When LaQuisha Minnieweather heard Portland Public Schools wasn’t delivering meals to families as air quality in the metro area plummeted to hazardous levels earlier this month, she and a group of other Black mothers did what they’ve reflexively been doing for months: They stepped in to fill the need.

Minnieweather and her fellow organizers said they’ve stepped in to help patch holes in the social safety net made evident and, in many cases, even widened by the coronavirus pandemic. “We should be taking care of our babies,” Minnieweather said. “And when I say ‘our’ babies, I really mean all of our babies.”

The group sprang into action Sept. 11 when Portland Public Schools announced the wildfires burning miles east of the city made the air too toxic to safely allow its bus drivers to deliver meals to families. “We didn’t even think to wait,” Shawn Roberts said. “We saw a need and we went and filled it.”

All told, the collective gathered enough supplies for 700 families and delivered care packages throughout the weekend. And it wasn’t just food: Black moms and other volunteers collected tampons and other hygiene products, toothbrushes, bandages and anything else that a family displaced by wildfires or otherwise affected by the pandemic might need.

Just like other organizations that sprang up amid more than 100 consecutive days of protests against police brutality and systemic racism, Mxm Bloc, a group of black moms has recently pivoted to providing relief to those affected by the historic wildfires ravaging neighboring Clackamas County.