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Phyllis Philpot knows first-hand just how crucial the local agency NeighborWorks’ goodwill is.

When her daughter recently began falling unexplainably, the family thought she had suffered a stroke, and got her a walker to keep her safe, but it was difficult for her to get in and out of the family’s home on Burnsdale Avenue in Waynedale.

Thankfully, the local agency NeighborWorks was able to help install a wheelchair ramp outside her home last spring, enabling her daughter to more easily navigate the home’s egress.

NeighborWorks is a kind of local clearinghouse for home projects that homeowners either can’t afford, or don’t have the expertise or manpower to do themselves.

People who need work done can either call the agency, or log onto their website, at www.nlfw.org., and submit the job that they need completed. Volunteers then log onto the group’s website, or register with the agency by calling, and sign up to do volunteer work for the jobs posted on the website.

Volunteers either can look for specific jobs they’d like to do according to their expertise, or by the homeowners’ specific circumstance. Jobs can range from something as trivial as changing a difficult-to-reach light bulb, to raking a home’s leaf-covered yard, to major endeavors such as Philpot’s ramp.

NeighborWorks’ Mobilization Director Jeff Shatto said his group has its origins about 16 years ago, when a small group of volunteers from Blackhawk Christian Church got together and crafted a website as the center of their volunteer efforts.

Today, the group has grown to more than 200 volunteers in groups tackling projects throughout the city. In fact, the agency completed about 1,300 jobs last year, and is on track to finish nearly 1,500 this year, he said.

Shatto said the completion rate – the percentage of requests submitted to those that actually are finished – is about 40 percent. “Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of requests that go unmet,” he noted.

Philpot, whose daughter is 44 years old and a mother of three children, said her daughter was eventually found to have A.L.S. (or Lou Gerig’s Disease) and explained that the ramp has been a true blessing for her and her family.

Volunteers from Waynedale Baptist Church provided all the labor involved in installing the ramp, while Philpot paid for most of the material needed for its construction, which took about a week.

“I paid for about $430 for the wood and all the fixtures they needed,” the 65-year-old Fort Wayne Community Schools Pre-K assistant said. “and all the labor was totally free.” A few weeks ago, the volunteers returned to stain the ramp for her, as well.

“It really was a God send.”

Shatto said Philpot’s case really was a textbook example of how his agency is crafted to work: “The ideal situation is when the homeowner provides the material, and we provide the labor,” he said.

Homeowners are usually asked to contribute only what they can afford, Shatto said. And if they can’t even scrounge up enough to pay a bare minimum for materials, NeighborWorks will fund raise to help those folks, as well.

And helping those people is exactly why NeighborWorks exists, he noted.
“There’s an awful lot of need out there,” Shatto said, “and an awful lot of homeowners who fall through the cracks. We’re kind of there at the bottom of the funnel to fill in the cracks and help out however we can.”

For more information, or to volunteer, you can go to NeighborWork’s website, at www.nlfw.org, or call (260) 209-0074.

Michael Morrissey
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Michael Morrissey

Michael is a professional writer and journalist. He attended South Side High School and Northwestern University. He has written for newspapers in Michigan City, Indiana; Pekin, Illinois; and Bradenton, Florida. He also has written for and edited websites in Florida and San Francisco, California. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer