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Red Dirt Collective: Neighors Helping Neighbors

Here in Cleveland County, we look after one another. We come together after big storms to help our neighbors. In Norman, one grassroots organization goes above and beyond every day—rain or shine—to make sure citizens receive the help they need now, while learning how to help themselves in the future.

I  spoke with Ashley Creed, a founding member of Red Dirt Collective (2023 recipient of the Norman Human Rights Award), about the nonprofit’s immense impact on the community. [Editor’s Note: Author Lindsey Davies is an active member of the Red Dirt Collective.]

Tell us a bit about this nonprofit.

We are working to empower the lives of poor and working folks in Norman through mutual aid, organizing and political work. Our organizing area is in Ward 1, the poorest and most diverse ward in Norman.

What is your mission and your impact on the community?

Through mutualism, we provide direct material support while working to foster mutual aid networks. We operate three pantries that our pantry team stocks daily, plus two other pantries located in the area and a free fridge that we stock once every two weeks. We also support the larger pantry network in Norman by creating awareness and helping run the Pantry Page Norman Facebook group. Every three months, we hold a Mutual Aid Fair. We also hold cooking programs for Norman Care-A-Vans and the Bus Barn.

Through organizing, we connect people dealing with the same struggles, empowering them to create solutions to these struggles. Through political work, we advocate for policies and candidates that are going to help poor and working folks.

Tell me more about your Mutual Aid Fairs

At our seasonal Mutual Aid Fairs, we provide clothing, hygiene products, cleaning supplies, and bike and car brake light repair services. We also have several community partners who join us during this three-hour event and provide haircuts, books, pet food and resources, menstrual products, and connect people to services and other resources. Our Mutual Aid Fairs serve 200-600 people each, so we have helped between 2,400-7,200 people over the 12 we have had so far. This past August, we had around 618 people attend the fair!

And what about your community garden?

We have a Community Garden at Colonial Commons Park that was started two years ago with the goal of connecting people from surrounding neighborhoods to us and each other. It started as a single plot and has now expanded to two plots and a large food forest. Anyone is welcome to come out and grab fresh veggies when they are ready! We also have workdays every Saturday at 10 a.m., and anyone can come out and help, no experience required.

What can our readers do to support you?

If anyone is interested in helping RDC achieve our goals, we always welcome new volunteers. We are a volunteer-led and -run organization, so donations are always very appreciated. You can help us monetarily by becoming a monthly donor on Patreon or donating on PayPal or Venmo @reddirtcollective. We can also arrange a pickup for any clothing and small household item donations you might have for our Mutual Aid Fairs. And anyone is welcome to make donations of shelf-stable food directly to the pantries, as well.

"We are a volunteer-led and -run organization, so donations are always very appreciated."

  • Red Dirt Collective volunteers pose for a group photo at a recent Mutual Aid Fair.
  • Liam Davies, 6, helps out in the produce section of a recent Mutual Aid Fair. (Photo by Lindsey Davies)