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Grocery Runs, Donations, and Memes: Inside the Rise of Neighborhood Slack Groups During the Lockdown

Bed-Stuy Strong was launched in early March by Sarah Thankam Mathews, a local resident and fiction writer, to help her neighbors connect with each other amid the outbreak. Residents post requests for groceries or monetary donations, questions about what stores and restaurants are still open, and, of course, pictures of their cute pets and delicious snacks. The group also features niche channels like #succulents, #cooking, and #livestream-events.

Bed-Stuy Strong is one of several Slack teams created throughout the U.S. to organize mutual aid responses to the virus and shelter-in-place orders. Similar Slack teams have sprouted up elsewhere in New York City (Chelsea and the Upper West Side in Manhattan and Crown Heights, Fort Greene, and Greenpoint in Brooklyn), the suburbs of Philadelphia, Chicago, and Columbus, Ohio.

In just over two weeks, Bed-Stuy Strong has grown to nearly 2,100 members. Most of the people who’ve joined the group seem to be offering help rather than asking for it. But those in need are also invited to either post the request for relief to Slack, send an email to the group, or call a Google Voice number and leave a message. Alyssa Dizon, an admin of the Slack group, says most of the requests come through that Google Voice number and that most of them are for deliveries of groceries and other supplies.

Requests are then vetted by intake volunteers, who find out more details if needed, and then pass it on to delivery volunteers, who fulfill the request. If the request for relief requires a purchase, volunteers spend their own money and then get reimbursed by Bed-Stuy Strong from a donation-based community fund.

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