Love your neighbor.

Let's start from the top?At The Link with Steve Erick

06-19-2019

Growing up, I wanted to be a superhero and I know, a lot of kids say that, but it stuck with me for years. Eventually, I discovered that I don’t have an aptitude for athletics or engineering, but I enjoyed cartooning and connecting with people. I met a girl almost as nerdy as me, we got married and soon after, I started working at a coffee shop to pay my way through Bible college.As it turns out, a full-time salaried pastorate is quite elusive. So, for the last 13 years, I’ve poured lattes by day and pursued ministry as a side gig. You know, like every other barista that doesn’t play an instrument.

No? Really? That’s just me?

A few years ago, we started a Bible study in our living room and people kept showing up. Long story short, we planted a church. I’m not sure if you’ve ever started something from scratch, but that usually means no funding and very few other resources. We couldn’t afford to pay a designer for things like a website or a logo, but we found a way to make it work. With a lot of help from YouTube, I started to learn more about design as it became important for us to intentionally communicate our passion for changing lives and changing communities even with very little. We cultivated an ethos of everything communicating something- from the coffee we brewed on Sundays, to the typeface on the bulletins (Futura for everything)

I haven’t inherited a mutation or a billion dollars. I’ve stopped looking for the cosmic rays or radioactive spider to furnish me with extraordinary abilities and yet there continues to be an innate desire in my heart to do good; to step into the gap when others can’t or won’t. I’ve come to terms that I can’t suit up with the Avengers, but what I can do in the everyday stuff of life, is love and make every encounter an opportunity to communicate some good. 

I can love my wife faithfully in the small things around the house.

I can give our foster children a safe, caring home while the adults deal with the other stuff.

I can serve my church as a steward of my time, talents and resources; all of it intentionally to do good and express love.  It’s not as exciting as fighting Thanos or nearly as lucrative, but it helps all the same.



That brings me to NeighborLink and my favorite Radiohead album, “Kid A”. You’re thinking to yourself, “How can those two possibly be related?” And your right, one is an organization for connecting people and the other is an album you might vaguely remember from a band you haven’t listened to since the 90s - not exactly apples and oranges, but the two have more alike than you’d think.

At church or at home, maybe you shoulder more responsibilities than others; as both a pastor and as the spouse of an educator, that’s just something that I’ve learned to live with. In my time as a foster parent, I’ve discovered that loving a child and welcoming them into your home and heart bring you to a place of vulnerability - and really that’s the point of all of this.

That’s the common denominator - to love and grow, to serve and endure sometimes cost a great deal of comfort and security. “OK Computer” will be the album Radiohead is remembered for. It is the epitome of their success, but what came after in “Kid A” exemplifies a divergence from what would be commercially successful, into a sound and style that typifies what Radiohead is known for today; “Pablo Honey” sounds nothing like “Moon Shaped Pool” until you hear Thom Yorke begin to sing. “Moon Shaped Pool” will never come close to selling as well as “Pablo Honey"

Sometimes you have to leave it all behind,leave the comfort of what you know you can do, of what you know to be successful, in order to learn what you’re actually capable of. I could pour another ten thousand lattes, make marginal changes to the temperature and texture, adjust the angle of my pitcher to pour a better swan but, is that it? Can I ever be more than the coffee guy? 

In January, I left my apron and espressos behind for the opportunity to articulate passions and priorities as we connect helping hands with vulnerable neighbors. As NeighborLink’s Motion Graphics/Design Apprentice, I get to produce my “Kid A” and expand my creative abilities - venturing from “necessary creative hobbyist” into a “bonafide, slightly competent professional”

I hope you’ll check in on me along the way.

Steve Erick 
NeighborLink's Motion Graphics & Graphic Design Apprentice

Home Incentive Program (HIP) & What Makes A Healthy Neighborhood Healthy

05-17-2019

Since 2003, NeighborLink Fort Wayne's mission has been to mobilize volunteers to help vulnerable homeowners with tangible projects that aren't currently being served by traditional social services. As the organization has grown, so has its vision to understand how neighborhood health can impact our community. In 2018, NeighborLink launched the Homeowner Incentive Program (HIP), a matching program that incentivizes homeowners to not procrastinate on their home exterior projects. The goal was to see what kind of impact it would have on a neighborhood as a whole. The HIP ignited positive and motivational results. Addressing housing standards is often an uncomfortable conversation to have with a homeowner, but with this funding, NeighborLink and neighborhood associations are able to approach homeowners with a solution that creates productive dialogue. Findings also showed that the neighbors who lived around the HIP participants started making improvements to their own property and neighbors started helping each other with these projects. NeighborLink believes this grant is a powerful tool that can improve the quality of life in neighborhoods as it connects neighbors to neighborhood associations, to their other neighbors, local resources and local businesses. People feel empowered to step up, be a part of the change, and ultimately increase neighborhood pride and connection.

2018 HIP RESULTS

- $7,850 was invested into 28 projects.

- Homeowners spent an additional $35,974 of their own money for a total investment of $43,824.

- 80% of homeowners were inspired to do more than they had originally planned.

- 95% of homeowners were motivated to complete their project in a timely manner.

- 100% of homeowners said that this grant increased their sense of pride in their home.

In 2014, a garage break-in in Williams Woodland Park Neighborhood sparked the idea to offer a matching incentive program using neighborhood association dollars to encourage homeowners to make security-related improvements to their homes sooner than later. The following year, the Homeowner Improvement Program turned into an exterior improvement program. It follows the observation that when one neighbor mows their lawn, the other neighbors around instinctively mow their lawns. From 2014-2018, Williams Woodland Park Neighborhood generated over $100,000 in trackable homeowner improvements with less than $12,000 in total incentives being offered. This program was then piloted in the Oakdale Neighborhood by NeighborLink in 2017 to see what success another neighborhood association would have with it. Twelve homeowners made a total of $12,000 in homeowner improvements with a $2,700 association investment. This solidified that the program had merit and could be reproduced in like-minded neighborhoods where there was solid leadership, a majority of homes in the neighborhood were occupied by homeowners, and resources were available to help incentivize improvements.

In 2019, the Homeowner Incentive Program will be offered to five neighborhoods: North Highlands, William Woodlands, West Central, Hoagland Masterson and Pettit Rudisill as part of NeighborLink's comprehensive neighborhood research project which is trying to find out what makes a healthy neighborhood healthy. The respective neighborhood associations will handle all applications, project management, documentation, and reimbursement requests. NeighborLink is looking for additional corporate and private sponsorship for the Home Improvement Program so that this grant can become available to additional Fort Wayne neighborhoods. To learn more about how to implement this program in your neighborhood or to discuss sponsorship, call Neighborlink at 260.209.0074 or visit their website at nlfw.org.

Pettit Rudisill

Williams Woodland

Hoagland Masterson

West Central

North Highlands

Who's Posting All The Projects?

04-23-2019

Websites have proven to be a powerful technological tool that directly connects people to a mutually beneficial relationship. This is one of NeighborLink’s greatest differentiators. We’re attempting to eliminate the barriers between people in need and those that want to help. However, there are critical challenges if access to technology is one-sided. That’s also true at NeighborLink. Websites, just like any other tool, are only as useful as the person’s ability to use them. Since day 1, those needing help could call NeighborLink on the phone. We would gather their information, explain the process and then post their project on the website for them.


In an ideal world, we would like to see 80% or more of the projects posted, get posted by the person who needs help or the referral organization. Why? Because our staff can sometimes be a barrier between the neighbor asking for help and the neighbor wanting to help. The volunteer loses an integral part of the whole volunteer experience - the initial interaction with the neighbor asking for help, the tone in their voice when asking for help, hearing their story and circumstances. There is no way we can summarize it in a way that will have the same impact.  When homeowners post their own projects they can communicate exactly how they want to be helped when the volunteer asks. And from a technical side, when homeowners post their own projects, they are automatically connected to the project from beginning to end, receiving notifications if the project gets selected, where it stands and the ability to update the project in any way.


The same goes for referral agencies. We’d love to see more agencies post projects on behalf of their clients as a way to share info and to stay connected to the project and the person they are trying to help. By staying connected to the project, they are notified directly if the project gets selected, when it’s started and its completion. It’s more work for them, but in the end, it provides better customer service and the likelihood of a positive experience for their clients.


The good news is that the number of projects being posted by folks other than NeighborLink staff is on the rise! Just a few years ago, we were posting close to 85% of the total number of projects. With today’s mobile technology and the relationship building our staff is doing to educate our partners on how the website works, the numbers are diversifying. The chart above shows who have posted projects over the last two years.


We’re monitoring these numbers every year to make updates to the project posting process, to continue streamlining and simplifying on our end. We want to be able to focus on bridging the effort gap and increase the connections neighbors are making with each other. We’re happy to answer any questions on this data or any other stats you’re curious about.

Andrew