Love your neighbor.

Bernie on a Journey - Part 23 - January 10, 2020

01-11-2020

This week's vlog is an invitation to create a New Year's Resolutions for building the community you want to live in. It's never too late to start doing something different or better. Personally, I have been convicted to look at how I can do more to support a strong local business culture. Both by shopping local and by even looking for a bank that invests in local businesses, I can work towards the community I want to see. I was very inspired by two strong towns articles on this subject, and I encourage you guys to check them out:

https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2020/1/7/beyond-the-diet

https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2019/1/8/one-day-resolutions-for-strong-citizens?rq=walking

One of my favorite parts of researching is that I get to stand on the backs of giants. I read and can pull the highlights from years of hard work by other people, while trying to add a small bit to the conversation.

"Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty" by 2019 Economic Nobel Prize winners' Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo has been one of the most recent works informing my perceptions on how to approach the work of revitalization and neighborhood development. While their book focused their years of work with people who live on less than $1USD per day,  I feel like many of the concepts and principles they explained are universal to how people feel whenever they are economically constrained and under-resourced.

"For the poor, every year feels like being in the middle of a colossal financial crisis [like the 2008 crisis]," said Banerjee & Duflo. This makes sense because the poor are in one colossal financial crisis after another, rarely having times of prosperity.

Banerjee and Duflo made the point - risk is everywhere in poverty. If there is political change, then the government programs that the poor rely on might be altered, then their lives can go from bad to worse.  Violence, crime, food & price changes, health issues, are all constant worries for those who live in poverty, explained the authors.With these worries comes stress and cortisol, a stress hormone, is released in the body, and as Banerjee and Duflo explained, cortisol is actually proven to impair decision making and thinking. Therefore, the poor have many crucial decisions to make every day, but have a harder time making the best possible decision.

Moreover, some things, like saving, are just difficult for people in general by the nature of how we understand time (Banerjeee & Duflo). And when you come from limited means, what you have saved up by scraping and limiting non-essentials can evaporate with one small emergency, which discourages future attempts to save. For someone to save they have to have hope for a better future, and it can be exhausting maintain hope in the face of daily struggles.  This is why people aren't meant to live in isolation, because we are meant to bolster each other's hope and provide a sort of informal network of support and insurance.

Reaching out to help one another in many cases is like a deposit in someone's bank of hope - I see this constantly with NeighborLink projects and with acts of kindness in general. It matters that we find ways to reach out to those who are isolated by poverty and other hardships and show them that they matter and people.

Moreover, when we band together we can strengthen our mutual resolve to do the right thing, whether it be a commitment to exercise more or spend responsibly. Life is easier when it is lived in a supportive community.

In my own life this plays out in a few ways. My friends and I have craft nights where we sit and work on whatever handiwork we want. Anything from painting and crochet to book binding and everything in between is welcome. Craft night allows us to have time together while still working on whatever we have been trying to accomplish alone.

Another way my own need for a supportive community plays out is with budget nights. Truly, I am a person who loves budgets and spreadsheets and the idea of a stable financial future. So, me and friends will periodically sit down to review our budgets and financial goals and discuss how we can be good stewards of what we have. Banerjee and Duflo's book on poverty explained part of why budget groups are effective: when we establish goals and norms in a group setting, there is a sense of social pressure to stick to them.

Based on other research I've been exposed to, though, my own financial sensibilities have shifted. I want to look for ways to become an investor in my own community, in local small businesses and in supporting my friends as they start their own. I also am doing research to figure out if I want to switch to a local bank. There are even resources to help rank banks involvement in the community (check out https://banklocal.info/ for more information). Even if I don't have much money, I want to make sure I am using it to make my community better.

One more lesson from Banerjee and Duflo that I am working into my approach of resolutions and research is moving past the three I's: Ideology, Ignorance & Inertia. I have to be willing to move out of what should be and look at things the way they are (ideology). I have to be willing to seek out information and learn where my assumptions are wrong (ignorance). Finally, I have to be willing to change course and possibly even stop entirely when new information arises (inertia).  Because, as "Poor Economics" points out**,** information alone does not make things change, people have to be willing to accept the information and  use it to direct their behavior.

I hope you all consider reading "Poor Economics" for yourselves - the Allen County Public Library has a copy! But more importantly, I hope you think of where you can build community to accomplish goals and support others in need in 2020 and throughout your life!

Bernie on a Journey - Part 22 - December 20, 2019

12-23-2019

This week’s vlog is a thank you message, please click below!

 

In a season of abundance, it is easy to be jolly, but the holidays can seem much more bleak for those on the margins of society and those who are struggling- whatever their struggle may be. Spending the last six months researching neighborhoods, poverty, development and engagement has made me look at my holidays a bit differently. It tempers my joy a bit to think of the people I’ve met who are struggling this Christmas. I spend my days researching programs, resources and tactics to help people, and better understand the situations they are going through. But it’s not until I meet people or hear their stories, or experience a struggle that I can comprehend the pain of being under-resourced. 

For a holiday giving drive, I went to buy a coat for a 7 year old and found out that the coat was $70. I was shocked, and I immediately thought of how difficult it would be to have kids constantly outgrowing coats when money is tight. It was eye opening- it helped me to realize that while I know facts about poverty, the reality of it, and the related pain and embarrassment are still foreign to me. 

A friend of mine recently learned about the concept of ‘Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed’ (ALICE) families and how prevalent they are in Fort Wayne - 1 family out of every 4 families in Allen County is considered in the ALICE range (https://www.unitedwayallencounty.org/uploads/page/ALICE_Report_/2018_Allen_County_ALICE_One-Pager.pdf). 

1 out of every 3 Allen County residents lives in a designated food desert (file:///Users/mac/Downloads/2018_VPSExecutiveSummary.pdf). 

These statistics remind me that there are many people who seem to be getting by, who are really struggling and live one small emergency away from dire straits.

I share these statistics because I realized that just because I stop looking at a problem or social issue doesn’t mean it is solved or that it is getting any better. This realization helped me to reorient my holidays. I made sure to look for ways I could give back and limit consumption. Little steps help make things better on a large scale.

Last week, I attended the Fort Wayne Area Planning Council on Homelessness quarterly meeting. Since NeighborLink serves primarily homeowners, it may seem odd that I decided to attend. However, we sometimes have to deal with situations where homes are close to being condemned or homeowners in some other way are removed from their house. The meeting was highly informative, and gave me a new appreciation for all the dedicated people throughout Fort Wayne who are working to make people’s lives better, whether by defeating food deserts, running shelters, or providing resources to those in need. 

The meeting on homelessness also made the case that the work of NeighborLink is imperative - because keeping people in their homes is always preferable to people ending up on the streets. NeighborLink plays a crucial part in neighborhood stabilization, solving one issue at a time, house by house. Please consider making a donation during this holiday season or serving with your family as part of your holiday celebrations. Giving hope is quite possibly the best gift we can give this holiday. 

I am doing a project, too, this holiday season. I am running to raise funds for a family friend who has no resources and is in need of a new roof. For every $25, I will run 1 mile. So far, I have to run 23 miles, and I’m not a runner! But, I know that when I give of myself, it encourages others to do the same. If you would like to support this fundraiser and make me run some more miles, check out the fundraising page at https://www.facebook.com/donate/912624199133739/

I hope you have a very merry holiday season, and whether it is an abundant season or not, my wish is that it is a hopeful and joyful time. Thank you all for your support of NeighborLink! With your help, we’ve done so much good in 2019, and for 2020 there is still more good to do!




Celebrating Another Great Year at NeighborLink

12-13-2019


This past Wednesday we held our annual year end celebration on the campus of Indiana Tech.  The room was lined with pictures of volunteers, homeowners, athletes, and families displaying all the good that was NeighborLink this year.  It was a wonderful evening spent in fellowship with supporters of the organization while highlighting all of the great things that happened in 2019 as well as giving out volunteer awards.  We wanted to give special recognition to volunteers that have gone above and beyond for NeighborLink and those they serve in our community.  We encourage you to read below to learn about this year’s award recipients and the impact they’ve made. 

Dennis Dan - Neighbor-to-Neighbor Award

Dennis Dan is one of those rare people that became a volunteer at NeighborLink after receiving help. Dan asked for help with snow removal back in February due to a recent surgery. Dennis is a guy that believes in paying it forward and has a long history of helping others any chance he can get. As soon as Dennis was recovered enough from his surgery, he was volunteering with us and has taken on numerous transportation projects. Dennis is warm, kind, thoughtful, and cares for those he transports. 

E-gineering - Link Award 

Building a web-based platform for NeighborLink is an expensive and complicated process, and there isn’t a week that goes buy that we aren’t working on our website. Finding a partner that understands software and technology, cares about the work you’re trying to do, and aligns philosophically and even missionally is vital to the success our organization. We began working with E-gineering in 2018 after outgrowing our previous developers capacity, and they have been an incredible partner. In the past two years, they have donated over 3,000 hours not because we’re asking for it, but because they believe in our mission fully and want invest in our organization. We’ve developed a true partnership and are continue to find ways to support each others businesses. 

John McGauley - Outdoorsman Award

John is a member of Concordia Lutheran Church and helps lead a group of members in a program they call, Concordia Cares as well taking on projects with his wife, Nancy. John has a passion for serving others as a way to help them navigate life’s circumstances and as a way to illustrate Christ’s love to neighbors in need. John brings his expertise to project selection, planning, and execution. We have been blessed by his leadership and tenacity to get bigger projects completed over the past two years. He’s navigated some significant projects that have helped those homeowners get through challenging circumstances. 

Carpenter’s sons - Team Work Makes the Dream Work Award

One of the greatest aspects of any dedicated group of volunteers is the relationships that are formed within the group itself. The Carpenter’s Sons of the St. Vincent De Paul Society of St. Vincent De Paul Catholic Church are a diverse, talented, energetic, inspiring, caring, and mostly retired group of people that seem to have found a groove with each other and within NeighborLink among several other organizations. Members of this group of around 30 different volunteers dedicate a handful of hours to over 20 hours a week to organizing, planning, and completing over 500 projects this year. It’s an honor to celebrate their collective efforts with the “Team Work Makes The Dream Work” Award for their continued efforts to enjoy one another while engaging with our homeowners with grace, kindness, and desire to connect relationally. 

Sunrise Cafe - Mehrdad Dehmiri - Alliance Award

Every on-going group of volunteers needs a place to get together and if you’ve ever been in Sunrise Cafe off Dupont Rd on Tuesday mornings at 8am for the past 5 years, you’ve seen a group of 20-25 Carpenter’s Sons right in the middle of the restaurant. When you show up 48-50 weeks a year, a relationship forms between everyone involved, including owners and key waiters and waitresses. This has been the case with the owner of Sunrise Cafe, Mehrdad. Merhrdad is always very welcoming, humble, and greets everyone with enthusiasm. 

Parker Crosby - The Steve Binkley Award

The Steve Binkley Award was created to identify and affirm the pursuit of kingdom minded service in an individual’s life that has shown an ongoing commitment loving others at NeighborLink and beyond. It is named after one our most dedicated volunteers that exhibits an ongoing pursuit of getting to know “who his neighbor is,” what it means to love them well, and how to allow those experiences to facilitate personal and spiritual transformation in himself. Steve Binkley continues to be an active leader and volunteer with the Grub & Go Guys and inspires the work of so many others at NeighborLink. This year the award went to Parker Crosby. Parker is a young man that made an intentional effort to begin living a life of service several years ago and continues to pursue the path of being a leader that invites us all to be more actively involved in loving our neighbors and causes that are important to us. 

NeighborLink wouldn’t be where it is today without all of our volunteers and supporters.  We thank you all from the bottom of our hearts for the time and energy your’ve poured into loving your neighbor.  We celebrate all that was 2019 and look forward to where God leads us in 2020.