I worked for two years at a themed entertainment company as a designer/developer. I worked on a lot of complicated projects using custom electronics and/or microcontroller firmware. I did my best to document all this before my departure from the company, but there was a lot of disfunction in terms of documentation standards and organization so some of this information inevitably slipped through the cracks.
I left this company last year because it seemed like some major layoffs were on the horizon and I had other opportunities (my prediction of layoffs came true, over half the employees got canned once Covid hit).
They are now working on an install where a lot of these projects are getting set up on-site, and I'm getting a bunch of texts from different people asking me for details about the various projects I worked on, or even for me to hunt down bits of code or files I might have on my computer and send it their way.
On one hand, I like all my coworkers (the people who are directly asking for help) and consider them friends of mine, they're good people just trying to get their job done despite chaotic upper management. On the other hand, I don't like or trust the upper management (super dysfunctional, laid a bunch of people off, and some of them I know personally to be really awful people) and I don't feel good about doing free work that ultimately benefits them. In addition, some other people have gotten rehired on a contract basis to work on this install, and they are getting paid, but due to organizational issues I think the chance of a budget getting approved to pay me for my work is pretty minimal (those who got contracts are full-time on-site, I'd be remote, part time as needed).
Basically I'm stuck in a situation where by helping my friends I'm letting this company take advantage of me, and where by not letting them take advantage of me I'd probably just make things harder for my friends without really accomplishing much.
What should I do here? What would be a good solution in terms of maintaining professional standards and setting clear boundaries, but also not making my friend's lives unnecessarily harder. I'm still on good terms with my former direct manager, so I'm planning to reach out to him and get his take, but I also wanted to see what a broad survey of opinion would say.