Community members fight wealth inequality through Mutual Aid Brookline



Forming at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mutual Aid Brookline is a local organization dedicated to fighting wealth inequality through providing things like groceries, companionship and other necessities.

At the beginning of the pandemic many people lost their livelihoods, with no answer to whether they were going to get any assistance. Inspired by the tough situation, Mutual Aid Brookline was formed to help the community through difficult circumstances.

Mutual Aid Brookline is a locally-based organization that helps residents of Brookline by fighting wealth inequality.

The organization has a companion program, where volunteers check up on the seniors in the community and provide them company. They also have a grocery subsidy program that has provided over $30,000 worth of food to the community and offers direct financial aid to those who request it.

Emma Nash, the direct financial aid initiative organizer of Mutual Aid, and Brookline High School alumnus, moved back to Brookline after finishing college. After losing her job due to COVID-19, she saw the opportunity to get more involved with the community by working with Mutual Aid.

“It was very frustrating to be conscious of how difficult the next few months would be for people and not have any way of acting on it. I think it was driving me sort of crazy to not be able to do anything about that. Being involved with Mutual Aid was a way of dealing with that craziness,” Nash said.

For Nash, participating in a mutual aid organization showed her the unsolved and underlying problems in the town.

“People in Brookline are very quick to congratulate themselves on being progressives and very slow to acknowledge inequality in town and ways in which they could do better,” Nash said.

The pandemic has laid bare issues regarding wealth and income disparity across America, including in Brookline, according to Emelia Gauch, a senior who runs the organization’s Instagram.

“I think that we start thinking so much about how much great wealth is in our town that we sometimes forget that that doesn’t mean it applies to everyone. There is a large portion of people in Brookline who don’t have enough money to eat or have trouble paying rent, especially during COVID-19, where this need has gone up due to people losing their jobs,” Gauch said.

However, these problems were not caused by the pandemic and will continue to exist beyond the end of COVID-19. Many of Mutual Aid’s organizers said that the town of Brookline should be creating solutions as well.

“I think that one thing that has concerned me is that in certain moments the town has come to rely on Mutual Aid to do things that the town should really be doing itself. And I worry that we have done a really good job of filling some of the gaps in services that really should be provided by the town,” Nash said.

Although Mutual Aid Brookline has programs that are meant to address these issues long-term, there are limitations on what is feasible due to the volunteer nature of the organization, according to co-founder and Brookline High School graduate Eliana von Krusenstiern.

“We want to insure our longevity, which is really hard to do because we’re based on donations and people donating their time. All of us are in school or have jobs, so every month that we keep going we are so excited,” von Krusenstiern said.

Small businesses have experienced problems during the pandemic, so Mutual Aid Brookline started a program to shine a spotlight on how important they are by writing features about local businesses.

“They are so tied to the culture of the community. I can’t imagine what my experience in Brookline would have been without Brookline Booksmith. Small businesses are such an integral part of growing up and the Brookline experience,” Gauch said.

To run the program, the organization required community members to dedicate their time to interviewing owners, writing up small blurbs and creating innovative ideas to support businesses. Many of the volunteers were high school students, like Gauch.

“Volunteers are always really helpful and really appreciated, especially because having new people brings new insights and new ideas,” Gauch said.

Mutual Aid Brookline is based in the town, so community support and participation is what they rely on.

“We would really love for people to get involved with us,” von Krusenstiern said. “We are always looking for people to contribute to what we are doing, whether that is contributing their time helping out the initiatives or joining our organizing team. It is a community effort and it is open to anyone who wants to participate.”