Madeline on Volunteering with Crown Heights Mutual Aid + Self Care

Happy May, CHRC! Strange times we’re living in, right? On my end, for the past seven (?) weeks, things have been both incredibly mundane and incredibly stressful. I am privileged enough to continue working from home, and my friends and family have remained well, but like everyone else I am so concerned about the wellbeing and futures of our loved ones and neighbors. I have been saddled with more free time than I’ve had access to in a while, alongside the reduction of outside freedom we’ve all been experiencing, which has led me to have a lot of nervous energy (something with which most runners are abundantly familiar, I’m sure). With this energy, I’ve checked all the quarantine boxes: made sourdough, knit a whole sweater, adopted a kombucha SCOBY, made that frothy coffee thing everyone’s been talking about, ran too much as an attempt to dispel some of that nervous energy and promptly reinjured myself… And once the novelty of not having to commute and being able to work in my pajamas wore off, I quickly became bored and kind of despondent. In the weeks since, I’ve become more and more involved in local mutual aid projects, while trying out some new forms of self-care that I’d previously overlooked, and I’d love to share both with y’all.

Back in March, when things first started looking dire for NYC, I heard rumblings on the internet about home sewists making masks to donate to hospital workers. I have a sewing machine but hadn’t dusted it off in a few years, but I figured that now was as good of a time as any to try to tame the beast once more. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been sporadically making masks (and a few scrub caps) using a variety of patterns (and hilarious fabric that I found on sale at Joann fabric), and donating them to my friends who work in healthcare for distribution to their coworkers. Recently, Crown Heights Mutual Aid put out a call for makers to donate masks for distribution within the community, so my mask-making energy has been reinvigorated and I’ve churned out (a solid, but paltry) ten/week for donation. 

Crown Heights Mutual Aid’s main goal during this crisis has been to connect our housebound neighbors with the resources they need – namely, grocery delivery and financial assistance. I have done a few grocery deliveries to our elderly neighbors and each time have been blown away by how kind and thankful the recipients have been. I delivered groceries to my neighbor Olivia, a 67-year-old cancer survivor who lives alone, a few weeks ago, and since then we have been texting on and off – I think we both appreciate the extra human interaction. Because I am young, healthy, have abundant access to (homemade) PPE, and have the spare time, I am happy to brave the horrors of the pandemic grocery store lines to help out those who can’t leave their homes. 

Through participating in the CHMA network, I’ve also learned a lot about the goals, structure, and history of mutual aid as a whole. In this particular political and economic climate, it’s easy to feel despondent and like there is no way to change things on a broad scale, but participating in mutual aid has been helpful to me in feeling connected to my neighborhood on a deeper level while working on the ground to help offset systemic inequity. If you are interested in learning more, check out these resources: 

And of course, if you’re interested in joining Crown Heights Mutual Aid, find them on facebook and their website, and join their Slack channel. If you or someone you know needs assistance, you can reach out via phone or text at (917)341-7675 or email at

In terms of self-care, like all runners, I’ve taken solace in the few miles I’ve been able to crank out at strange hours of the day and on unfamiliar streets. However, running has been less of a stress reliever than usual, due to the anxiety caused by running near others who aren’t covering their faces, and needing to dodge and weave around pedestrians in order to maintain six feet of distance. On top of all this, running with a face covering is challenging and uncomfortable, and I’ve been struggling with shin splints that just won’t seem to heal for the past few weeks. All of these factors have resulted in me dramatically reducing the amount I’ve been running, which is a shame – I had been training for a half marathon that was due to happen on April 19th, and now I’m nowhere near the weekly mileage I had been expecting to hit by this time in the year. Regardless, something good that has come with my increased time at home is the ability to commit to a 30-day yoga challenge. I have always enjoyed yoga, but rarely practiced at home, opting instead to get one really good workout at a studio, once per week. Now, I’m exploring the side of yoga that is consistent, committed, and grows slowly but surely with sustained practice. I’ve enjoyed spending just a small chunk of each day to learning more and growing slowly stronger and more flexible. I’m hoping that this new habit will be beneficial in my future running (fewer injuries???) and overall health! If you’re interested in joining me on a daily yoga challenge, I highly suggest checking out Yoga with Adriene – she has a few 30-day yoga challenges as well as specialized videos for runners! In terms of one-off classes, I’ve been loving Sky Ting’s livestreams as well as Mala’s live Yoga for Runners classes. 

That’s all, folks! I miss running with CHRC like nobody’s business, and I can’t wait to get back to those leisurely long runs with the Chill Pace Group. But in the meantime, I hope everyone is staying safe, sane, and sanitized wherever you are, and that the running you’re able to do is keeping you feeling grounded in these trying times.

Much love,