On Saturday, Feb. 27 the Colby Mutual Aid fund, a student-run organization focused on redistributing wealth within the Colby community to students in need, held a cloth- ing drive to collect winter necessities.
The drive, which was held at Portland’s Eastern Promenade, targeted faculty and alum living in Portland. Colby Mutual Aid promoted the drive mainly through their Instagram account, ColbyNow, and by word of mouth.
The Colby Echo spoke with one of the drive’s organizers, Rachel Powers `22. Powers, who is on Mutual Aid’s communications board, is currently taking a gap year in Portland and was able to oversee the drive.
In the past, Colby
Mutual Aid has mostly fundraised to help students in need. These students can submit funding requests to get their expenses covered. Powers said the Portland drive was motivated by many funding requests for winter clothing.
Powers added that Colby Mutual Aid was able to collect a sizable amount of jackets, sweaters, gloves, and hats from professors,
alumni, and even individuals without an affiliation to Colby.
Ashley Ketchum `22, who also serves on Col- by Mutual Aid’s communications board, said the drive will help students who are not used to dressing for Maine winters. Many students already have a surplus of winter apparel because they are from places with cold winters or are able to afford it on their own.
Ketchum recalled her own experience: “I came here as a first gen[ereation to college] student from a really warm climate. I had no idea what I needed to buy or how much it would be. Luckily I was able to find a lot of it second hand at Goodwill. But even stores like Goodwill sometimes don’t have a lot of it and sizes are very limited.”
Ketchum said the plan for the donated items is to take pictures of everything and create a catalogue. This way, students who requested items will be able to easily pick out what they need. Afterwards, the items will be promoted on social media and students will be told where to pick them up.
Powers said that Col- by Mutual Aid wants to diversify its resources and strategies. “One thing worth thinking about is the fund, in terms of long term stability…[and] practices of mutual aid beyond monetary donations. So what can that look like? Not only redistribute your wealth but redistribute your resources… Also, we do have some faculty and young alum[ni] who regularly donate and there are a lot of people in Portland.”
Powers added that Colby Mutual Aid would like to have a second drive in Waterville aimed at getting donations from students.
Colby Mutual Aid was founded in July 2020, as part of a wave of new college-based mutual aid funds at institutions like Williams College and Rice University. There has been a rise in demand for financial assistance as students struggle with the unexpected costs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Initially, the first round of fundraising was focused on travel expenses and helping students come back to campus for the fall semester. Since then, Col- by Mutual Aid has been able to hold six rounds of funding to meet var- ious student needs. Ketchum said the fund has been able to redistribute $49,145 to 64 students so far.
Powers added that they have been able to meet 100% of demonstrated need from applicants. Some of the more frequent requests are for laundry, text- books, travel expenses, and food. Round seven is expected to open March 29 and end April 5. This round is focused on bigger expenses including flights home for the end of the spring semester.
Both Powers and Ketchum said they hope to host more events in the future. In the fall semester, the class of 2023 Student Government Association representatives held a 5k run to raise money for the mutual aid fund, which Powers and Ketchum said was a success. Students looking to support Col- by Mutual Aid can do so by making a donation at one of the options on linktr.ee/colbymutualaid or can look out for a Waterville winter drive at a future date.
~ Fiona Huo ‘23
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