Oh what a year and not just any year, it's the celebration of our 15th year helping neighbors, connecting with neighbors and being good neighbors through tangible expressions of God’s love. As we look back to these last 15 years, the momentum we have experienced in 2018 is icing on the cake, some may even say with sprinkles (if you like sprinkles, which I definitely do!).
This year we surpassed our goal of 1250 projects and reached 1302. Broken down, that’s 25 projects a week or around 3-4 projects a day! We currently have 163 volunteer groups and 88 of those groups returned from the year prior. Words cannot express how grateful we are for our volunteers' endless dedication, commitment, and selflessness. They are, you are, the backbone of our organization. We cannot put a price on their servitude…but if we were going to give a volunteer valuation (from independentsector.org) our combined volunteers' time just this year is valued at almost $300k!
On December 22, we held our annual volunteer awards banquet and for the first time ever in our history we gave out awards. The NL staff spent many a meetings discussing what these awards would be and we kept landing on wanting to give awards to everyone, because you are all such a blessing to us. After much discussion, we chose fun Heart & Hammer pins in 3 different colors to signify different volunteerism milestones. Then we chose awards for unique accomplishments for the year. Gay Penland (Helping Hand Award) lead teams of volunteers who painted over 940 fire hydrants (surpassing years past by over 600), Aaron Makin (Innovation Award) built a remote control lawn mower that was fun to use (so they say, I am dying to get my hands on it as I am sure you are too) and a clever way to promote NeighborLink awareness. Aptera received the "Link Award" for their dedication to motivating and encouraging their employees to give back through various projects during work and outside of work hours. The Gab & Go Gals (Rookies of the Year), are a group of dedicated women who recently starting doing projects with NL on a regular basis. Phyllis Weaver received the "Neighbor Award” for being one of our homeowners that has received helped from NL over the years and sends hand-written messages and calls showering our volunteers and our organization with love, gratitude and prayers. Finally we presented a traveling award that we named "The Steve Binkley Award." It honors Steve, who in every way embodies what it means to give selflessly and in a way that continually honors God and those less fortunate. This award went to Dave Kattau, a member of the Carpenter’s Sons, who every single week co-leads a team of retirees that make wheelchair ramps for the disabled in our community. These individuals would not have access in and out of their homes to go to the grocery store, to their doctors appointments and to visit loved ones. No-one should be ever be confined to their homes.
Another way we have engaged our community is through Team NeighborLink. Our athletes raise money and 100% of the proceeds goes back to funding projects. Athletes can commit to fundraise during their athletic pursuits, they can simply wear our gear and get the word out about who we are and what we do or they can participate in our events. A large portion of our community participates in local athletic events so NL has hosted Night Moves 5K runs and cyclocross off-road bicycle racing events. There were a total of 26 NL hosted events in 2018 and between the events and athletes, our athletes raised almost $20k.
As we head into 2019, we look forward to continued partnerships. We recently completed our annual report and focused on the retiree groups that give their time every single week, our corporate partners such as Masters Heating & Cooling who donate 100% of labor to fix or install heaters, Momper & Sons who encourage their employees to take on NL projects between their insulation jobs, and The YMCA who is working hard to help their members be whole with mind, body and spirit who are on a mission to encourage their members to give back to their community through volunteerism. You can download that report here. NL 2018 Annual Report_SINGLE PAGES.pdf
Through growth and grant funding, NeighborLink was able to add five people to their staff this year (previously there were just 3!) These additions will enable us to help expand our outreach and visibility throug the community, through our churches, businesses, civic groups, athletes and individuals. And with the SEED Grant funds we were awarded through Ambassador Enterprises, we are going to create videos to tell our story. Which story? All of them - the journey’s of our neighborhoods, our city, our volunteers, our homeowners, our athletes, our events, our partners and so much more. We will also offer our video services to help other organization tell their stories who are doing great things in our community. It has and will always be our goal to not just complete projects but to build community, empathy, friendships and tolerance for each other, for our neighbors and for God. We’ll see you in 2019!