When Waynedale resident Paul Fields realized he’d have trouble helping his wheelchair-bound wife in and out of his home, luckily, he had somewhere to turn.
Fields heard from friends at his church about a local group called NeighborLink, and was able to get their help to get a brand-new wheelchair ramp added to the front and side of his Bluffton Road home.
He’s grateful for the assistance he found. “If it hadn’t been for them,” Fields said, “I wouldn’t have a ramp, and I wouldn’t be able to get my wife in the house.”
Essentially, the group is an online clearinghouse that matches needed neighborhood projects with local volunteers who have the expertise to do the job, and the willingness to do the work.
Homeowners either can go on the group’s website, at www.nlfw.org, or call directly with a project request. Work varies from something as simple as mowing the yard, raking leaves or cleaning gutters – even changing a difficult to reach light bulb – to more complicated projects such as painting, plumbing and electrical work, or even wheelchair ramps like the one at Fields’ home.
Once a project is entered into the site’s database, volunteers can then see the work, and sign up to offer their labor towards its completion. Volunteers can select the project either by the type of work it is, or by the homeowner’s circumstance.
Volunteer groups are as varied as the projects available, according to Jeff Shatto, the group’s Mobilization Director. Some are groups of friends, some are family members, others belong to the same church group, and some groups are just a band of retirees looking to do good deeds around town.
In fact, Shatto said, one group of retirees on the south side of Fort Wayne gets together once a week for breakfast, and then goes out and works on their chosen NeighborLink project afterward.
NeighborLink began in Fort Wayne about 14 years ago, according to Shatto. They also have offices in DeKalb, Porter, Evansville and Indianapolis, he said. Shatto commented that so far this year, the group had completed 974 projects around town, with the goal to be 1,000 by the end of the year. “And I’m pretty confident we’ll hit that,” he said. Soon after this interview, the 1,000th home repair project was completed. Ken, who is a quadriplegic, had an exterior porch light that went out. He has regular caretakers that help him with daily life, but no one to help with the light.
Volunteers Derrick and John took on the project with ease.
It was fitting that the milestone project of the year is a light fixture which illuminates the dark.
The group’s mission, according to their literature, is simple: A practical, neighbor-to-neighbor expression of God’s love. According to NeighborLink’s website, “We choose to be neighbors. We choose to help those who need our help. In doing so, we are fulfilling the greatest challenge, to love one another in a very real and tangible way. Our vision is to build bridges between needs and resources, between volunteers and those in need, as well as providing a way for people to give back to their community.”
In the end, according to NeighborLink, it’s about more than just raking some leaves or cleaning a few gutters; it’s the foundation for building better relationships between those who live near you.
“In the big picture,” the group intones, “we hope we’re connecting neighbors in a practical way that encourages relationships and healthier neighborhoods for the city we love.
“Small things change neighborhoods, and we’ve seen simple projects like yard mowing turn into multi-year relationships between neighbors.”
Fields definitely believes that.
With a brand new ramp attached to the front and side of his Bluffton Road home, his wife, Sara, is now able to more easily get in and out of the house.
“They’re an amazing crew, what they do,” Fields said, “Just an excellent group of guys.”
The phone keeps ringing and neighbors continue to have needs. Recently, 5 projects were completed in 46809 with 9 open requests. If you wish to get involved, give NeighborLink a call 260.209.0074 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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