Love your neighbor.

2017 Annual Report


2017 was a remarkable year and we wanted to make sure we documented it well and shared it with everyone that's been a part of making it successful. So, we took the time to hire a writer, Lindsay Hotmire, and invited her to interview a few foundations that provide significant funding to us as well as many other great nonprofits. Lindsay just happens to be the person that was influential in started NeighborLink Van Wert in 2009 and knows our organization well. We combined her stories with the data from some of the most prominent highlights of 2017 and asked our graphic designer, Matt Plett, to turn the content into an annual report. In addition, we created videos to go with the report to bring a few of the stories to life like only video can do. You can view those videos and several others by clicking here

This was our first attempt at developing a real, in-depth annual report in 14 years, and the first major printed piece we've created. It was important for us turn this content into a printed report and continue developing our ability to provide evidence that the resources our donors and volunteers are investing in our organization is making an impact for neighbors in need. Sharing the story is important to us and an annual report is a great tool to do so. We look forward to making this a regular rhythm at NeighborLink for years to come. 

By clicking the link below, you can download a PDF of the report. If you would like a printed copy mailed to your home, we'd love to do that. Simply send an email with your mailing information to and he'll get one in the mail. 


We're In This Together


More than passion and mission, it takes incredible effort to secure a nonprofit’s survival. Issues of funding, leadership, resources, volunteers, and sustainability often hang in the balance for many nonprofit directors and boards. And while those of us at NeighborLink have been elbow-deep in the nonprofit world for more than a decade, we’ve yet to get to a place where navigating through any of those things is easy.

Since first venturing out in 2003, our purpose has never wavered. We’ve always been focused on awakening neighbors to the needs of those around them, and throughout our first decade, that mission was sustained by the generosity of our volunteers and donors.

But by 2013, our eyes had been opened wide. We had felt and seen the overwhelming depth of need around us, and our ability to meet those needs was only made possible by the overflowing goodness of  foundations like  AWS Foundation, Brotherhood Mutual, Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne, Foellinger Foundation, and M.E. Raker Foundation.

In the last 12 years at NeighborLink, we have been profoundly affected by each person or organization that has crossed our path. Our volunteers share insights that challenge and inspire us. Our team and board members move forward in a unified vision. And our funders walk alongside us—both literally and figuratively—as we strive to stay true to our mission of helping neighbors help neighbors.  We humbly recognize that without the financial support of our funders, our mission could not carry on.

The Foundations throughout Northeast Indiana stand as a bulwark of hope for so many within our community. As relentless champions to thousands of volunteers and organizations, their behind-the-scenes work rarely demands notice or acclaim, but it all plays a pivotal role towards changing  the ways we collectively think about disabilities, about empowerment, about leadership, and about our future. At NeighborLink, we believe those who have intersected with our own mission might describe hope by pointing to wheelchair ramps, packed moving boxes, rides to a doctor’s office, warm and dry homes, and new friends who offered untethered help. And so much of that is only possible because of the support from our Foundations.

As we’ve secured more grant funding throughout the last few years, we’ve begun to wonder more about the stories of each foundation that has chosen to support us. So we reached out to  five of them and asked if they’d share a little about their own missions, their goals, and their visions for the days ahead.  Not surprisingly, we discovered that we often share the same struggles, and we were reminded that this pursuit of a strong, vibrant community is something that ought to never be a solo endeavor.

It takes all of us, and we’re ever grateful for the partners who journey along with us.

Part 1 - Finding the Intersection - AWS Foundation

Part 2 - Living out a Familiar Call in Unfamiliar Ways - Brotherhood Mutual

Part 3 - A Mission To Serve - The Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne

Part 4 - A New Era of Nonprofit Leadership - Foellinger Foundation

Part 5 - On Investing Well - M.E. Raker Foundation

Finding the Intersection - AWS Foundation



“I can tell you the statistics,” says Patti Hays, CEO. “We can talk about the number of people with disabilities living below the poverty line in Northeast Indiana or the percentages of specialized students in our local schools. I can point out how the number of unemployed people with disabilities far outpaces the general population, or the number of people with disabilities who never see anyone outside of their paid support staff. But numbers don’t change lives,” she says. “Stories do.”

Founded in 2007, AWS Foundation has been focused on the stories of those children and adults who have enduring intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities. The foundation’s goal is best expressed through a single imperative: Think differently about disabilities. It’s a command outlined in a daring hope that  when we think differently, we will also see differently.

“These people may have disabilities, but that doesn’t take away their desire to live independently, to have their own social lives, their own friends,” says Hays.  

Knowing that many of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities depend on family members for support, it’s not hard to understand the importance of AWS Foundation’s work.  If you’re looking for palpable examples, just ask the families who can now visit places like the Civic Theater or Science Central with less worry. Specially produced shows and exhibits make it easier for these families to experience the arts and the sciences—lights are dimmed; sounds are adjusted, and kids with sensory challenges aren’t expected to stay put. “For many families, the idea of attending a show isn’t possible because of sensory disorders, but we’ve found that with awareness and simple changes in design, a whole new level of accessibility can open up,” says Hays.

Those changes have extended into places like specialized camps, area schools, playgrounds, and even the Riverfront Development. Recently, small design changes helped a local YMCA eliminate barriers for those with disabilities so they could participate in programming with their families. 

Recounting story after story, Hays says if the Foundation has learned anything through these initiatives, it’s that great change can never happen on its own. “The partnerships we have with other organizations are invaluable,” she says.

And that idea of community partnerships changing neighborhoods is something that NeighborLink has been echoing since its founding. When Hays heard Andrew Hoffman share NeighborLink’s message in 2015, she knew that she had found a like-minded partner. After the event, Hays approached Hoffman and carried one message: “We have to find a way to work together.”

Throughout the next weeks and months, Hoffman worked to do just that, identifying ways that NeighborLink’s work connected to AWS Foundation. By 2016, his efforts paid off big time when  AWS Foundation awarded NeighborLink a $25K grant. The following year, their generosity to NeighborLink  poured out again as they awarded another $30K in grant funding.

“Widening doorways, adding wheelchair accessible ramps, providing regular home maintenance—all are projects that go into a normal day’s work for any NeighborLink volunteer, but for AWS, those projects stand as representations of empowerment for those who are living more independently with disabilities,” says Hays.

“The great thing about NeighborLink is that you get this tremendous experience, and you can do it alongside your coworkers, friends and neighbors,” she says. “NeighborLink has found that perfect intersection of that sense of community and giving that resonates with today’s younger generations. I would encourage NeighborLink as a wonderful first step because when you go in and get that person who smiles and says thank you, that’s the crack for future volunteerism.”

Part 1 - Finding the Intersection - AWS Foundation

Part 2 - Living out a Familiar Call in Unfamiliar Ways - Brotherhood Mutual

Part 3 - A Mission To Serve - The Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne

Part 4 - A New Era of Nonprofit Leadership - Foellinger Foundation

Part 5 - On Investing Well - M.E. Raker Foundation