About Montclair Mutual Aid
Montclair Mutual Aid was founded in March 2020, responding to pandemic emergency needs, but aiming to establish itself permanently. Montclair Mutual Aid has grown to include hundreds of volunteers and thousands of benefited residents. Participants come not only from Montclair itself but also from the adjacent NJ towns of Bloomfield, Glen Ridge, Clifton, Little Falls, Cedar Grove, Verona, and West Orange.
Our mutual aid activities and collaborations
Montclair Mutual Aid volunteers have organized and run a variety of mutual aid activities and collaborations, including:
- Food drive and food distribution with Montclair Moms of Color.
- Toiletries drive and distribution.
- Free books distribution, with free ice cream.
- Weekly community food gardening, harvesting, and distribution.
- Installation/operation of 7 free food pantry kiosks, with NE Earth Coalition & other groups.
- Weekly free food deliveries to seniors and other residents for Toni’s Kitchen.
- Community free monthly food distribution events with live music performances, with Parents Who Rock and Toni’s Kitchen.
- Art auction fundraiser.
- Collect and distribute free air conditioners during hot weather.
- Free furniture distribution events.
- International Women’s Day collection/distribution event for menstrual products.
- Collection, placement, and ongoing replenishment of free menstrual product baskets, to combat period poverty, with Montclair Menstrual Club.
- Science equipment drive for kids in Montclair’s 4th Ward, with Project Oasis.
- Senior home yard clean up.
- Holiday gift drive and distribution.
- Clean water bottling and distribution, with Newark Water Coalition.
- Direct giving of emergency cash for rent, utility bills, diapers, personal items, with donations from Montclair Quaker Meeting, Montclair Beyond Policing, Sunrise Montclair, and St Cassian Girl Scouts.
- Publicity for crowdfunding of individual and family needs.
- Seniors list for free food delivery in the 4th Ward, with Montclair YMCA.
- Free pickup/shopping/delivery service for seniors and others who can’t get out.
- Local shuttle planning to improve grocery/shopping access for 4th Ward food desert.
- Employment mutual aid support/discussion group.
- Research and create a resource website for critical needs (montclairmutualaid.org).
What is mutual aid all about?
Mutual aid has many definitions. Mutual aid is:
- “a relationship that you’re building … you build connections”
- “an act of solidarity that builds sustained networks between neighbors“
- “building ‘bottom-up’ cooperation – networks that flow in both directions – rather than relying on the state or wealthy philanthropists”
An important common idea in these mutual aid definitions is building relationships within the community.
The mission of Montclair Mutual Aid is to foster an ongoing network of people and groups in Montclair to help one another meet critical needs.
We focus on bringing community members together to get to know one another, build relationships, and build trust, while meeting needs. We work in partnership with other community organizations on projects that encourage collaboration, cooperation, and solidarity.
Our vision. We aim to achieve these objectives and outcomes:
- Montclair-area people will build relationships and familiarity with one another, for empowerment and enjoyment.
- People will say what the needs of their own community are, and will gain and exercise agency and control to meet those needs. (Community self-determination, self-reliance, and self-sufficiency.)
- Critical needs (goods and services for survival and well-being) will be identified, particularly among underreached and underserved people.
- Resources will be shared and managed for full and equitable coverage in meeting needs for all.
- A long-term organization will meet critical needs, grow community wealth, and increase resilience, toward a more egalitarian community, economy, and society.
Our guiding principles and methods. How we work toward our vision:
- Mutual aid – We come together in alternative volunteer-based networks to address unmet needs in the community by pooling, growing, distributing, and receiving resources.
- Organization – We bring neighbors together to help one another within a network of support groups.
- Collaboration – We talk and work with other aid-oriented and community-building groups and people.
- Education – We learn from one another through educational events and participatory activities. We teach by example to help people realize the benefits of mutual aid relationships.
- Participation – We widely and openly engage as many people in the community as possible.
- Inclusion – We include all equally, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, citizenship status, migration status, origin, religion, age, or ability.
- Consent – We make decisions by participatory consensus, with cooperation, support, and respect.
- Stewardship – We minimize ecological debt, footprint, and waste in our activities.
- Peaceful coexistence – We resolve conflicts together via processes that promote justice through restoration, self-examination, and personal and group growth.
- Acceptance – We each commit to appreciating, affirming, and growing from one another’s values, efforts, individuality, and differences.
- Respect – We each commit to working together, giving full respect, support, care, compassion, and communication.
Montclair Mutual Aid operates as a non-hierarchical, consensus-governed organization. We hold semimonthly general meetings and are structured as a collection of semi-autonomous affinity groups on specific projects.
We do not categorize participants as “givers” or “receivers” of aid: all community members are included, giving what they can and taking what they need. Montclair Mutual Aid participants and volunteers are multi‑diverse, from all neighborhoods of Montclair and adjacent towns, of all ages and genders and orientations, from many races and ethnicities, at all economic levels, with all educational backgrounds.