Love your neighbor.

The Wheel Chair Ramp Story

06-01-2018

   Life's circumstances left a young woman, mother to a 6 year old girl paralyzed from the legs down. Since her car accident she has relied on a wheel chair ramp to get in and out of her home.  When she contacted NeighborLink she explained that there was a ramp connected to her trailer but it was not sturdy and beginning to wobble and sway.  It was unsafe and alarming.  So, NeighborLink volunteers rose to the challenge.  They were not only able to build her a brand new deck they were able repurpose the old wood from her ramp.  They used it for another ramp that was to be build in weeks to come.  

   When I showed up the wheel chair ramp was half way finished. The sound of power tools were competing with the sound of children laughing and shouting playfully.  The NeighborLink volunteers were hard at work but they took the time to stop and greet me, as they did every new person that bopped by.  Everyone was included and welcome.  The neighborhood kids were all gathered around and wanted to be near the action. They knew where the boundaries were and respected them.  It was really a neat dynamic to roll up to. 

   The flock of enthusiastic kiddos instantly asked me "What is in that big bag that you are holding?"  Names come later, they jumped right to the important things. I replied, "I will tell you what is in my bag if you can help me with a small project?" They all shouted "Yes!" They were up for helping me and I was honored.  So, I began to assign jobs to all the kids that I had just met.  By the time they figured out how to get their aprons on and their hands clean I had the grill set up and hot.  We all shared the title of chef and were on a mission to make sure everyone we could see got to eat dinner with us.  

   We grilled enough hotdogs for everyone to have two, even all the passerbys.  The kids were very excited to feed everyone but most excited to feed the woman we were building the wheelchair ramp for.  The kids began to argue over who got to serve her.  But one little 6 year old's voice won the dispute.  "She is my mommy and I want to be the one that makes her feel special."  So, this very proud 6 year old carried a plate of hotdogs up the finished step portion of the ramp to her mommy.  Behind her was a line of kids.  One holding chips, one holding ketchup, one holding napkins.  They figured out a solution. 

   A handful of people were excited about the idea of hotdogs for dinner but they were most curious about all the noise going on behind me and my grill. "So, what is NeighborLink anyways, and why are they doing this?"  I had the honor of explaining how the generous group of volunteers behind me find great joy in helping people in this way.  These men often build ramps for people they have never met. They feel The Holy Spirit moves them to do kind work for people in need.  People seemed really stunned that the men behind me had never before met this women that they call their neighbor.  "So do they go to the same church or something?" I was asked.  "No, she just asked for help via NeighborLink and they showed up." I shared with them. One women was explaining how she had been meaning to come over and ask about their situation and see if they needed any help. "I just never got around to it, I guess I should probably try to bop in and do that soon." she said.

   I am writing this story because it is very special me.  I showed up to enrich everyone's NeighborLink experience by providing dinner and share with neighbors about NeighborLink's mission.  This whole experience backfired and ended up enriching and helping me.  The feeling I walked away with was pure joy that I was incapable of keeping to myself.  My face was cracked in two for the rest of the evening.  I just kept drifting in and out of astonishment.  I was so moved.  This experience inspired me to do my part louder and more frequently.  It inspired me to shine as bright as I can, while I can.  It inspired me to extrapolate happiness from the darkest of situations.  This women reached out for help and in return ended up helping me. Now that is a miracle that I am overjoyed to have been apart of.

An Opportunity to be a Good Neighbor

05-16-2018

BEFORE

   I love where I live. It is so much more than the place I call home.  It's the place where my children's childhood home will always be.  Where I married my husband and where I sow seeds in my garden. It's where I wave to my neighbors, my family as they drive by and of course to my mail lady Tamika. It is the place I race back to after a long day.  So, when a photo of a huge mess that was dumped in a vacant lot was circulating in our neighborhood newsletter immediately I felt excited.  I wasn't unhappy to see this mess, I was inspired.  Inspired to be the very thing that I am to trying to encourage people to be thru my work at NeighborLink, A GOOD NEIGHBOR. Here is my opportunity to step outside of my yard and make a change in my own neighborhood.  

   My 1 year old Oliver and I loaded up the car with toys to entertain him and gloves and an Addison Agen CD to entertain me.  Four people stopped to ask questions like, "What are you doing this for?, Who made this mess?, You know you can't drop these toys off here, there is already a big enough mess."  One person even joined in and helped a bit while he was on his lunch break.  He was so inspired and wanted to start doing things like this with his 11 year old daughter.  He was so excited to hear about NeighborLink, where I work and decided this was going to be the platform he used to connect his daughter and himself to help his neighbors.  I continued to clean drenched in joy.  

    Here in North Highlands we were just gifted a new playground at Hamilton Park that my son absolutly loves, as well as a new splash pad!  This is our way of saying thank you to those who put the time, love, and effort into making that happen.  I don't know how 7 huge tv's, a couch, a bag of dog food, old clothes, broken glass, and a bunch of old rugs got scattered all over a vacant businesses property.  I don't know who is to blame.  I just knew that I could do it.  I knew this was more important than going to the zoo that day.  I know that strangers have stepped up to help me when I was on the verge of giving up.  I know that life can be unbearably hard sometimes. Maybe the people who were about to get fined for this mess were having a hard time?  Maybe this 45 minutes that I took out of my day is capable of inspiring 45 minutes out of other people's days.  

   After living in this Neighborhood for 6 years nothing has made me feel closer and more proud to be apart of my neighborhood than this.  Not swinging at the park, not pulling the kids in the wagon to the flower store, not becoming a member of the Neighborhood Association.  Nope.  Cleaning up a mess that wasn't my own is what gave me that feeling of belonging.  It was a gift to me. It made me feel like I was doing something bigger than me.  I was able to be the neighbor I would want to live alongside.  As a mother I would love to know that my children are living in a neighborhood where people show grace and kindness when life gets though.  I want them to feel at home in the place where my husband and I chose for them to grow.  I see so much kindness here in North Highlands. I am just trying to keep up with The Jones' as they say.  


AFTER

NeighborLink Welcomes Three New Staff

04-16-2018

We are excited to introduce you to three new staff members at NeighborLink. Our operations have nearly quadrupled in the past 4 years as we continue to keep up with the organic growth that's taken place. NeighborLink started in 2003 as a leaderless organization by a group of volunteers and ran for almost a year before staff was added. The first employee, Susan, went from volunteer to part-time director and not only helped solidify the organization, but helped it grow for those critical first few years. In 2008, I became the second executive director and operated as a sole employee for 6 years before expanding our staff to two when we hired Jeff Shatto. Since 2012, we've been trying to find the right people to join our staff to help us work with so many great volunteers as well as help position us for growth. In 2017, we added Derrick Smith as a part-time grant coordinator and assistant project manager.

The projects are hitting the website in record numbers (2230 in 2017), the volunteers are increasing (80 to 120 different groups in 2017), and local foundations and donors are supporting our mission is sustainable ways ($125k in grant funding in 2017), which has led us to the position of being able to hire three additional staff people and see Derrick go from part-time to almost full time.

We've struggled to keep up with the amount of projects coming in and the amount of volunteers looking to get involved. It's all we've been able to do to keep up with those volunteers, which means we've left a lot of you that have gotten involved over the years unattended too. If you've not been able to mobilize yourself or stay on our radar, we've not given you the opportunities to learn nor had us follow up with you. For that, we're sorry and we want to serve you as volunteers better. We care more about relationships than projects, but projects have a way of consuming our attention and distracting us from not only getting more volunteers, but helping form better volunteers.

So, expect more interaction, more opportunities to receive training, or to learn what it looks like to be a better neighbor. We're learning every day and want to create more opportunities to learn alongside and from you. Our vulnerable neighbors need you and we want to make sure you have all you need to help in terms of support, opportunity, and resources. These three new employees are here to help.

Thank you for your continued support the past 10 years that I've been ED. We're excited for 2018 and beyond. I'm grateful to work with this team to fulfill our mission of "Practical, neighbor-to-neighbor expressions of God's love."

Andrew Hoffman


Megan Chandler, Operations Coordinator

Megan joined the NeighborLink staff in early 2018 to help manage the day-to-day office operations and take on small-scale projects that are vital to growth and stabilization of the organization. Megan studied business and international studies at IU, and she has 10 years of residential development experience in Chicago, and with other large-barrier markets. Megan brings an energetic heart and comprehensive, big-city understanding of training and neighborhood development that will help strengthen the way NeighborLink runs and operates as we continue to grow. Her zeal to make an impact by bringing more awareness to others who want to learn and do something is vital to our team as we continue to learn how to train and equip volunteers and move toward more comprehensive neighborhood development.Megan@nlfw.org

Lyndsy Rae Porter, Community Relations Coordinator

Lyndsy join the staff in March 2018 with a passion to bridge the gap between groups of people who otherwise wouldn’t cross paths. She brings an inquisitive mind and an ability to see the bigger picture. Lyndsy knows how to make people feel comfortable and bring them together. Lyndsy will be running a few neighborhood development programs we currently operate as well leading some research initiatives to help shape our future. With a heart full of life ready to make people feel seen, Lyndsy is able to connect to people of all walks of life, which will strengthen the roots and connections NeighborLink has throughout the city.

Lyndsy@nlfw.org

Dylan Curtis, Volunteer Recruitment Coordinator

Dylan joined staff in 2018 after spending several years involved in Team NeighborLink, growing an established connection to NeighborLink. With a background in sales, and a relational magnetism, he possesses the heart and skills crucial to building relationships with NeighborLink volunteers. Dylan works to engage new volunteers, re-engage prior volunteers and deepen those connections. He plays a relational role both in NeighborLink and Team NeighborLink as his primary goal is to connect and foster relationships with volunteers and homeowners alike.

Dylan@nlfw.org


Huge thank you to the Foellinger Foundation, AWS Foundation, Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne, Mary Cross Tippmann Foundation, ME Raker Foundation, Brotherhood Mutual, and dozens of individual donors and smaller grants that make up our operational budget. Your belief in our work makes all this possible.