Love your neighbor.

Bernie on a Journey - Part 19 - November 22, 2019


This week's vlog covered three key ways we can consume conscientiously during this holiday season:

Throughout my research and holiday preparations, I have been thinking about how to do the most good with my spending. In capitalism, money is the ballot. If you don't give money to it, then you don't find it useful or desirable. Through economic competition (as long as there isn't market manipulation) the things you want succeed and stick around. I felt this most strongly when I was at a craft fair this past weekend. Buying goods from local craftspeople, I was struck by how satisfying it was to hand money directly to someone who spent time and honed a craft. Personally, I feel better about leaving a craft fair with a bunch of handmade presents than leaving a big box store having spent the same amount. 

This experience made me want to encourage others to shop local this holiday season, because it does matter to local business owners. It allows them to get recompense for their time making crafts, and I feel that in a way it shows you love your neighbor and their handiwork. This also drew to my mind the concept of impact investing, where in one's stock portfolio you intentionally invest in businesses that are making the world a better place by some measure while still getting an economic return (!430!3!358044497976!b!!g!!%2Bimpact%20%2Binvesting).

While I am not investing in the stock market (yet), I still like to think of my dollars spent intentionally at local or ethically aligned businesses, as making an impact. Even when money is tight, I can still be intentional on where I spend and how I source my gifts and essentials. This includes choosing to go to businesses in the less ritzy parts of town. I intentionally try to shop in areas that are historically disadvantaged, because money that flows in that direction can make the case for improvements and other business investments in the area. This motivation was made even stronger by a seminar I was able to attend this week on the Community Reinvestment Act (1974) by the Chicago Federal Reserve and Purdue University Fort Wayne this week.

For those not familiar with the Community Reinvestment Act, here is an explanatory video produced by the San Francisco Federal Reserve that was shown at our seminar ( Basically, it is a federal regulation to combat the ill effects of redlining that caused systematic disinvestment in some areas of cities. Banks are actually graded on their investment and allocation of resources to these historically disadvantaged parts, but they are not required to give out money like a philanthropy would be. Rather, they are encouraged to help fund viable projects in those regions. Therefore, equipping people with strong business tools and a sound financial education is crucial to enabling them to access these dollars. It was wonderful to see how banks are interested in investing and solving historic inequalities, but it was clear from the discussion at the seminar that much more needs to be done. I am doing my part by educating myself and sharing what I can with others.

This holiday season, I am choosing to vote for my community with my dollars and I am going to try and reframe my economic priorities to enable opportunities for others as well. Please join me!

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.