For several years, NeighborLink has partnered with the City of Fort Wayne’s Division of Community Development/Office of Housing and Neighborhood Services to help execute a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. It is common for home repair needs of our neighbors to exceed the skills of our volunteers. The funds from this grant are used to secure the skilled labor needed to support our volunteer efforts.
Funds are limited to $7,500 per project and the homeowner must qualify for the program. Qualification for CDBG dollars is based on income and then initiation/completion is based on the order in which NeighborLink volunteers select projects and notify NeighborLink staff of a need for contractors. If costs exceed $7,500, a homeowner can pay or fundraise for the balance.
Projects have included roof replacements, exterior painting, foundation repairs, tree removal, siding replacement, and more. Each project has a special meaning to the homeowner, who often has no other options to complete the repairs. Deb’s project was no exception.
Deb has some health and mobility issues making even just maneuvering around her two-story house a laborious task. Like many older homes, the only bathroom is on the second floor and lacks proper features to assist with accessibility. Deb had a small, stand-up, single shower stall that became virtually impossible for her to use. Without access to a proper bath or shower, Deb's mobility issues began to take over her life. Not to mention, all while being confined to her home in a pandemic except for doctors' appointments. (As we have said before, COVID-19 has been particularly hard on the disabled and elderly, who were already experiencing high levels of isolation.) Deb's neighbor reached out to us to see if we could help remodel her bathroom. Deb qualified for the CDBG grant and our work began.
We secured quotes from several contractors with the goal of replacing Deb’s shower with a walk-in tub. We moved forward with Windows, Doors & More (WDM) to do the work. The total estimate exceeded the limit and they worked with us to get it under $7,500. We arranged for volunteers to complete the demo work under budget.
A few weeks before Christmas, our volunteers completed the demo, and WDM worked their magic to prep the bathroom and install a new, jetted, walk-in tub for Deb. We are very grateful for the work of WDM. While the basic features of the tub worked, they initially had issues with the electrical in connecting the jets. (Old homes + old electrical = no fun for anyone.) Their crew worked tirelessly, coming back four times until they were able to get it all functioning.
I had the privilege to check-in on Deb after the tub’s installation. I cannot begin to describe the change I saw in Deb's demeanor since being able to enjoy her own bathtub (and even before the jets were fixed). She was beaming! Her face was brighter. Deb told me how she could even see improvement in her skin and circulation. The tub, combined with the promise of a COVID-19 vaccine, brought hope to Deb after a year of seemingly unending hopelessness. She felt motivated to tackle a few other projects she had been delaying. To have had even the smallest part in facilitating this hope for Deb was quite an immense feeling for me. It has been my pleasure getting to know Deb and hearing her crazy stories of her previous adventures (she went to Woodstock!). She has sent several texts and notes professing her immense gratitude. We were equally happy to be able to utilize this program to help.
Small things really do change neighborhoods, and—equally important—neighbors.
NeighborLink is seeking a new Executive Director with a vision to see the local Church of Fort Wayne be the hands and feet of Jesus through serving our City's vulnerable homeowners, who are our neighbors. Thousands of seniors, individuals with disabilities, and people facing life's circumstances are struggling with home maintenance and repairs along with many other tangible needs who cannot physically or financially meet them on their own. Our mission is practical, neighbor-to-neighbor expressions of God's love, and our vision is to develop neighborhoods through the tangible acts of kindness of concerned and committed neighbors.
As the Executive Director, you will exemplify a mature relationship with Jesus Christ and a passion for introducing others to the love of God, expressed through loving and selfless service for the glory of God. You will have experiences from engaging with vulnerable neighbors, which have transformed you and shaped you. You have passion for God to be glorified, and for the staff and volunteers to be developed in their own Christian formation, through the ministry of NeighborLink.
You will be passionate about ensuring our mission is being implemented in the local community by bringing creative, problem-solving vision to complex issues facing vulnerable neighbors and neighborhoods with a heart for connecting neighbors. You will champion the NeighborLink experience, lead a team of committed and experienced staff, and position us for the next phase of organizational growth.
General Duties and Responsibilities:
Staff Oversight and Organization Operations:
You are responsible for the hiring, retention, and professional development of competent, qualified staff. You are responsible for the effective administration of NeighborLink operations, which includes but is not limited to signing all notes, agreements, and other instruments made and entered into on behalf of the organization.
Organization Mission and Strategy:
You will work with the board to ensure the mission is fulfilled through existing programs while working to refine and establish the strategic plan that is consistent with the vision of the organization and future opportunities. You are responsible for the enhancement of NeighborLink.
Brand Management and Communication:
Responsible for the enhancement of NeighborLink’s image by being active and visible in the community and by working closely with other professional, civic, and private organizations. You will be responsible for setting the communication tone and strategy while giving leadership and vision to Neighboring Productions, which is our internal video production company.
Financial Performance and Viability:
You will be responsible for fundraising and developing other revenues necessary to support NeighborLink’s mission. You are responsible for the fiscal integrity and will be responsible for annual budgets, monthly reporting, and fundraising strategy. You are responsible for fiscal management that operates within the approved budget, ensures maximum resource utilization, and maintains the organization in a positive financial position.
You will work with the board in a manner that supports and guides the organization's mission as defined by the Board of Directors. You will be responsible for communicating effectively with the Board and provide all information necessary to function properly and to make informed decisions in a timely manner.
NeighborLink Board of Directors
You are able to faithfully align with and be able to implement our organization's mission of practical, neighbor-to-neighbor expressions of God's love.
You are a communicator, collaborator, and connector. You have strong oral and written communication skills and have the desire to use information to connect the dots for others in an effort to motivate them to action. You like to talk, interact, and build relationships with a large number of people from a diverse range of socioeconomic statuses. You have high levels of interest in relational connections. You are kind, inclusive, and believe that everyone has something to offer.
You are self-motivated to stay busy, solve problems, and accomplish your goals in a highly decentralized and independent environment. You will be driven by your desire to do your work at the highest level, be responsible to your team, and to represent yourself and the organization well.
You have the desire and flexibility to create a work/life integration that gives you space to always represent NeighborLink. You have a schedule and availability that allows you to make time for NL work at night, on weekends, or whenever the opportunity presents itself to fulfill the job time requirements. In return, you have autonomy and an equal amount of flexibility in the role.
You have efficiency working with web-based, form-driven and word processing kind of applications, Apple software products, and be able to know when to pick up the phone and make calls.
You Have Conviction and Vision
One of the most important skills the successful candidate brings to NL is the ability to see unmet needs and desire to find solutions. Your conviction to do the right thing, stand alongside the vulnerable, and address the right problems is connected to how you see the world and our roles in it. That vision attracts and leads others into being a part of the solution.
You're Reliable and Flexible
If you say you're going to do something, you mean it or you work hard to find a solution if you can't. You will have several different projects and staff members relying on you to do what you've promised you can do. You like to take ownership of projects and see them through.
You're Able to Work Independently
NeighborLink is a flat organization and each staff person is responsible for their specific set of goals. You willneed to be able to articulate the vision, collaborate with your team, see what's next, and then run with it. You will also have the flexibility you need to accomplish your job responsibilities and lead your team.
You're a Problem Solver
You thrive on solving problems that come at you. There is no rule book or how-to guide to many of the challenges we see at NL. Having the curiosity and mentality to exhaust your resources and network to search for solutions is vital for you and the rest of us to succeed.
Full-time position (40+ hours week)
Bachelors Degree Required - Masters preferred.
Transparent and high integrity leadership.
Five or more years of professional and/or nonprofit leadership experience.
Experience and skill in working with a Board of Directors.
High-level strategic thinking and planning. Ability to envision and convey the organization's strategic future to the staff, board, volunteers, and donors.
Demonstrated ability to oversee and collaborate with staff.
Active fundraising experience that has successfully generated new revenue streams, improved financial results, and cultivated relationships with donors.
Strong financial management skills, including budget preparation, analysis, decision making, and reporting.
"When you get your 'Who am I?' question right, all of your 'What should I do?' questions tend to take care of themselves." - Richard Rohr, Falling Upward
This quote has been one that has stuck with me since I first read this book over a decade ago because it so closely aligns with my journey of how I began my involvement with NeighborLink and what fueled my commitment to going deeper into the core issues we see in our work, and is aligned with the Lord’s call to serve professionally in a new space within the Kingdom.
As I’ve spent time in deep reflection and preparing the NL team during my transition, I’ve been documenting some of the main lessons learned over the past 13 years. One of our core values at NL is to be committed to learning, and a way we practice this value is to spend time each week during our staff meeting reflecting what we learned the week before with each other. It’s been transformative for our team the past two years. In that spirit, here are a few lessons I want to share with you.
WE ARE ALL A FEW CIRCUMSTANCES OR CHOICES AWAY
In 15 years of projects, I can confidently say that we’re all just a razor thin line away from needing the help of others in significant ways. What ultimately determines our ability to navigate life’s circumstances or the bad choices we’ve made is how deep our security net is or how broad and stable our community is. I’ve met incredible people that have lived healthy, productive lives who love Jesus who have bought their own home through hard work and raised a wonderful family just like I’m trying to do, not be able to afford to cover the hefty expenses of home maintenance because they made working class wages and weren’t able to build a retirement plan like I have been able to so far. I’ve met neighbors who were tragically injured while in the middle of helping someone on the side of the road with a car issue have their life completely changed and need help with mobility repairs to their home. I’ve also seen someone living paycheck to paycheck do all the right things have that cheap car they had to buy from a not-so-reputable car dealer break again and take any saving they may of have had, and now they can’t fix the hot water heater. I can resonate and see many of these issues happening in my own life, and it makes me that much more grateful each time I see NeighborLink volunteers come alongside their neighbors, who are desperate for community to help, and develop a relationship.
This lesson is what prompted my wife and me to be intentional about where we bought of first house. If we were going to be engaged in community development work, then we needed to be all in, to the point where the issues facing the neighborhood weren’t just issues to solve for others, they were ours to solve because we felt them too. I heard a community development expert say one time that you have to live and work in a place for 7-10 years before you can even begin to understand what the community needs. I thought that was exaggerated, but after 12 years living and working in a lower income area, I believe it whole heartedly. After 13 years of working with individuals aging in place and in various neighborhoods, we learn more every year about the systemic challenges pressing against great people. I can confidently say that NL embraces this philosophy at the core, and any future solutions that we present are because we are proximate to neighbors in need. We’re in the yards and homes of over 1,300 homeowners and dozens of neighborhoods around Fort Wayne every year. We hear the stories, learn from neighbors, and live intentional lives as a team.
VULNERABILITY MUST BE EMBRACED
Our society does not widely embrace vulnerability as a normal part of our daily lives, and often treats it like a liability. NL has taught me to recognize that we all have vulnerabilities every day, and just because I’m asking for help doesn’t mean I’m weak, broken, or unable to offer something in return from a where I am strong. My current vulnerability doesn’t mean I’m going to be vulnerable forever. I’ve learned many times that when I’m at my most vulnerable, it’s others that show up or whom I invited in my life with their strengths that help me move towards strength. Almost every project where I have gotten time to spend getting to know the neighbor I’m helping, I walk away feeling like I have been blessed more than I’ve been a blessing. They had a vulnerability in something that they couldn’t physically do that I could, and they had the ability to speak a word of encouragement, offer a prayer, or share a cold bottle of water with me when I needed it. NL is about relationships and connections, not just our ability to fix broken things. I have learned how to ask for help more freely and receive others’ blessings as their offering, rather than dismiss out of lack of need. Vulnerability can be a beautiful and harmonious transaction to be sought after rather than avoided.
SMALL THINGS CHANGE NEIGHBORHOODS
It is those individuals in our circles of awareness and influence that do the things that everyone sees and thinks that needs done. Ever since the first time I called a neighbor who now had an actual, physical neighbor helping them after I had been mowing their grass for months, I’ve become more aware of just how much everyone observes what’s going on around them, but rarely acts. What happened in that project is that the neighbor saw that there was a stranger showing up week after week to do something that had been done a certain way for a long time by the person I was helping. Eventually, the neighbors interacted outside in passing and questions were asked, awareness was gained, and generosity was offered. I see this most clearly in my own neighborhood when I see a neighbor who has faithfully filled a small bag of trash up twice a day as he walks his dog for years. This neighbor regularly gets celebrated for this simple act, as they should. It’s those small actions that have prompted other neighbors to take responsibility for the small things they see because they know they have a part to play in solidarity to the others. Not everyone is motivated to pick up trash, but we all have something we see in our daily lives that we wish someone would do something about. I’ve learned that this is the Holy Spirit’s way of talking to me and encouraging to own that aspect. If I see it, maybe I should be the one to do it. When I do this and when I’ve seen others do it, others are quick to show up and join in the efforts. It takes courage to be the one who moves first, no matter how small the task is.
I have a hundred other lessons learned that have impacted me over the years thanks to all the volunteers, board members, community partners, friends, neighbors, and supporters who have been gracious and generous to me over the years.
NeighborLink is so much more than its leader. Any success or praise that has come my way over the years is shared with the dedicated staff that are weaving their life and vocations together on a daily basis. They are the true operational power behind NeighborLink. And, beyond our staff, NeighborLink doesn’t exist or work without the hundreds of volunteers each year that move from a desire to do good and help to actually doing it. If you reflect on all that is involved in a simple 45-minute yard mowing project, you will see how monumental the efforts of NeighborLink volunteers are when you think about the completion of 1,300 projects a year.
Thank you for trusting me as Executive Director and for joining me in the front yards, on the roofs, in the streets, and in the living rooms of 10,000 tangible home repair projects in the past 13 years. I’m as confident as ever that the best years of NeighborLink are yet to come. I’ll see you on a project as a volunteer soon.