Berkeley organizations provide services to at-risk residents in response to COVID-19 pandemic

Help berkeley/Courtesy

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In response to the COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus, pandemic, newly founded aid networks in Berkeley are providing services to at-risk individuals in the area.

Help Berkeley was launched March 30 by a group of Berkeley residents. Michel Thouati, one of the founders of Help Berkeley, said the mission of the organization is to deliver meals to community members most affected by the pandemic.

Additionally, Help Berkeley partners with local restaurants that are struggling in the midst of the shelter-in-place order to provide residents with fixed-price meals. The nonprofit began delivering meals March 31, according to Thouati.

“We are ramping up as fast as we can. Two weeks ago, we had nothing at all,” Thouati said. “Today we can prepare 800 meals per day and deliver 200.”

The Berkeley Mutual Aid Network was initiated in March to match low-risk individuals who are able to purchase and deliver essential items with high-risk individuals impacted by the pandemic. Volunteers deliver food, toiletries and prescriptions, according to the Berkeley Mutual Aid Network website.

The network also connects volunteers with isolated individuals who want company over the phone and recently laid-off residents who need guidance, according to David Peattie, a founding member of the Berkeley Mutual Aid Network and president of the Berkeley Disaster Preparedness Neighborhood Network.

“Having that buddy system where you’re paired to the person rather than reaching out to anyone who happens to be available at the time to make that request, it allows you to have an ongoing connection,” Peattie said.

As of press time, the Berkeley Mutual Aid Network has 660 volunteers with 189 residents who have reached out for help, according to Peattie. He added that 182 residents have been matched with volunteers in the Berkeley area.

Help Berkeley has about 35 volunteer drivers and dispatchers with 70 individuals signed up for the service, as of press time. According to Thouati, Help Berkeley is in need of many more volunteers.

“We are able to deliver a fraction of the meals that we can prepare,” Thouati said. “We need many more drivers, dispatchers, outreach and community support volunteers to be able to ramp up to our full capacity.”

Community members can volunteer and sign up through each of the organizations’ websites. 

Both organizations are also setting up phone lines for residents who may not have access to the internet or may not know how to navigate the website, according to Thouati and Peattie. Additionally, the Berkeley Mutual Aid Network has put up flyers in Spanish and English to help spread awareness, Peattie added.

“We always felt that when disaster happens, people step up,” Peattie said. “We wanted to create an infrastructure for those people who wanted to step up and that’s exactly what this mutual aid network is about.”

Contact Shylie Ati at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @shylieati.