Written by graphic design intern, Lily Fenoglio
A personal experience with supporting my community
"We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men."
Often, and all too easily, we find ourselves so wrapped up in our own schedules that we forget the importance of time spent investing in our community and supporting those who find themselves in need. It's not until we are able to take a few deep breaths, step back, and realize that somehow less important activities have made their way to the top of our priority list; usually we have convinced ourselves that we simply do not have enough hours in the day to give to those in our community who need us. But, we know that making time to invest in our community is essential for it to be strong.
For nearly a month, I have had to opportunity to intern with NeighborLink Fort Wayne doing design work. NeighborLink's mission is to bring practical neighbor-to-neighbor expressions of God's love to a community. I have watched the personification of their mission in the actions of Andrew, Jeff, and dedicated volunteers. So, I decided to participate in some of the neighborhood projects myself.
The director of mobilization at NeighborLink, Jeff Shatto, suggested I meet him and a group of college students at The Vincent House of Vincent Village, Inc. Vincent Village provides housing and supportive services to families who are experiencing the crisis of homelessness in Fort Wayne. The Vincent House is a transitional shelter provided to homeless families while they work toward self-sufficiency.
In anticipation of my workday with Vincent Village, I was anxious. I was excited. I was thankful for the opportunity to work with two community-strengthening organizations who are making a difference in people's lives. Mostly, I was grateful for the gentle push to focus on the importance of my community.
I pulled up in front of The Vincent House at 9:00 AM and walked inside with my paint clothes and camera. Jeff gave orders, we broke up into teams, and I was sent upstairs with three unfamiliar faces, a paint bucket, painter's tape, and a brush.
The four of us walked into a small room with two bunk beds pushed into the center of the room and on each bed were the residents' belongings wrapped in trash bags to dodge paint splatters. I was taken by a sense of purpose and fellowship as we worked hard and carefully that day to paint this room, transforming it from a cold, stark white to a comforting shade of baby blue. I felt connected to the students I painted with and the sense of satisfaction and gratitude was nearly tangible. After a few minutes into painting this room, I felt deeply connected to the students I was working with. The sense of satisfaction and gratitude radiating from the four of us was nearly tangible.
After our day was finished at The Vincent House, I thought about what we had done so easily for our community and realized I want to do more. I left with a warm feeling over my soul and a heart filled with appreciation, love, and compassion for my neighbors in this community in which I live. I experienced a strong feeling of fulfillment and inspiration that resonated for days.
My first experience volunteering through NeighborLink was not only valuable to the residents of the Vincent House, but also to myself. I realized that there are very few things that are more important to a community than support and investment.
I challenge you to make a change in your life by investing in your neighbors. These small acts of kindness make huge impacts and being a productive member of a supportive community is both a beautiful and inspiring thing for all those involved.