Oak Park Mutual Aid was formed in spring 2020 by neighbors who came together to care for each other. Since its inception, this grassroots, resident-led group has distributed more than $30,000 in direct financial assistance, food, cleaning supplies, and clothing. Volunteers have also made nearly 500 deliveries of food and other essentials, and helped more than 180 families and individuals in and around Oak Park, River Forest, and Forest Park.

True to its name, mutual aid builds community and reciprocity. Some of OPMA’s own volunteers are having to navigate official systems of assistance for the first time, making them uniquely suited to help others in the same position. One aid recipient said, “I’ve never had to look for help like this and I appreciate you guys helping us out. Other places we’ve went were so judgmental…(it) is so nice to not feel bad or made to feel like garbage when you need help.”

One resident contacted OPMA needing help to cover a utility bill. She then started volunteering, helping call aid requesters and making deliveries. Another resident who received direct financial assistance got back in touch with OPMA weeks later, this time to donate several bags of warm winter clothing. The power of mutual aid is found in these small gestures of care—doing a grocery run, covering a copay, making a phone call—that form meaningful connections between neighbors and give new resonance to the notion of community.

To get involved with OPMA, either through donations and/or volunteering visit oakparkmutualaid.com.

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