Kind gestures helping locals in desperate need are leaving hearts filled with love but also pits in stomachs.

Ryan Beardy, one of the early organizers of Winnipeg Mutual Aid Society, says the pandemic's effects on marginalized and low-income families were devastating. People living paycheque to paycheque began struggling to afford groceries and other needed items after losing their jobs during the closures. When Omar Kinnarath started the page Beardy quickly jumped onboard.

"We have got to look out for each other," Beardy says. "It really reminds you that there is humanity out there and just being a part of it, I am constantly seeing the humanity and caring and giving of others."

He says the hundreds of people on their page quickly turned into thousands. The page administrator is glad to see the group of over 8,000 helping others each day.


Spreading kindness

The strong need is met with the love of strangers, whom Beardy calls neighbours. He says in Indigenous cultures, there is the belief that everyone is connected and family.

"What do you do when your family is in need? You help them. I believe that value resonates through many cultures, through many religions, through many different world views."

His go-to example of people helping was early on in the pandemic when supplies ran out. There was a shortage of hand sanitizer and a personal care home could not purchase any. They then asked the group for help.

"We were able to get together and ensure that our elderly were properly protected."

Beardy says families are helping families, pets are getting fed, homemade soup is being shared, and starving households are receiving pizza from strangers.

While Beardy is thrilled to see people help others the strong, widespread need is bothersome, highlighting the needs of Winnipeggers.


Strong need

Beardy says many Winnipeggers are struggling to survive under regular circumstances, but the pandemic heightened the pressure.

"This affected those who live in poverty, those who live in marginalization, and you can imagine living paycheque to paycheque, and suddenly, you can't work and you have families you need to feed."

He says poverty is an underlying issue for many people experiencing mental health issues and homelessness.

Beardy has found the need for help far outweighs posts giving to others. He says if a single food hamper is being given away, it is not uncommon to see more than a dozen people commenting in need.  Fresh fruits and vegetables are in high demand as they are more expensive and can be difficult to find.

"I know that it is going to continue beyond the pandemic," he says, hoping these kinds of groups will continue to "strengthen our community ties to how we should be living: as one."

Beardy is hoping to see more people joining their Facebook page who can help.