NeighborLink has been an organization that connects vulnerable neighbors in need with neighbors willing to serve through volunteerism since we launched in Fort Wayne in 2003. Over 10,000 tangible and practical neighbor-to-neighbor expressions of God’s love through service and volunteerism have been completed during that time, with 3,500 requests for assistance and 1,400 completed projects in 2019 alone. We have built a community of concerned neighbors that will be looking for ways to help during this time and are willing to step into complicated situations out of obedience and compassion.
NeighborLink's Board of Directors, along with our staff, are committed to being as proactive and responsive as possible to ensure that NeighborLink continues to be a place where concerned neighbors can come alongside their vulnerable neighbors in various ways to provide tangible, spiritual, and social support during this time of increased vulnerability. Many needs yet to be known will likely surface, as related to increased social isolation, economic impacts related to vocational challenges, and reduced capacity at our partner organizations. All of us will be impacted in some way- including myself, as my wife and I have three kids out of school for the next month and both of us work in the social sector (we're both about to get a whole lot busier, rather than slower).
We aren't sure what is going to happen. We are preparing for trouble, we're not afraid, and we're ready to respond in line with the heart of our mission: by providing practical, neighbor-to-neighbor expressions of God's love.
We're going to need each other. We just aren't sure how yet.
This is how we are responding right now:
STEP 1 - INFORM THOSE THAT NEED HELP THAT WE'RE HERE.
NeighborLink Fort Wayne invites vulnerable neighbors being impacted by COVID-19 - who have tangible needs beyond their physical and/or financial ability to overcome on their own or within their circle of community - to seek assistance by sharing their needs on our website or by giving us a call (260.209.0074). NeighborLink is prepared to be the connection point between needs falling through the cracks of traditional social services and those non-vulnerable neighbors that are looking for opportunities to help their neighbors in need. Our website already has a number of related project categories for anticipated needs that we believe volunteers are capable of responding to.
WHAT IS VULNERABLE?
We consider "vulnerable" to include the following: seniors, those with disabilities, low-income families, those facing a medical crisis, and anyone impacted by life’s circumstances to the point of needing help from others. We welcome anyone to seek assistance that believes they need help.
WHAT CAN I ASK FOR HELP WITH?
Any tangible need you can identify that relates to your ability to navigate the impact of COVID-19 on you and/or your family’s life as we heed expert advice on socially distancing ourselves to minimize the spread of the virus. Here are some examples:
- Grocery shopping and/or delivery
- Meal preparation & delivery
- Social connection and/or prayer via phone calls from other neighbors
- Any project you think you could use some help with that limits the physical connection between you and the volunteer.
STEP 2 - INCREASE AND DEVELOP OUR VOLUNTEER BASE TO PREPARE FOR RESPONSE:
We want you to help as well and welcome you to register as a volunteer at www.nlfw.org. Doing so ensures you’re ready to go when we are ready to begin mobilizing volunteers. PLUS, we think it's a great time to make phone calls and check in on your neighbors. Our #1 recommendation is to begin getting to know your direct neighbors if you haven't already. Be ready to respond directly and immediately around you. If you are going to be homebound due to having kids at home, an incredible way to volunteer is to start calling neighbors on the website to learn more about them, their current needs, and ways they think they'll be impacted. This would be HUGE for NeighborLink, in terms of being proactive.
As of now, we will continue to operate normally but do encourage volunteers to embrace all of the necessary precautions that our state and local health officials are recommending. Please act in the best interest of those who are seeking assistance from NeighborLink, who are some of the highest-risk populations based on the information that has been released so far. The majority of those that need help are 65 and older or have some underlying health concerns. Consider selecting projects that allow for a safe personal distance, ensure you're not immune-compromised yourself, and act in the best interest of everyone involved.
We will have regular updates on new opportunities to help, best practices of how to help, and other organizations that could use volunteers that are trying to respond as well. We've already been in contact with a few organizations that are also anticipating increased need and a decreased ability to meet it.
STEP 3 - DEVELOP OUR RESPONSE PLANS AS THINGS UNFOLD:
We're monitoring the situation and are currently working out our strategy for volunteer mobilization and developing our volunteer procedures to ensure we’re creating as safe of an environment as we can due to the vulnerabilities of those we aim to serve. Until we begin getting new requests and talking to our neighbors, we'll be limited in what we can plan for. This, we are sure, will soon take shape.
STEP 4 - DONATE TO OUR RESPONSE FUND
Make a contribution to a COVID-19 fund we've setup here. We'll be using this funding to help with the purchase of any supplies, food, etc. that could be needed as we start to see needs get posted. We'll designate 100% of the donations to these project requests. Any leftover resources will go toward helping neighbors at NeighborLink get their tangible needs met, just like we've done every day for 16 years.
As always, our staff is available to answer questions and I'll be providing direct updates as needed.
This Article is Encouraging Me: Love In The Time of Coronavirus - Andy Crouch
"When this plague has passed, what will our neighbors remember of us? Will they remember that the Christians took immediate, decisive action to protect the vulnerable, even at great personal and organizational cost? Will they remember that, being prepared and free from panic, the households of their Christian neighbors were able to visit the needy (while protecting them by keeping appropriate social distance!), provide for their needs, and bring hope? Will they remember that, having ensured safety in all the ways we could, we still gathered to worship and praise God together, week after week, celebrating the resurrection — that even as we ceased doing inessential things, we made clear that serving and worshipping God was the greatest and most essential task of our lives?
How will we move the horizons of possibility, not just for those we directly lead, but for our whole culture, in the time of coronavirus?"