Love your neighbor.

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

09-10-2019

If you had watched last week’s Wednesday learning on Instagram, you would have seen that I feel convicted to leave more space for rest in my schedule - instead of always running ragged. While this is a noble sentiment that I plan to enact in the future - I have several weeks packed full of commitments before I put those ideas into practice. 

In the meantime, I am trying to live intentionally, remaining fully present and engaged even amidst a hectic schedule, rather than just living to check off items on my lists.

This past week included: participating in a moving project, volunteering at a food bank, volunteering by delivering sack lunches to houses over the weekend, volunteering at the West Central Home and Garden Tour and Arts Fest. 

I explained my WC service in last week’s vlog:  


So why exactly am I telling you this? And what in the world am I trying to accomplish by being involved in so many things?

I am attempting to understand (and even live in) the 5 neighborhoods I am researching. Neighborhoods are dynamic, growing organisms that must be continually assessed and engaged with. It is like any relationship, it requires an investment of time and oneself in order to foster trust. Each neighborhood’s activity looks a bit different than the others, which is why I have had to think of where I can partake in the neighborhood, whether that be frequenting local businesses, signing up to volunteer at local events or with non-profits in the area, or listening at city meetings to understand the issues impacting the neighborhoods. 

NeighborLink’s desire is to build relationships and amplify the voices of the vulnerable. Unless, we meet those in vulnerable populations, we will fail to do that. It can be a bit difficult to find authentic ways to engage others, therefore, I have looked for creative ways to be present in the neighborhoods to earn trust and build relationships in order to better see where we can partner and empower the neighborhoods. 

When serving in Pettit-Rudisill at the food bank or by delivering food to homes, I tried to notice details about people’s lives and current living situations in order to connect with people rather than just knowing the statistics of the area. It also opened my eyes to the character of the houses and community, seeing the camaraderie among residents and seeing the families supporting each other.

While serving at West Central’s Home and Garden Tour and Arts Fest, I looked for instances of personal connection. What were they doing in this event that served to build up the community? How did the neighborhood come together to make such a large event happen? I realized the only way it could have happened was that all the neighbors had to pull together, contribute, and invest their time in their neighborhood.  It encouraged me that all neighborhoods can achieve their goals if they organize, build on strengths and partner with other local organizations. 

Being present in each neighborhood and getting to know residents with all their unique talents and abilities, gives me joy and excitement about the future of each one. All this excitement is part of what makes me overfill my schedule. However, I have come to realize, if I don’t give myself breathing room, I will not be able to engage with neighbors as intentionally as I want to. By setting limits, by allowing more time in my schedule for rest, I can make my service year more impactful, while still being engaged in many various ways. 

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

08-30-2019

Big News! Addison Agen is partnering with NeighborLink for a benefit concert with proceeds to go back to our mission! This week’s vlog goes into our work promoting the event and why NeighborLink has opted for a concert rather than a fundraising gala. 

 Last week, while I was in training as an AmeriCorps VISTA, I realized just how much NeighborLink is working to empower and engage the local community. The entire goal of my research project is to build relationships with people in the neighborhood and hear what their desires and needs are for their neighborhood. But there is not often a clear channel to use to reach everyone in a neighborhood, which has prompted me to think creatively, and this is what led me to volunteer at the Franciscan Center, a local food bank, located in the Pettit-Rudisill Neighborhood. 

Pettit-Rudisill has the largest population of the five neighborhoods I am studying but has been the most difficult for me to reach since it has few natural meeting places such as parks or local businesses. So, in an attempt to meet more residents of the neighborhood, I went out to serve. I spent 5 hours, handing out food and trying to become familiar to those who came through the line at the food pantry, so hopefully, the next time I walk through the neighborhood, I will be able to strike up a conversation more naturally. 

Working at the food pantry was also a way to challenge my stereotypes and assumptions about those dealing with food insecurity. Instead of just thinking about statistics and programs, I saw people in their unique struggles, with their unique talents and abilities.  

What started to hit home as I handed out cans, was just how many unmet needs there were. I saw a 30-year-old woman bending over and squinting to read the label on a can, indicating that she needs glasses. I saw many people pass through the line that were missing teeth, which can reduce job options and impair eating and speaking. I saw people bowed down with back issues and limping. They struggled to walk through the tables and wrestled with situating their bags as prepared to carry their food home. 

These observations helped me piece together the factors that led people to the food pantry, and figure out new points to get input from those in the neighborhood. One idea that came from this week, is that throughout September, I will bring maps of the 5 neighborhoods we are studying, and ask people if they live in any of them. My aim is to develop a better understanding of the food pantry's clientele, to assess possible food insecurities and how our neighbors can best serve them. 

All of this research and the relationships gained by being physically present in the neighborhood will then be used to spark discussions with the neighbors in Pettit-Rudisill, to empower them, rather than keep them dependent to our or any other organization. 

I firmly believe that empowerment must be the cornerstone of community development and neighborhood revitalization in order for character and assets to be leveraged and deficiencies corrected. Empowerment means that the neighbors themselves are the ones with the ultimate decision power for their community, rather than an outside organization that can only see glimpses of the full context. 

To better understand the idea of empowerment, think of it as if you break your leg and when you go to the doctor, she only cares about making sure your vaccinations are up to date. Technically, the doctor gave you medical care. But it wasn’t the care you wanted, or possibly even needed at that moment. In the same way, many programs don’t work because they don’t actually get at the core needs and problems that neighbors care about or struggle with. 

We want to help engage neighbors and empower them to build up their community, and the only way that works is if we know what is hurting them. My challenge and a challenge for all of you is to suspend judgment and listen carefully to the stories and the needs of those around you, so my service and yours can be healing. 



NeighborLink Fort Wayne Teams up with Addison Agen to Host Concert

08-27-2019

NeighborLink Fort Wayne is excited to announce that they are partnering with Brotherhood Mutual and local musical talent, Addison Agen, for a one night, all ages concert to raise awareness for the needs of vulnerable homeowners in the Fort Wayne community. Agen, a Fort Wayne native and season 13 runner-up of NBC’s “The Voice,” will be performing Thursday, September 26, 2019 at the University of Saint Francis Robert Goldstine Performing Arts Center.  In addition to Agen, the night will kick off with an opening performance by special guests, The Legendary Trainhoppers.

Tickets are $20 for general admission and $45 for the VIP Meet and Greet package and can be purchased online at 

https://tickets.artstix.org/TheatreManager/1/online?performance=15389

Doors open at 6:30pm, and the concert will begin at 7:00pm. This concert has been made possible in part by a sponsorship through Brotherhood Mutual, and all proceeds from the concert will directly support NeighborLink Fort Wayne’s mission to serve vulnerable homeowners. 


About NeighborLink Fort Wayne

NeighborLink Fort Wayne is a faith-based, non-profit organization that invites Fort Wayne residents and organizations to seek free assistance from their neighbors, and invites Fort Wayne residents to join volunteer project teams to provide free assistance. NeighborLink encourages practical, neighbor-to-neighbor expressions of God’s love and has helped facilitate over 950 community service projects this year alone. For more information on our organization, to get involved or seek free assistance, visit www.nlfw.org or call 260-209-0074.