Western District Finalist
Mutual Aid Partners
Neighbors Helping Neighbors
REALTOR® Brenda Case organized grassroots community efforts to ensure everyone had what they needed during the pandemic.
Grand Junction, Colo. sprawls across the Grand Valley, on one side a thriving city, on the other lush farmland and the heart of the state’s wine country. Rimmed by staggering red mesas, bathed in the watercolor sunsets of the quintessential American West, it is also a close-knit community, and at no time has this been more evident than during the COVID-19 pandemic. While across the country the pandemic isolated neighbors, in Grand Junction it brought them closer.
“The shutdown hit us here in Grand Junction a little later than the rest of the state, but when it hit people really needed help,” said Janna Burton, CEO of the Grand Junction Area REALTOR® Association.
A mutual aid Facebook group was formed by community members, where neighbors cold share food, supplies, and support to others in the group. The movement quickly grew and soon the group had thousands of members. REALTOR® Brenda Case volunteered to organize them, working with Mutual Aid Partners, a nonprofit founded to provide structure to the efforts and enable fundraising.
“Brenda got the community organized to help,” said Stephania Vasconez, Executive Director of Mutual Aid Partners. “It’s incredible how much of our community she has touched.” Burton agreed. “Brenda saw the need and has worked so hard to give her time. [She is] a vital link in this relatively new chain in our community.”
Case, who has spent much of her life on the Western Slope and operates her business, Back to Basics Realty, here, jumped in, assuming project leadership roles and coordinating efforts. She picked up and dropped off donations and recruited others to do the same for the group’s Distribution Day, held every week at a local church. Community members walk through to donate or pick up food and supplies.
The distribution event has helped about 10,000 families in a year, donating more than 150,000 pounds of food. Case also oversaw a mask making and distribution project, enlisting and organizing volunteers to produce and deliver more than 50,000 masks during the year.
“Seeing the panic and fear in our community when the realization of the pandemic [hit] along with the lack of supplies and services was the biggest driving factor” to getting involved, Case said. “My mother was very active in the community and she is my inspiration in so many things I do. I think
I’ve always been a bit involved, but as an introvert I rarely call attention to myself.”
That changed as the Mutual Aid movement grew. “I have learned to speak up and reach out for whatever needs our community might have. I’ve learned the importance of community in a way I’m not sure I truly appreciated before,” Case added.
Perhaps the most meaningful Mutual Aid Partners project for Case has been senior engagement. When caring for her late mother before her death six years ago, Case learned just how lonely rehab and senior facilities can be. With her mother as her inspiration, Case recruited community members to deliver gifts for more than 2,200 seniors and facility care staff at the holidays. They also delivered gifts for Valentine’s Day and Easter, and enlisted elementary schoolchildren to make and send uplifting cards. Under Case’s leadership, this program will continue with strong participation. “She led our Team Leaders and now procedures are in place for ongoing flow of these events,” Burton explained.
“The most rewarding part was probably watching our community come together while it seemed like the world was falling apart,” Case said. “It was a beautiful thing.”
Contact Case at firstname.lastname@example.org and learn more about Mutual Aid Partners here.