Community partner spotlight: Princeton Mutual Aid

To extend our community outreach, the library partners with the many municipal, non-profit, and business organizations that make Princeton such an extraordinary town. This month, we spoke with Corina Bardoff who serves on the logistics team of Princeton Mutual Aid.

How long has Princeton Mutual Aid been in Princeton?

PMA began as a response to the pandemic in March, 2020. What started as a small group of neighbors, students, and friends has become a large network of hundreds. Happily, COVID cases are dropping and vaccine rates are rising, but we still see a huge need for support in our community. We began in crisis mode, but we’re here to stay.

What is your primary area of focus?

This is a difficult question to answer because we do so much and are constantly adding on projects and partnerships. The core of what we do, though, is direct services to neighbors: emergency cash assistance and grocery deliveries. Since the pandemic began, we’ve fulfilled over 670 direct requests from community members, ranging from baby supplies to rental assistance. We build solidarity with our neighbors and advocate for their needs alongside them.

How does your mission align with the library’s? 

We love the library! Mutual aid and public libraries have parallel core values. No one who lives in Princeton has to prove that they deserve or need a library card. If you ask a librarian for a book, they aren’t going to tell you that you asked for the wrong thing and should read something else. Mutual aid is the same way. Each person is an expert in their own situation and needs; we provide the aid that is requested with no strings attached. We’re a joyful network of giving and receiving, and we celebrate our interdependence. 

With whom do you work most in the community?

We work with anyone in the greater Princeton area. We have a fruitful partnership with Unidad Latina en Accion NJ, and working with them has connected us to migrant workers in our community. Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church has also been our partner, allowing us to use their facilities for food distributions, and working with us to ensure that others have their needs met through coat drives and activism within Princeton. We do biweekly grocery deliveries to seniors in our community, and have also begun regular canvassing: both activities get us more connected to the community so we can build solidarity and learn about our neighbors’ lives and needs.

What is something that you do that people might not know about?

PMA has a job-alerts email list to get information about local job openings to our neighbors. Contact us if you’d like to be added to our list, or if your local business or organization is hiring. 

Is there any project or event that you are particularly excited about at the moment?

Through our Vaccine Navigator program, we have made vaccine appointments for 150 neighbors, followed up with them about second doses and possible side effects, and provided approximately 50 neighbors with transportation to their appointments. Vaccines have become easier to get since earlier this year, but it is still a confusing process. If you or anyone you know needs help getting an appointment, or getting to an appointment, just go to Hablamos español.  

Want to dive deeper into things that are of interest at PMA? See this book list. 

Photo credit: Emma Lietz Bilecky

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