New Kinds of Aid Groups Have Sprung Up in Arizona Amid the Outbreak

Neighbors Helping Neighbors prep a delivery for an assisted living facility.
Neighbors Helping Neighbors prep a delivery for an assisted living facility. Vanessa Coleman
When the coronavirus outbreak shut down schools in Arizona, Vanessa Coleman wondered what she and other working moms would do when their children were suddenly home all the time. She thought maybe neighbors would be able to help each other out by volunteering to take care of one another’s children on different days.

So she started a Facebook group — Neighbors Helping Neighbors — one of many community-driven volunteer groups that have sprung up in Arizona since the outbreak began. (Others include COVID-19 Mutual Aid Group Phoenix Metro Area, Basic Needs Donations for High Risk Individuals - Phoenix Metro, Family Relief and Crises Support [Pinal County Communities], and Mask Phoenix, which organizes people people to sew masks to be donated to health care professionals in need.)

Since its founding in mid-March, Neighbors Helping Neighbors has brought new moms baby formula, diapers, and wipes. The members have donated peanut butter, jelly, bread, and snacks to a local farm working with shelters and group homes for children. And they’ve connected an immuno-compromised mother and special needs son with badly needed groceries.

click to enlarge Neighbors Helping Neighbors - VANESSA COLEMAN
Neighbors Helping Neighbors
Vanessa Coleman
“We recently held a toilet paper drive for assisted living centers,” says Coleman, a mother of two from Mesa. “Their national supplier was completely sold out. We were able to collect almost 300 rolls of tissue. They have four centers, one with 27 beds. They told me they need about 250 to last for two weeks. We also gave them paper towels, Gatorade, batteries, adult incontinence products, medical products, and more.”

On March 16, Coleman shared a Facebook post with the 600-plus member Neighbors Helping Neighbors group seeking donations for two senior care facilities running low on supplies. Four days later, Coleman and a handful of others brought toilet paper and other goods donated by members of the group to Emerald Groves Central, an assisted-living facility in Mesa.

Health care professionals wearing masks made by Mask Phoenix. - BEN WEI VIA FACEBOOK
Health care professionals wearing masks made by Mask Phoenix.
Ben Wei via Facebook
Besides large and small-scale donations, members of Neighbors Helping Neighbors have also shared job postings with each other, supply sightings, and general tips on navigating life amid the coronavirus outbreak. Some members have traded supplies like water for eggs with others. Others, like Kaitlyn Smith, asked for disinfectant, water, and paper towels from her dad, who just came home from the hospital after receiving surgery for cancer.

“You guys are absolutely amazing!” Smith wrote on Facebook after receiving several of the items she had asked for. “I feel confident in saying that for the unforeseeable future, my parents are in a great spot! Thank you so much!”
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Meg O'Connor was a staff writer for Phoenix New Times from April 2019 to April 2020.