Love your neighbor.

Bernie on a Journey - Part 18 - November 15, 2019


This week went from fall to winter in record time! With this, we decided to do a vlog on car care tips for the cold weather with Derrick Smith, another member of the NeighborLink Team. 

Pairing with the vlog for this week, I wanted to blog about how this bad weather caused me to reflect on driving, particularly about how it is both a responsibility and a privilege. It is a privilege because it allows one the means to move about freely, but it is a responsibility because it requires careful maintenance and operation of heavy machinery around pedestrians and other cars under constantly changing conditions. It is honestly a bit insane that we all regularly get inside heavy metal machines and move them rapidly through space amongst a multitude of other independently moving heavy metal machines, as if it is completely natural. 

The sudden winter weather challenged all of us to be more cautious and prudent, but some didn’t accept that challenge and nearly 100 accidents were reported on Monday night alone(1). Later on this week another accident happened, a hit and run, where the driver struck a woman in a wheelchair and her fiance(2).  It is easy to think that accidents will never impact us, but unless we drive carefully, properly care for our car and respond to the drivers around us, we could end up in an accident or causing an accident. Driving requires our entire attention because it is an inherently serious activity: we are all effectively operating battering rams. With this in mind, and especially since the weather can be so dangerous already, we must do our best to minimize our distractions whether it be texting, eating, putting on makeup, etc. Choosing just to put my phone outside of my reach has helped me realize my dependence on it and how freeing it is to not respond to people immediately. 

Beyond just the responsibility of driving, it is also an immense privilege. This bad weather makes me think of all those who have to navigate Fort Wayne without a car, whether trudging through snow, shivering at bus stops or paying for rides. Having a car is a privilege that some people never get to experience. Some of my friends are blind, or have epilepsy, or have debilitating anxiety, or cannot afford the upkeep and insurance for a car. Some never had families that were stable enough to allow them time to get their driver's license or even learn to drive. Because our region doesn’t have the population density to warrant extensive public transit, those who can’t drive are often unable to move about freely, and it can be a serious impediment to getting and maintaining a job. Even arranging rides to the grocery store or doctor’s appointments can be difficult.

For those of us who can drive, it also means we can serve in a myriad of ways. One of the projects that people rarely associate with NeighborLink is transportation. But frequently people will turn to us for help when they can’t get where they need to go. This is a perfect service opportunity for those who feel unequal to more skilled service requests like window replacement or foundation repair. For those of us who drive, giving someone else a ride isn’t a big deal, but for those who can’t drive, getting a ride can make a huge difference. Often those who choose to volunteer as drivers realize that they aren’t even going far off their normal routes. There are neighbors in need all around us. 

So, as the weather turns chilly and the holidays approach, please drive responsibly and kindly. If your schedule permits, consider taking a transportation request - it is just one of many ways we can love our neighbors.



What Makes a Healthy Neighborhood, Healthy? Research Report


For the past 15 years, NeighborLink has met the needs of vulnerable homeowners with volunteer service. Just since November 2010, NeighborLink has completed over 7,554 projects in Fort Wayne. That means we've heard over 7,554 stories and accomplished over 7,554 acts of kindness. This also means NeighborLink has had an intimate glimpse into the inner-workings of neighborhoods through being a neighbor and connecting its neighbors. 

This glimpse has exposed some fundamental questions:

  • Why do neighborhoods differ so drastically from block to block? 
  • Why does the media seem to report negatively on some neighborhoods more often than others? 
  • Why does economic and community development seem to forget certain parts of the city? 
  • Why do the desires of the neighborhood residents often differ from the prescription of outside experts? 

All of these questions have distilled down to one main question at NeighborLink:

What makes a healthy neighborhood, healthy? 

In an effort to answer this question, we contracted Purdue University Fort Wayne's Community Research Institute to partner with us on a comprehensive research project that gathered relevant quantitative data about each neighborhood and combined it with the qualitative data collected through various neighborhood meetings and interviews we held. 

Perceived 'healthy' neighborhoods are ones with positive attention, ones where economic development and community development is occurring, but how different are these neighborhoods really from other neighborhoods? We wanted to find out whether the neighborhoods many consider 'unhealthy' have the same characteristics that the 'healthy' neighborhoods have, and if not, why not. To accomplish this we have undertaken a two year study of five different neighborhoods in Fort Wayne. 

We, at NeighborLink, are committed to increase our capacity to foster long-term change by equipping and empowering neighbors to know and help each other. The only way to accomplish this is to get to know these neighbors ourselves. We need to know more about their neighborhoods, what motivates them, what they think their assets are, and what they believe they really need from outside help. 

Neighborhoods Researched: 

  • Hoagland Masterson
  • North Highlands
  • Pettit-Rudisill
  • West Central
  • Williams Woodland Park 


This project was made possible by a capacity building, Inspire Grant from the Foellinger Foundation. This report outlines our learnings from phase one of a two part research project and will informal the direction of phase two to be announced in early 2020. 

To learn more about Phase 1 findings, you can download the reports below. 

Download the NL Summary Report Here: 

For The Full Report - Please Contact Andrew Hoffman at 

Neighboring Podcast with Rachel from CRI talking about the research.

Bernie on a Journey - Part 17 - November 8, 2019


One of the gifts of my time at NeighborLink has been learning to see and tell stories. There are stories all around us and only some are bound in a book. But this emphasis on story is why for this Bernie on a Journey, was shot - carefully and quietly - in the genealogy section of the Allen County Public Library. I wanted to remind myself and others of our stories, which comprise our heritage and form the foundation for our future.

NeighborLink is all about connection. Connecting neighbors. Connecting needs and resources. Connecting recreation to purpose. We can only make these connections by telling stories. Each post for help is a story. A story of aging alone. A story of unexpected illness. A story of depression. A story of limited resources. A story of isolation.

But thankfully, due to an army of volunteers, that’s not where the story ends.

Last year, NeighborLink was awarded a grant to tell the stories behind posts on our website and to encourage people to get out and serve. These stories do more to advance the cause of NeighborLink than any statistics could. In fact, research has shown that when poverty statistics are presented people feel overwhelmed, but when a story of someone in poverty is shared, people are moved to act (

Stories are stronger than facts because they engage both our heads and our hearts, making a lasting impression. We will forget most statistics, but it is harder to forget a person’s face, name and story. In Robert Putnam’s book, Better Together, he described how to reknit the tattered social fabric of America, particularly that stories can be a powerful way to band together communities and move them to address issues or make positive strides.

So, if you want to motivate yourself or others, look for the stories all around you, and then start sharing them! Healthy communities have to start local, from the ground up, and they have to be constantly inviting new people to engage and share their stories. You never know who needs to hear what you have to say, or the impact that can come from sharing your experiences, or the experiences of those around you.

We need to celebrate stories and realize we exist in a giant living library of stories. What stories made you who you are? What stories have changed how you act or get involved? Share these stories the next time you are inviting people to get involved alongside you, because it will touch them in a way that statistics never could.