Idyllwild locals Mara Schoner and Mark Yardas created a Facebook group called Mountain Communities COVID-19 Mutual Aid on March 19. The duo thought it would be nice to help the community as COVID-19 upended the world as we know it.
The goal behind the group is quite simple, “If you need help, ask. If you can help, respond out of the goodness of your heart,” Facebook group’s page description describes.
The duo hasn’t worked alone. Multiple volunteers in the community have done things from picking up mail to creating food boxes for those in need. This mutual aid group took off from the start and continues to grow.
“The idea behind the group is that it’s not charity, but solidarity,” Yardas said. “Building the sense that when we are facing something like we are facing right now we are all in it together. It’s basically a platform to express their needs and capacity to volunteer.”
Many have lost their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, unable to pay their bills or even keep food on the table.
While others have such anxiety due to pre-existing health conditions or other reasons, they can’t go out to run their day-to-day errands.
One of the main goals of the group is to make sure no one is hungry during this time. Supplemental food boxes are created as a solution and volunteers are working tirelessly to make them a reality. The food boxes are funded through a nonprofit organization called Idyllwild Forest Health Project, which Schoner and Yardas also founded and manage.
“We probably have 30 volunteers that help with the food boxes,” Schoner said. “Idyllwild Fire and Chief [Mark] LaMont have been so supportive of this and have volunteered. Idyllwild Arts has been donating food. Camp Maranatha is providing the space to hand out food boxes and many more individuals are volunteering.”
Yardas added, “We also have a long list of people that want to volunteer, but we need as many people as we can get.”
When the group started in mid-March, it was providing about 25 boxes. Now, it is providing about 70 food boxes every week.
“Most of what we’ve seen in the group as a whole is strangers wanting to help others out,” Schoner said. “On a higher level, Chuck Washington [Third District Riverside County Supervisor who represents Idyllwild] and the Office on Aging are very supportive of this as well, especially the food boxes. The Office on Aging is talking about renting a Penske refrigerated truck for us, so we are hoping for that very soon.”
The supplemental food boxes come in two sizes: a $15 box, which will supplement a family of two with about a week’s worth of food, and a $30 box, which will supplement a family of four with about a week’s worth of food. They are handed out every Thursday at Camp Maranatha, 54162 Maranatha Drive.
If you are interested in volunteering for the group or in need of help either with supplemental food or other things, please visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/MCCMA/ or www.mountainaid.net.
“This is empowering people, and anyone who is interested in helping, please reach out,” Schoner said. “It feels good to help others.”