Ward 4 Mutual Aid helps neighbors and composts what’s left

by Mallory Huggins, Ward 4 resident 

Every Tuesday night, my housemate Casey and I hop in her car, Lil Peanut, and drive north from West Petworth to 8th and Jefferson NW. We gather at Brightwood Park United Methodist Church with our masked, gloved, and socially distant neighbors— some of the few people we regularly see in person—and pack groceries, cleaning supplies, hygiene products, and clothes for our neighbors who request them.

We are part of Ward 4 Mutual Aid (W4MA), a network staffed by 75-100 active community members. W4MA puts together care packages containing critical necessities as the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic fallout continues to impact our community.

This summer, as we at W4MA were still getting a handle on the needs of our neighbors, we often had to throw away unused produce that we went bad in the warm church basement. We hated not being able to get that food out to our neighbors in time. After exploring a few compost options around the city—most of which required the customer to drop off the food waste or who couldn’t accommodate our not-residential-but-not-business status—we reached out to Compost Crew. They set us up with a 12-gallon bin and weekly pickup service. As we’re an all-volunteer crew, it’s so nice that Compost Crew handles all pickups; we merely have to remind our on-site volunteers to leave our bin outside for pickup day.

We certainly hope to work ourselves out of the need for our 12-gallon bin, but in the meantime, we are grateful that any produce we cannot give out in time ends up getting turned into compost and plowed back into the soil at local farms, benefiting the broader DC community just as W4MA does.  

Today, about 40-70 Ward 4 families pick up necessities each week, on designated pick-up days, and another 80-100 receive deliveries. W4MA does need support to continue to provide these packages to our neighbors. While we have sought out opportunities for bulk purchasing and donations, the need in the community continues to grow. We are especially in need of recurring donations to sustain our efforts, which cost around $5,000 per week.

As many of us prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving next week—albeit a little differently than last year—please consider donating to W4MA to support your neighbors. $25 allows us to deliver a package for a family of four and $100 allows us to deliver a baby care package, with formula, wipes, baby food, and diapers. A recurring donation of any amount allows our bulk runners to continue to keep the supply room stocked and our delivery runners to keep distribution going. 

To learn more about making a donation to, volunteering your time with, or requesting support from W4MA, please visit our website.

(Photo credit: Rita Radostitz)