Brandeisians lend a hand in Waltham Mutual Aid network

A screenshot from a virtual meeting of the Waltham Mutual Aid NetworkPhoto/courtesy

A virtual meeting of Waltham Mutual Aid Network volunteers. Top left: Jonathan Goldman '19. Middle right: Talya Guenzburger ’20.

Since it was organized in mid-March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a grassroots aid network in Waltham has been connecting people in need with people and resources that can help.

Jonathan Goldman ’19, along with fellow Waltham resident Chris Gamble, organized the Waltham Mutual Aid Network, which has facilitated the redistribution of thousands of dollars, purchased and delivered groceries and medicine to dozens in need, and brought together more than 150 people who want to help their neighbors.

“We thought it would be a great thing for Waltham,” Goldman said. “We just put it out into the world and got it up and running in a couple of days.” 

Following the example of a similar organization operating in nearby Medford and Somerville, the Waltham group created a Facebook page, a shareable Google doc and online forms, and distributed emails within their networks to spread the word.

Talya Guenzburger ’20 lives off campus in Waltham and decided to stay after the campus closed. She wanted to find a way to help when she learned about the aid network. The New York City native coordinates connecting people who need help with volunteers who can provide the right type of assistance. 

“It has been great to see how many people have volunteered, but also troubling to see how many people need help,” Guenzburger said.

The organization has helped with things like groceries, medicine and transportation, but every request and donation is unique. One resident was in search of a bicycle for their child and the network was able to find them one. They also received a 500 pound donation from the Brandeis Food Pantry, which was donated to Healthy Waltham for a food drive. 

While the network handles many requests, some go beyond the volunteer group’s capabilities. Many ask for help paying rent and other bills. In these cases, the aid network points people to local and regional resources. They have also canvassed parts of the city reaching about 3,600 residents with flyers that outline different resources available to Waltham residents. 

“There’s a lot of need in the community. I think it’s important for people to know they aren’t alone in their struggle, that it isn’t a personal failure,” Guenzburger said. 

The network has built a strong base of initial volunteers, but over time, Goldman said he has seen fewer people sign up to help, while the requests for assistance continue to pile up.

“My message to people is: When in doubt, just give,” he said. “Now isn’t a time to be paralyzed by indecision. It’s a time to come together to help the community.”

Categories: Alumni, Student Life

Return to the BrandeisNOW homepage