Where We're At
At the end of 2015, we shared that NeighborLink had seemed to be operating on two different, yet very connected levels. On one hand, NeighborLink was as stable as ever due to increased volunteer levels, number of projects, and consistent funding streams. On the other hand, NeighborLink was wrestling with the tension of "what's next" as an organization and the pull to go deeper into programs that begin to address the systemic issues facing the vulnerable homeowners we serve on a daily basis.
This year, we have seen an intensification of those two levels of organizational realities. The true stability we felt in 2015 carried over into 2016 and only got stronger as we continued to refine our volunteer mobilization process, benefited from several core groups of volunteers taking on more projects than ever, and being blessed by tremendous financial support through a few new partnerships and over $75,000 in new funding from local foundations. The board of directors and staff continue to make solid decisions that position NeighborLink well for sustained growth as we attempt to help more neighbors each year.
However, we are seeing elements of the work NeighborLink has always done continue to shift. The number of requests continue to grow at over 30% each year and they continue to grow in complexity and difficulty, making it harder to find the right volunteers to take those projects. Five years ago, the majority of our requests were small, tangible maintenance or repair projects like yard work and cleaning. As our population ages, so does their housing, and roofs, furnaces, and major repair needs came along. We're doing our best to follow and gain insights on how we can better position our organization and our volunteers to respond, but we get concerned about what all these vulnerable homeowners will do as their home deteriorates.
In response to these developing challenges, we're seeing how groups of volunteers are adapting. Our volunteer communities made up of retirees and flexibly employed are bringing a lifetime of skills to the table and tackling some of those more complex projects. One group has done over 100 projects in 2016 and are responsible for leading our wheelchair ramp building efforts with over 47 new, repaired, or repurposed ramps in 2016. We are mobilizing more businesses than ever as businesses continue to find meaningful ways to create opportunities for their employees to learn about and serve their communities. Fort Wayne is also the target of student aged mission-oriented service organizations, and we've benefited from partnering with these groups the past two summers. We were able to complete over 50 major projects such as roofs, complete house painting, wheelchair ramps, and several other projects that took a full week to complete. All in all, we feel like we're meeting our expectations when it comes to connecting volunteers with neighbors in need to fulfill our mission of neighbor-to-neighbor expressions of God's love. We've exceeded our goal of 700 completed projects in 2016 thanks to Jeff Shatto's leadership and the help of so many volunteers
At the end of the day, we have a vision to tangibly love our neighbors falling through the cracks of social services here in Fort Wayne, and we have you to thank because without your generosity, none of this is possible. Our staff is passionate about being the connectors, mobilizers, and the empowering force that allows volunteers to find meaningful ways to explore their personal, professional, and spiritual development pursuits to learn what it means to love their neighbors well. I'd ask that you take this opportunity to see how your investment in our ministry is helping neighbors connect and find life through service. I hope that you would consider continuing your support this year.
Andrew Hoffman - Executive Director
CDBG Grant Update
We've received a $120,000 grant from the City of Fort Wayne to fund major repair projects typically beyond the skills and resources of volunteers. The on-ramping process took significantly longer than expected and the program has been a challenge to get off the ground, but by late summer we began completing projects and helping neighbors.
As of December, we have completed over 15 projects and have nearly all $100,000 allocated for homeowners. Each homeowner was able to secure up to $7,500 in home repair funding that would complete a stabilization oriented project such as roofing and furnaces. The majority of our projects this year have been roof replacements. We have also installed furnaces, construct new sidewalks for wheelchair bound individuals, replace windows, and equip a team of volunteers with all the materials they needed to help a single-mom repair major issues in her home.
We're looking forward to completing this grant and working with the City of Fort Wayne to reformat this grant to be even more effective in 2017.
In 2015, we started working closely with Turnstone in an effort to help them build wheelchair ramps using their funding, and to explore potentially taking over the management of their ramp building program. Due to the success of that year of partnership, we were asked to manage the program fully for 2016. To date, NL volunteers have completed 47 wheelchair ramp builds, repairs, or repurposing thanks to the funding provided by Turnstone. NL will continue building more and more ramps in 2017.
One of the biggest operational changes we made this year was hiring a contract grant writer to help increase our funding through grants. Thanks to their help, NL has secured nearly $80,000 in new grant funding from these local foundations. This funding will play a significant role in the expansion of our staff as we look to hire again in 2017.
Thank you for your partnership!
- AWS Foundation
- Foellinger Foundation
- Old National Bank Foundation
- Waterfield Foundation
- Three Rivers FCU Foundation
- K&K Insurance
- First Lady's Charitable Trust
- M.E. Raker Foundation
- Wells Fargo Charitable Trust
- Zollner Foundation
- Brotherhood Mutual Foundation
- St Joseph Community Health Foundation
- Many, many other individual and local business contributors as well.
Team NeighborLink nearly doubled in size in 2016. We have 100 cyclists & triathletes, dozens of runners, CrossFit athletes, and lots of others that are raising awareness for NL with pride all throughout the US. We've done marathons, Ironman triathlons, CrossFit Regionals, and stood on the podium in cyclocross races this season.
Team NeighborLink has raised $15,000 through the sale of merchandise, events, and our Ambassador program to date in 2016. Currently, our TNLCX team is trying to fund 4 furnaces for neighbors in need by the end of the year. Consider making a donations to their campaign or learning more at the URL below.