Today, October 24th, local nonprofit Columbia Community Care is kicking off its first-ever restaurant week.
From CCC founder Erika Strauss Chavarria:
Hope to you see you! And please encourage everyone you know to participate in our restaurant week! Make sure to mention that CCC sent you!
So, here I am. I’m encouraging you. In fact, I’ll be adding a reminder to every post this week to let you know which restaurant will be participating that day.
CCC is a new kind of model in our community for meeting needs and lifting up those facing barriers to resources. Most of us know that it began in the early days of the lockdown. I don’t think that it’s as widely known that Ms.Chavarria based the initiative on long-established practices: community care and mutual aid.
Mutual aid is an act of solidarity and care between neighbors. It stands in opposition to charity and top-down giving, because it is planned and executed by a community, for a community to not just provide food and essential items but also to educate and organize. “Community Care during COVID”: Oral Histories of Mutual Aid in the Bronx, BRONX COMMUNITY COLLEGE Archives and Special Collections
So, what is community care?
The term community care typically refers to the voluntary exchange of resources and services between community members to provide support for those who need it. It enables people to pool resources to share collectively. These resources could be food, clothes, diapers, money, or virtually anything that can be shared. A Closer Look at Informal Giving, Mutual Aid, and Community Care in a Global Context, GivingTuesday.org
Sound familiar? The article from Giving Tuesday points out:
The pandemic gave us an opportunity to see this ecosystem—which doesn’t operate within the traditionally defined social sector—in a much more pronounced way. This crisis has put a spotlight on how crucial these community care networks are for providing healing and supporting a thriving and more connected society.
If you’re interested in learning more about community care, this article on the Livestrong website provides a helpful place to start:
“Community Care — Not Just Self-Care — Is Key to Our Collective Wellbeing” Tiffany Curtis, Livestrong.com
"If self-care is about what you do for yourself, then community care is what you put into and what you are able to receive from the community you have built around yourself, as well as the community you live in," says Donna Oriowo, PhD, LICSW, therapist, author and licensed independent clinical social worker.
Community care differs from most charitable giving in that it’s based on the understanding that we are all a part of the process of caring for our community. It’s not: one person gives, the other receives. It’s about human interaction.
Sharing resources is also community care. "I define community care as how we show up and create space for each other,"says Rayna Smaller, LSW, licensed social worker, therapist and founder of BrownGirl Space. "It's how we share and create resources among one another and create dependable relationships."
Columbia Community Care came about because Ms.Chavarria quickly saw the crisis posed by the pandemic to students whose families relied upon work at businesses which were now temporarily on lockdown. Even though she didn’t know how long the crisis would last, she knew that the need was immediate. And she knew that if her students and families were in need, so were others in the community.
While everyone can benefit from community care, it is an especially beneficial (and historical) practice for marginalized communities that face systemic barriers that jeopardize their wellness, such as poverty or the high cost of health care.
So, there you have it. While Columbia Community Care feels like a relatively new thing to us, it’s actually a decendant of many successful care communities throughout history. As stated above, "It's how we share and create resources among one another and create dependable relationships."
One more thing: if you find that you won’t be able to participate in this year’s Restaurant Week, you’ll find a variety of ways to engage in CCC’s work by donating money, food, or through giving your time in volunteering. (Click the link.)
Today’s restaurant is Hudson Coastal. Order between 4 and 9 pm and mention Columbia Community Care. Ten per cent of sales will go to CCC.
Tell your friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers. You can share the information for the entire week from CCC’s Facebook page. If anyone asks you what “community care” is, feel free to share this post.