However, passing through various neighborhoods in the Bronx is making it quite clear COVID is worsening social inequalities. The Bronx has the highest coronavirus death rate of any county in the U.S. and already was home to the country’s poorest congressional district pre-pandemic. Food insecurity is a real problem, and the increase in demand the past two months has far surpassed the supply community resources can offer. In fact, 26% of Bronx residents have inadequate access to food.
The Bronx has always had a soft spot in my heart. My parents emigrated from Ireland and met in the Bronx. I grew up in a low-income residential neighborhood on the Grand Concourse. I went to elementary and middle school in the Bronx. My first nursing job after college was in a children’s hospital in the Bronx. I now live in Riverdale in the Bronx. You get the gist. I want to help, but free time during this health crisis is limited so I’m sticking with what I do best: running. Running has always been a free form of therapy for me, a means to negate stress and anxiety. So, it makes sense that I would utilize it as a fundraiser.
I partnered with a local Democratic group, East Bronx Dems Mutual Aid Group, and started a fundraiser for grocery store gift cards for low-income families in the Bronx. I’m aiming to run 1000 miles in the next three months, something I don’t think I’ve ever done before, and I am going to match each mile I run with a dollar donation. I am asking friends, family, and the Stern community to donate if at all possible. These are scary health and economical times, but no family should go hungry.
Mutual Aid, in organization theory, is a term that describes our interdependence as individuals in a society and is different from charity. It is an exchange of goods and services for a shared benefit. It recognizes that no one can foresee who will become the next victims to a pandemic, natural disaster, war, or recession, while appreciating that, often, it is people in marginalized communities who are hit the hardest. Nowadays, Mutual Aid networks are a means for people to unify in their community, to support each other, and to do so quickly – without bureaucratic application processes and without demeaning those who need assistance. During these uncertain times, it is a way to quickly help others who need it the most while maintaining social distancing. If you hear of a need in your local community, I would encourage you to form or join a cause to address it. Now, more than ever, we need to support each other.
I have run 96 miles in my first seven days of this challenge and raised nearly $4000. This weekend, I am volunteering on my day off with the East Bronx Dems Mutual Aid Group to deliver these gift cards to families and groceries to others who cannot leave their homes. If you feel so compelled, I am grateful to whomever can support the cause! In the meantime, I am going to lace up my running shoes. 904 miles to go…