Love your neighbor.

Andrew's Parting Thoughts

01-29-2021

"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.

PROXIMITY MATTERS

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.

Grace and Peace,

Andrew Hoffman

Thank You For The Past 13 Years

01-05-2021

It’s with a deep mix of emotions that I write to inform you that I have resigned as Executive Director of NeighborLink Fort Wayne effective January, 29th, 2021, after 13 life-transforming years. I began this journey as a young guy trying to find his way professionally, personally, and spiritually 15 years ago first as a volunteer. Those volunteer experiences created a deep conviction that one of the most important things I could do personally was to integrate my faith, vocation, and personal life. My family and I have been on that journey together as we try to give expression to what it means to be a good neighbor.

I have seen far more incredible transformations take place than can be counted through the 10,000+ projects I’ve seen at NeighborLink over the past 13 years. Single moms have their entire homes remodeled while being cared for and mentored by the volunteers. I’ve seen wheelchair-bound individuals leave their home for the first time in over a year because volunteers built them a ramp. I’ve seen dozens of volunteers enter condemned and troubled homes to love neighbors in tangible ways. I’ve seen how a hundred people can donate thousands of dollars in minutes to help a neighbor they’ve never met get a new roof. I’ve seen hundreds of volunteers have similar experiences of personal transformation that I have had, who are now living more generous, engaged, and caring lives because of a few simple projects. Small things really do change neighborhoods.

Thank you for weaving yourself into this journey with NeighborLink in the unique and important way you have. This work is complex and like any complex network, it requires a bit of everyone to work correctly. Because of all of you, I leave NeighborLink with a solid team of committed staff, a foundation of economic and operational stability, and several years of continued growth that gives me the confidence that the best years are yet to come. 2020 was no exception. I encourage you to continue to stay on the journey with us all because the need for neighbor-to-neighbor expressions of God’s love and compassionate care through relational and tangible connectivity and service is more vital than ever. Our board is strong, our staff is committed, and the desire to serve is growing in our community. Our most troubled neighborhoods need people to show up, be present, and learn how to best help by getting to know as many neighbors as possible, which NeighborLink has always been dedicated to.

My family and I will soon begin a new path of our faith-driven journey, with me serving as the Director of Marketing of Sinapis, a global Christian organization that equips faith-driven entrepreneurs to grow companies that change the world.

I truly believe that the next Executive Director of NeighborLink Fort Wayne will lead it with excellence, conviction, and care for the vulnerable in our neighborhoods. Our board has begun the search process for my replacement and I’ll stay connected as long as needed to support that transition even after my final day on January 29th, 2021. Expect a job description and how to apply posted by the end of January.

If you have any questions or concerns during this transition process, please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly or our Board President, John Barce at Board@nlfw.org. Our team will keep all of you informed as we navigate this transition.

Grace and Peace,

Andrew Hoffman

260.209.0074

Andrew@nlfw.org



2020 Volunteer of the Year Awards

12-30-2020

The NeighborLink Volunteer of the Year Awards are an effort to highlight and celebrate the individual, group, and corporate contributions made each year to advancing our mission through service. These awards are designed to celebrate the unique and note-worthy contributions through service that have made a tangible impact on those served, inside their communities, or within their organizations.

We celebrate each and every volunteer who uses NeighborLink as a tool along their journey to find neighbors in need and give of their time, talents, and treasures to love them well.

Below you'll find stories and insights from each of our eight winners. Keep scrolling to learn more.

Ray Martin has been volunteering with NeighborLink for about six years with the Carpenter’s Sons. Since then, he has become one of the key leaders for projects involving wheelchair ramps. Ray’s enthusiasm for life, service, and for his neighbors can be felt at each project site he’s on, which keeps work fun and engaging for everyone involved. Ray has a great sense of humor and doesn’t shy away from any projects that come his way.

One of Ray’s standout projects this year was a wheelchair ramp he helped build for Amber Nelson (video link below). “She had an infectious personality that, though she has faced tremendous challenge, was an inspiration to me. I remember having so much fun working on that ramp. Her kids, too, were great. I still remember making jokes with her son about the ‘chocolate and vanilla’ deck boards. I think I was a bad influence on him because she later told me about him playing a prank on her claiming there was ice cream on the ramp—chocolate and vanilla!”

As far as his thoughts on this memorable year, he said, “This year has shown us how much we need to show love to our neighbors. Evil has been putting in overtime to tear us apart, to turn us on one another, to try and slow us down. I think the Carpenter's Sons didn't let the that evil stop us (maybe quarantined us a few times) but our resolve has been hardened to keep pressing on. We are doing what Jesus would have us do.”

Thank you, Ray, for your unquenchable passion to love your neighbors as yourself!

Nancy Louraine always has her eyes on our website and regularly helps others with simple errands and grocery shopping. Frequently, and without hesitation, she pays for items out of her own pocket, often building long lasting relationships with those she helps. Nancy, the former CEO of Turnstone, may now be retired but that never kept her from getting more involved over time. We have been fortunate to have her encouragement on hand for the past two years that she has volunteered at NeighborLink.

On 2020, she said, “The pandemic prevented me from getting involved in some of the projects I wanted to do, so I tried to assist with grocery shopping and delivery projects that minimized contact.  

“I was so touched by the appreciation these folks expressed to NeighborLink for helping them with food in their times of need.  Money was short; they were sick and had no one to help them. I worked through the challenge of a Spanish speaking family (I don’t speak Spanish); saw one individual crying as they watched me deliver groceries to their porch; received many ‘Bless you’s.’ I messed up once when I forgot to bring dog food. Needless to say, I remembered as I approached the house to drop off the food and a pit bull placed his head against the window barking at me! I returned with that big bag of food.  

"My heart was so full after each of these deliveries. I plan to continue helping in the next year...and do more after I get my vaccination!”

Thank you, Nancy, for your commitment to serve despite the difficulties in doing so!

Tom Smith was laid off from his job in the early days of the pandemic. He started helping with wheelchair ramp projects, rebuilding staircases, and has been very active with lawn care projects (as you can clearly see in the attached picture). Thanks to his servant leadership, he has turned a troubled year into a positive one by showing up and offering his gifts despite his own life circumstances. 

One of the projects that enabled Tom to use his gifts was on a wheelchair ramp for a neighbor named Willie. “As each section of ramp was completed, Willie would roll down and watch. This went on all day, because when we got done he was going to lunch with his daughter, Mary. What an amazing day!” By the end of the early afternoon, when the ramp was all finished and father and daughter could make their way to lunch, the ramp was officially measured out to be the longest one in NeighborLink’s history.

Although the year started off in an unexpected way, Tom’s word for 2020 wouldn’t surprise any of his friends at all: grateful.

We at NeighborLink are just as grateful for your hard work as well, Tom! 


Debbie Smith has been a volunteer and supporter of NeighborLink for many years. Proving that not everyone likes to ease into retirement, Debbie has only become more active over the past year as she became the key coordinator of volunteers through the YMCA of Greater Fort Wayne. Her passion to connect with people wanting to help, serve, and love neighbors in tangible ways has enabled her to play a critical role within the YMCA branches, and as a NeighborLink volunteer as well.

“Helping people has been a part of my DNA for as long as I can remember. Bringing volunteers from the YMCA and the community together to serve our neighbors has been a great opportunity for people to make new friends, feel good about helping others, and feeling a sense of normalcy in this crazy year. I came across a Bible verse which helped explain to me why I am so passionate about serving others. Ephesians 2:10 says, ‘For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.’”

Debbie worked on so many projects in 2020 that it would be impossible for her to choose one that stood out among the others. However, “I was able to meet some wonderful people and that is what I loved the best of this years' projects: meeting and working with wonderful people of all ages.”

We’re grateful that we’ve had the opportunity to work with you as well, Debbie, and look forward to what 2021 has in store!

Derrick Smith joined the NeighborLink staff in 2017 after volunteering for a year. Although he retired at the end of Be a Good Neighbor Week this summer, he quickly transitioned back into a role as a regular volunteer. Derrick works alongside the Carpenter’s Sons on a variety of projects. He’s a jack-of-all-trades and always keeps each project site fun and energized due to his work ethic and love of storytelling. 

“Volunteering with NeighborLink has provided such a blessing to me. As I look at the projects we have been involved with, I am amazed at the variety. Many of the projects seem to be daunting in scope but God has provided so many resources for us. The neighbors we interact with show such graciousness. I must thank NeighborLink and many friends who have made this year special.” 

When recounting a particular project that stood out in 2020, Derrick said, “I don't have specific stories to tell about this year that wouldn't embarrass me, but one project involved pouring a concrete slab. Something happened that it did not cure completely and needed to be replaced. Our team just rolled with it and got it done. It all worked out.  This project exemplified that grace removes the sting of failure! Volunteering is a marvelous way to stay humble.”

That may be so, but we also feel the need to brag on you and lift you up for your commitment to loving the world around you. Thank you for your hard work and service!

When Kyle Zurbuch interned with NeighborLink over the summer, he completely immersed himself in our mission of practical, neighbor-to-neighbor expressions of God’s love. Part of his job was helping to get volunteer groups mobilized but he also spent a good amount of time in the field, jumping from project to project.  After his internship was over, Kyle continued to engage in the community and help out with NeighborLink projects on a regular basis.

One of Kyle's fondest memories from this year took place on a grey and rainy day. “One project that really opened my eyes to NeighborLink’s mission and how to serve others was the very first project I was involved in. Jeff, Derrick, and I loaded a dryer into Foamie (one of NeighborLink’s vehicles) to take to a family in desperate need of one. It was a struggle getting the dryer into the house and the basement but we found a way. This was such a simple task but it meant the world to the mother and her family.”

Throughout the summer, Kyle continued to learn more about who a neighbor really is and what kind of impact kindness can have on others. It had such a profound effect on him that he continued plugging in on a regular basis. “There is not an easier way to show God’s love than to take time out of your day to help a neighbor here in Fort Wayne.”

We couldn’t agree more! Thanks for leading by example and making all of us at NeighborLink proud of you, Kyle!

Andy Schnipke has been a volunteer for many years. During that time, he has been a key organizer for service events within his church community at Northeast Christian. Andy has a growing and active family, along with a full career, but always finds times to lead his community into service by taking on NeighborLink projects. He and his family are involved in a number of other ministries and truly integrate service as an ongoing life discipline. 

This year was certainly a standout year for Andy, particularly when it came to a friendship with a brand new neighbor. “A few guys from our Church gathered on a Friday afternoon and mowed some yards. We mowed a couple and decided we had time for one more. That's when we met George. George is a wonderful guy who has dealt with medical issues all his life. Mowing his yard led to us coming back another time and raking leaves, along with a couple more visits. But far more importantly, each time we went we got to know George by hanging out and listening. One of those times George told us he felt God sent us to him.

“What I continue to learn from NeighborLink is that God is using His people to do good deeds that temporarily fix things, such as: leaf raking (leaves come back), yard mowing (grass grows again), roofing (shingles will get damaged again) to show His love to those in need, and all for His glory.”

What an incredible perspective! It’s just one of the many reasons Andy is a truly driving force as a volunteer for NeighborLink. Keep it up!

Dan Sparling has been volunteering with NeighborLink for the past four years and is also the Serve Director for his church community, Elevate City. In 2020, Dan led his team to complete twenty service projects for twenty separate families in Fort Wayne, an incredible feat that unquestionably makes him a driving force within his community.

“During COVID we wanted to find ways to bless our community, so I contacted NeighborLink to find out what needs there were. It quickly became apparent that many families were struggling to maintain their lawn. With the help of NLFW and Chelsey Conroy, who is our new Serve Director, we were able to put together teams to go out and help with lawn maintenance and yard cleanup for 20 families. It was a great experience for all of us and we are so thankful that Fort Wayne residents have somewhere they can turn when they experience a need.“Serving has been a blessing to our congregation and we are hopeful to continue this in the years to come! “ 

We’re hopeful of that, too! Thank you, Dan, for your leadership and willingness to step up in a year of vast uncertainty. We look forward to working side by side in 2021!

Latest News

Why is it so hard to ask for help?

Making a Difference for Deb

Executive Director Job Description

Andrew's Parting Thoughts

Thank You For The Past 13 Years

2020 Volunteer of the Year Awards

Complex: ADAPTATIONS

Complex: SOLUTIONS

Complex: SITUATIONS

Complex: CONNECTIONS

Complex: EXPRESSIONS

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Bernie on a Journey - Part 25 - February 7, 2020

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Reflections With Robert - Journey to Day One - February 3, 2020

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

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The Final Turnstone Ramp

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Giving Tuesday!

Bernie on a Journey - Part 20 - November 29, 2019

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

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What Makes a Healthy Neighborhood, Healthy? Research Report

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

Bernie on a Journey - Part 16 - November 1, 2019

Bernie on a Journey - Part 15 - October 25, 2019

Bernie on a Journey - Part 14 - October 21, 2019

Bernie on a Journey - Part 13 - A Busy Multi-Week Recap

Bernie on a Journey - Part 12 - September 13, 2019

Bernie on a Journey - Part 11 - September 6, 2019

Bernie on a Journey - Part 10 - August 30, 2019

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Bernie on a Journey - Part 8 - August 16, 2019

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Bernie On A Journey - Part 3 - July 12, 2019

Bernie On A Journey - Part 2 - June 27, 2019

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Finding the Intersection - AWS Foundation

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Behind Our "Get Out of Your House" Video

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Scraping, Painting, & Learning

Love Your Neighbor As Yourself.

Appreciating the Fire Hydrants

Introducing Your NL Interns

Connecting The Dots: Team NeighborLink

Intern Update By Andrew & Jon - 5.7.13

NeighborLink Fort Wayne Birthday Campaign

This Makes It Worth It

Weigand Construction Volunteers With NeighborLink Fort Wayne

Hack-A-Thon Recap

Thank You For Your Service

Cornerstone Youth Center Spring Break Project 2013

Engaging the Recipient Training Notes

Intern Update By Andrew & Jon - 4.8.13

NLFW.org Hack-A-Thon! Friday, April 26th

New Coach Resource

Update - Urgent Moving Project - It's Almost Done

Summer Internship Opportunities

Small Things Video Series - Food

How Projects Get Funded at NeighborLink

We Love Getting Thank You Cards

We Still Get Surprised

We're Looking For Web Developers

Where Are You Going to Sit?

The Justice Conference - Simulcast in Fort Wayne

Intern Update By Andrew & Jon

Funded Project Report - Project 4243

10 Things We're Working On In 2013

Meet The New Interns - Jonathan Purdy

Meet The New Interns - Andrew Schnurr

10 Things You Should Know About How 2012 Went at NeighborLink

1st Successfully Funded Project in 2013

Thanks, Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

New Love Your Neighbor T-Shirts

Our Reflect. Rejoice. Renew. Event was a Success!

Core Philosophies Reminder

Reflect. Rejoice. Renew. Film

A Conversation Between Two Pastors - Part 4

A Conversation Between Two Pastors - Part 3

A Conversation Between Two Pastors - Part 2

A Conversation Between Two Pastors - Part 1

Calling Artists for December 10th Event

Thanks Three Rivers Wesleyan!

Going from Volunteer to Coach

4th Annual Leaf Raking Challenge - Nov 10th

Around The Block - Telling The Stories of NeighborLink

The People of The Second Chance

Energizing Indiana & NeighborLink Fort Wayne

NeighborLink, Meet Viola..Your Neighbor

Volunteers Exceeded 500 Projects in 2012!

Casting New Vision For the NLFW Advisory Group

Jeff Shatto Rides 682 Miles For NeighborLink Fort Wayne

Raise The Roof Was a Success!

Our First Fully Crowd-Funded Project!

New Kid on The Block - Week 6 - HEART

Raise The Roof Promo Video

New Kid on The Block - Week 5 - PURPOSE: IT???S FOR THE BIRDS

The Story of Grub & Go - New Videos

Raise The Roof - 5 Roofs in One Weekend!

New Kid on The Block - Week 4 - OFF THE RECORD

The Power in Showing Up

New Kid on The Block - Week 3 - Originality is Overrated

Living In The Tension of Serving

NeighborLink Network Retreat - We all Need Community

New Kid on The Block - Week 2 - "Decent"

New Kid on the Block - Week 1 Recap

Great American Cleanup Was a Success!

NeighborLink Fort Wayne & The Great American Cleanup

Cornerstone Landscape Group Serves NeighborLink Recipients

Northeast Fort Wayne Service Days Announced

NLFW Wants to Partner With Contractors

NeighborLink Fort Wayne Launches Crowdfunding Tool

Team NeighborLink & Fort 4 Fitness Spring Cycle

Longing For More Workers - Reflections on the Harvest