Open Collective
Open Collective
STL Mutual Aid Update 2022
Published on December 21, 2022 by Kaia Gilje


The first three months of 2022 were the tail end of an 8-month period of centering the work of a web of community organizations including The Unhoused Union, New Northside Missionary Baptist Church, Art House, Ayuda Mutua Overland, Becoming Carmen LLC and Keep Pushing Inc.  Our finances were utilized as stipends to leaders of these organizations to support their leadership and sustain varied and essential community labor. Becoming Carmen LLC provided coaching and financial support for two aspiring community leaders building their own dreams for community organizations.  New Northside Missionary Baptist Church sustains a mutual aid pod in Jennings. Art House hosted food shares. Ayuda Mutua Overland organizes food deliveries, food shares and other services in support of the Overland Latine community.  The Unhoused Union supports the unhoused community by sustaining camps, doing street outreach and advocating for longer term solutions for homelessness.  In partnership with Keep Pushing Inc we reached 2700 families (in just Jan-March 15) through food deliveries and food shares out of our warehouse.   Our money also went to employing mutual aid members to organize the labor of food deliveries and food shares in collaboration with our volunteer body.  

These interconnected efforts fed and clothed thousands of people and provided wrap-around support, built community and collaboration and held the gap for families throughout St. Louis.  
Our phone hotline that directs individuals to resources in the community and our direct financial solidarity to community members was also active for the first three months of 2022, operating completely by unpaid volunteers.  

Our finances ran low in the beginning of March and we paused for 3 months to reflect on our impact and health as a collective.  

After 3 years of nonstop activity which has often been described as flying an airplane while you are building it, we found it necessary to focus on the health and sustainability of our nonhierarchical leadership circle. The leadership circle  makes decisions about where STL Mutual Aid’s resources go and also does much of the work to sustain the collective. 

We created meeting guidelines and norms, decision making structures, group roles, hiring policies and support systems for leaders and procedures for conflicts.  We strived to address work distribution, burn out and conflict by building structures that support shared power and shared labor and shared support.  Our goal is to create a sustainable democratic leadership circle that rotates members.  We are thrilled to have recently rotated 3 fabulous new members onto our leadership team and 4 members have rotated off.   We have made wonderful progress on our goal of sustaining a rotating leadership circle to guide mutual aid.   
We were also accepted by Open Collective in partnership with Black Student Mutual Aid, The Unhoused Union, and The Community Hub to be our fiscal sponsor. Open Collective is dedicated to transparent budgeting and shared finances specifically for mutual aid groups.  All of our finances and projects are now visible to the public and the platform allows 5 collective admin to share the work of administering our finances together.   

After this restructuring and a period of rest we have resumed activities with a stronger foundation.  We are currently using our resources to hire a Fundraising and Development director who is working on bringing in funds to support our communities and a Hotline Coordinator who has reopened our hotline to callers!  

We are proud to have sponsored  events by these organizations this year: Cary on the Ball Inc, Faith for Justice, Becoming Carmen LLC, Link STL/Communities First and United 4 Children and many of these organizations have also given back to Mutual Aid.   Aaliyah Allen of  BSMA held a political education series that helped us build community and strengthen our collective analysis.  
We are currently planning a fundraising drive and applying to many grants to raise money to support community proposals for projects in 2023 and to help us continue to offer direct financial solidarity to our neighbors! 

Over three years we have redistributed over a million dollars directly to our neighbors.  Our fund is closed to new donation requests because we are over capacity.  However, with the donations that come in each month we are able to work through our waitlist of hundreds of people- helping 4 to 5 people each month.  We are in this for the long haul.

 We look forward this year to connecting with community members through our hotline, holding more community building and skill sharing events, continuing to offer direct financial solidarity, raising money to fund community led projects that are so important to our communities and as always building our collective power, relationships, and capacity to take care of each other through ongoing crisis. 
Image from A Mother's Tea, an event organized by the Single Mom's Pod

Image from A mother's Tea, an event organized by the Single Mom's Pod

Image from 3d Annual Winter Giverback, an event organized by Cary On the Ball Inc.

Image from 3d Annual Winter Giverback, an event organized by Cary On the Ball Inc. 

Image from Mutual Aid outreach at New Northside Pod
Image from Mutual Aid outreach at New Northside Pod 

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