Neighboring Podcast
Episode 35: Matt Kelley

Episode 35: Matt Kelley

September 19, 2019

Ask anyone that knows Matt Kelley at all and they’ll likely tell you that they want to hang out with him more often. I’ve thought about trying to learn guitar just to be able to do that. Matt is personably, confident, intelligent, and has the experience and work ethic that backs up what he talks about. Matt and his team at One Lucky Guitar, a boutique creative agency in Fort Wayne, are some of the most on-point creators in our region, which is why they’ve been hired by many of the regional and local community and economic development organizations over the years. They simply know Fort Wayne and NE Indiana better than everyone because they’re invested and live it every day deep in their souls.

Matt and I are personal friends and sit down regularly to talk about the role of taking initiative and making sure everything we do is as meaningful and intentional as possible. We just don’t like to waste time doing things that don’t matter nor do we like sitting on ideas that we feel deep in our guts that we should be doing something about rather than talking about. We feel our work deeply and this is a conversation about work-life integration, doing meaningful work, and creating things no matter how big or small they may be.

We both believe some of the most meaningful experiences we’ve had are the small shows, athletic events, or the things that happen in the margins of our community. I’m constantly inspired by Matt’s tenacity, his vision, and his ability to get so many people to go on the journey with him towards places they would have never imagined going. Matt’s always going some place and if you have the opportunity to go on that journey with him, hang on no matter what it is because you’re going to learn something or you’re going to have an incredible experience, even if it’s not as successful as you thought it would or should be.

Matt encourages us to take the ideas off the shelf, put some energy behind it, and see what happens. I think there are so many of us that have incredible ideas for events, initiatives, or products that we’re scared to do anything with because we don’t quite have the full picture of success. The success is often in just getting from idea to action, and we need your ideas way more than you think. Give it a listen and let me know what you think.

Episode 34: Addison Agen

Episode 34: Addison Agen

September 5, 2019

I remember standing inside Neat Neat Neat Records just south of downtown Fort Wayne three years ago talking to store owner, Morrison Agen, about a benefit event that the store was collaborating on with another partner to support our work at NeighborLink when Morrison said, “hey, you’ve got to listen to this.” I’m sure that is a pretty routine statement that Morrison and every other record store owner says to customers and neighbors of their shop, but what Morrison put on blew me away. Morrison played a demo track of his 16 year old daughter at the time, Addison, which was incredible and sounded like she had been performing and recording for years. One of those moments when you hear the immediate talent within thirty seconds of listening. Addison went on to record and release that album called, New Places, and end up as runner up of NBC’s The Voice in 2017.

 

I’ve never been a huge fan of traditional gala events when it comes to raising funds or awareness for our work at NeighborLink for many reasons, but it ultimately just don’t fit our culture at this point. However, we’ve needed to come up with something unique and bigger than what we have been doing as a way to raise some needed money and ultimately start reaching a broader audience. Our staff came up with the idea of producing an all out concert and focus on being intentional and creative throughout to tell our story. When thinking about who we’d invite, our staff immediately thought of Addison. We knew that she has a benevolent and generous spirit that is backed up by an intentionality of using her time to help others. She’s spent time working with the homeless, singing with her mother in the church and music therapy situations, and has a kindness that radiates through her music.

 

Addison will be headlining a show on Thursday, September 26th, at the historic and beautiful USF Performing Arts Center. Our dear friends The Legendary Trainhoppers will be joining her as well. We’re working on some creative storytelling projects as well to seamlessly integrate our mission throughout the event and make this an experience more than a fundraising event. Get your tickets online here.

 

Addison and her friend, Grace, joined myself on a NeighborLink project recently in a neighborhood not far from where she lives. I wanted to invite her out to see what NL was all about, have her meet some neighbors of hers, and get to know her a bit more. Addison and Grace jumped right in to plant some rose bushes and mow the grass. We had a great time getting to learn more about the neighbors we helped, had fun playing with power tools, and felt good about offering an hour to do a small task that is hard for the homeowners. Addison and Grace seemed right at home, which speaks for her character and care for others.

This podcast was a lot of fun and helped me better understand the challenges that musicians face on a day to day basic and what it looks like to be a good neighbor on the road, with often changing bandmates, and as an immediate celebrity who has fans that have instant access to you via social media. It’s a lot of responsibility and pressure for anyone to have to embrace and I think Addison is handling it with grace.

 

Please give it a listen and support Addison as well as join us for our concert at the end of September. It would mean the world to me to see 1700 seats full and singing along with Addison Agen and the Trainhoppers.

Episode 33: Louisville Part 2

Episode 33: Louisville Part 2

September 3, 2019

Part 2 of this podcast talks to all the members from part 1 about their post-event experiences. A couple of interviews were done right away on the way home, some within the next couple of days, and another at least a week after we returned. Needless to say, we were all taking in a lot of information and finding the aspects that really spoke to us along the way.

Like any trip where you spend a limited time learning a lot about what is happening, you don’t get all the nuances that were part of the multi-year or multi-decade process to get where they are. However, I think that’s ok. We need inspiration and those little nuggets of information that have been missing from our knowledge bank that we pick up throughout the conversations. I think you hear that throughout this recap podcast.

Here are a few themes that stand out:

  • Innovative financing - We heard about a number of different ways developers are funding their projects as well as a few financial institutions that are creating equitable funding projects to help.

  • Demand for Collaboration - We always need more collaboration and these trips emphasize that. Any time you put 50 people together for 36 hours, you’ll see the energy that has been missing that can only be found by being with one another. Collaboration only can be done by being in relationship and proximity with one another.

  • Unified, Known Story - Everyone we met seemed to tell the exact same story about Louisville’s history, both good and bad. Racial disparity has happened in every city in the nation and red lining was something that happened. Louisville owns that history and mo many other aspects of their unique experiences, which has helped them find a common ground to move forward on.

  • Data Helps, A Lot - Researched data is vital to justify any socially driven initiative. When the stories of marginalized neighbors and neighborhood injustices don’t move the needle, data that tells the economic impacts of doing or not doing projects, does. You have to develop the data to attract funders because you can’t expect them to do it for an area they’re not necessary looking at. Lead with emotion, follow up with logic.

  • More Listening - Goodness, we need to spend more time listening to the needs and desires of our neighbors in the neighborhoods we want to improve. We have grand visions, but do they match those they impact? If they don’t, what do we do then? If we think we’re listening, then double down and meet with twice as many people.

  • Mayoral & City Support - There was a lot of energy and reflection on how unified the City of Louisville was on focusing on neighborhood development or redevelopment from the top down.

  • Sit In The Tension - We have a lot to learn as we work on our listening skills to become comfortable with the uncomfortable and to sit in the tension that comes up. This is hard work with deep seated reasons why it’s hard. Sitting in the tension in order to learn is only going to help us become better leaders and developers.

Personally, there are a handful of things I reflect on in conversations with everyone, especially during Ellen Cutter’s segment. This is all hard work and work that despite our best efforts may only be marginally beneficial. However, I think it’s important that we all continue to figure out how to bridge the gap between the haves and have nots, and any time we can gain inspiration by others in the margins with us, then we should.

I met some incredible Fort Wayne folks on this trip that I look forward to continuing building relationships with and engaging some of the lessons above myself.

Huge Thank You to These Participants: 

Denita Washington - Adams Township Trustee

Alison Gerardot - Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne

Savannah Robinson - YLNI 

Ellen Cutter - Greater Fort Wayne

Michelle Chambers - City Council Hopeful 

Links to the Organizations We Met With

Russell Promise - https://russellpromise.com/

Louisville Forward - www.louisvilleky.gov/louisvilleforward

Access Ventures - Several Projects - https://accessventures.org/

NULU Neighborhood Walking Tour - https://www.gotolouisville.com/neighborhoods/nulu/

SmokeTown Tour - https://explorekyhistory.ky.gov/items/show/821

Butchertown Market Tour - http://thebutchertownmarket.com/

Portland Neighborhood Tour - http://www.portlandlouisville.com/

Rabbit Hole Distillery Tour & Reception - https://www.rabbitholedistillery.com/

Harvest Restaurant - Local Business - http://www.harvestlouisville.com/

Chef Space - Kitchen Incubator - https://www.chefspace.org/

Park DuValle Revitalization - http://www.lmha1.org/hope_vi/park_duvalle_revitalization.php

Episode 32: Louisville Inner City Visit - Part 1

Episode 32: Louisville Inner City Visit - Part 1

August 22, 2019

Huge thanks to the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne who invited and sponsored me as the director of NeighborLink to go join Greater Fort Wayne’s inner city to Louisville, KY. Greater Fort Wayne has invited small groups of people to go all over the country to visit cities that have aspirational attributes related to what’s happening in Fort Wayne for the past few years. Iowa, Detroit, North Carolina, and a handful of other places to see specific projects or see entire neighborhoods, like we did on this trip. The goal was to see community development in action across three main Louisville neighborhoods that sparked as downtown Louisville saw significant investment.

Because these trips are usually full of great people and really insightful conversations, I thought it would be fun to take the Neighboring Podcast on the road to spend some time interviewing a handful of attendees on the way there and on the way home. The most meaningful conversations we have are usually among ourselves as we process what we’re learning and what we’re dreaming about and rather than loose them to the trip, I attempted to gather bits and pieces to share with others that couldn’t make the trip.

Part 1 of this podcast introduces you to these wonder people. They share about their current work, details about the trip, background on Louisville, and what they were eager to learn.

  • Ellen Cutter, VP of Economic Development at Greater Fort Wayne

  • Alison Gerardot, VP of Philanthropic Services

  • Savannah Robinson, YLNI President

  • Michelle Chambers, running for City Council at Large

  • Denita Washington, Adams Township Trustee

Part 2 next week will include debriefs from each person on what stood out to them after two days of meetings and conversations.

For me, I’ve been to Louisville a number of times the past few years as visitor but never on official business. I got a last minute invite to this trip and cleared my schedule to make it work because of the opportunity. I follow along with a few organizations in this city that I was eager to hear from and I’m always intrigued to learn how other cities are doing neighborhood development. I love to observe, learn, and process with people I know in an effort to be the best I can be at my job at NeighborLink.

As you listen, you’ll be able to hear some of my anticipated learnings mixed into the questions and conversations. I knew a handful of folks on the trip before the trip, knew of many others, and met some new people that I’ve never met before. Any time 50 eager to learn individuals get on a bus together and spend two full days together, great conversations are bound to happen and they certainly did.

Episode 30: Kristin Giant

Episode 30: Kristin Giant

August 8, 2019

Kristin came up and introduced herself to me at an event we were both attending a couple of years ago. Her husband, Joe, and her along with their son at the time at just moved back to Fort Wayne months before and as they were getting getting reconnected to the area, they were fitting right into the realms they were comfortable in, which are the community development, nonprofit, and social engagement spaces where they have spent the better parts of their professional and personal lives. Kristin in dynamic, has a peaceful and generous spirit, and is really great at giving complements. So, as she introduced herself, she mentioned having familiarity with our work at NeighborLink and shared that her and Joe have similar affinities.

Since that day, Kristin has been a go to person for me when it comes to her background in impact investing, her belief that grassroots community development is a viable path forward for Fort Wayne, and her desire to bring her intellect and professional background as an attorney to bear witness to injustices of our neighbors. If you’ve not met Kristin yet, I encourage you to do so!

Kristin and her husband have added a second boy to their family in the past year and purchased an old home on one of the most desirable streets in the 46805 zip code from the original owners! It’s a beautiful street with many wonderful, historic homes, but what makes it such a desirable place is the community that the neighbors have created over the years. As soon as I arrived to her home for the podcast, a dozen elementary aged kids rode up on their bikes to the permanent spray painted bases in the middle of the 4-way stop intersection on their boulevard street for a game of kickball. We found ourselves right in the middle of the game as we dodged balls as we talked about the neighborhood. Kristin shares several stories in the podcast about how their early connections with neighbors, the potential challenges that come along with opening up vulnerably with strangers, and how everyone is watching out for you, whether it’s your finest moment or not. To be a neighbor is to be vulnerable yourself.

In additional to our conversation about her experience as a neighbor in her own physical neighborhood, we talk about a recent opportunity to be a “digital neighbor” with some family friends from her hometown in South Carolina that has a son needing a major organ transplant. The family is receiving help, but is facing significant costs and are in need financially to overcome those challenges. Kristin, being as great as she is, decided that donating and sharing it simply via social media wasn’t enough or simply wasn’t going to work practically or for her personally. So, she decided that she would face some of her own vulnerabilities and invite her social network to ask her to do things that would stretch her in exchange for donating to the campaign. For Kristin, she wanted to do things that made her feel uncomfortable in an effort to dive deeper into this campaign with her friends. She’s sung funny songs, ran a 7-minute mile (which she didn’t believe she could do under 10min), has done device free nights at home, and even been asked to reflect on various aspects of life and the initiative to fully embrace the challenge.

I was inspired by this effort. We see similar efforts at NL frequently by our community, but rarely are they in a way that requires us to get in touch with areas that we need to grow. It’s causing me to reflect and wonder what areas of vulnerability I need to invite others into in a public way in order to receive the help I desire for things important to me.

This word Vulnerability continues to be a theme and topic of our work and my life. I think we all need to spend more time getting acquainted with its meanings, its reality, and embrace it as a positive in our lives in order to benefit from its power. I’m grateful for friends like Kristin who push me to be better and for the opportunity to become family friends along the way. I look forward to learning more about what Kristin learns from her efforts to be a digital friend in this way. Think critically, make a commitment, and see what happens.

Episode 30: Denise Andorfer - Vincent Village

Episode 30: Denise Andorfer - Vincent Village

August 1, 2019

If I’ve learned anything at NeighborLink, it’s the reality that we’re all a few choices or life’s circumstances away from needing the care and support of others, and when “others” aren’t there or no longer able to support, we become extremely vulnerable very quickly. This is the essence of this conversation with Denise Andorfer, Executive Director of Vincent Village.

Vincent Village provides a unique array of services that meet the needs of families who are experiencing the crisis of homelessness and continues to meet their needs through providing both permanent housing and supportive services. I encourage you to click here to learn more about the specific programs that drive their mission and work.

Vincent Village is located in the Oxford Neighborhood, which is about 2 miles southeast of downtown Fort Wayne. Denise paints a picture of the Oxford Neighbor and shares that it has dedicated and caring homeowners that have been active for decades. Homeownership rates are right at 47%, which is a decent number for neighborhoods with their socio-economics. Denise mentioned that the Oxford Neighborhood is the only Fort Wayne neighborhood that has its own dedicated association property. It’s been in disrepair for a number of years, but is a treasured neighborhood asset that neighbors, VV, and NeighborLink have been advocating for its repair. It’s a struggle because it’s expensive and those that have been captive to the vision haven’t quite caught onto it yet. However, little by little, neighbors and volunteers are working to rebuild it to the treasure it once was.

The bulk of our conversation revolved around my desire to learn more about the long-term efforts Vincent Village has been making over the last 30 years. As much as we’d love to see things have radical changes and can dream how big of an impact $5-10 million dollars could have, it’s not that easy. Beyond the economics and the tangibles, Denise and I talk about some of the life situations and challenges that her staff face as they attempt to provide the safe and supportive structure required to move from homelessness and insecurity towards security and independence. For many, their programs work well and over a couple of years they’ll be able to thrive on their own. But, others aren’t so lucky and life’s circumstances and choices continue to drag them down and beyond the help of organizations like Vincent Village.

We have a lot to learn from organizations like Vincent Village and people like Denise and her staff when it comes to the deep and insurmountable challenges that make neighborhood development difficult. I hope you’ll listen and make an appointment to go tour the village and learn more. They’re doing great work and Denise is someone worth getting to know.

Episode 29: Bernadette Baker - New NeighborLink AmeriCorp VISTA

Episode 29: Bernadette Baker - New NeighborLink AmeriCorp VISTA

July 25, 2019

What a joy it has been to have Bernadette Becker on our team for the past month and a half. I first met Bernadette last summer during her summer internship at Ambassador Enterprises when they invited me to speak to their team of interns as well as when some of them took on volunteer projects. Bernadette was captivated by the nature of our work, has a deep desire to learn more about socio-economic factors facing our community and what we can do about them, and has a energetic spirit that is perfect for connecting with people.

At the end of last year, we began looking into what it would take to bring on AmeriCorp VISTA members at NL. AmeriCorp is the domestic PeaceCorp where individuals sign up to for a year of volunteer service with organizations working on poverty related issues in an effort to provide capacity building energy to help our organization grow, learn, and solve the problems we’re working on. In exchange for the year of service, the VISTA member receives a living stipend which is adjusted to local poverty wages, a financial credit to be used for educational loans upon successful completion, a number of smaller benefits, and then a whole lot of intangible perks due to the highly respected nature of the program among graduate schools, big organizations, etc. It’s a huge stretch and a commendable effort for anyone that chooses to essentially choose poverty for a year and have to figure out how to survive on little to no resources. This was part of the appeal for Bernadette and something she wanted to experience as a way to learn more about future professional and educational pursuits.

Bernadette and I talk about VISTA, her journey to NLFW, and some of the research we’ve been working on together so far. She’s extremely bright, very motivated to learn, and a delightful person that is making a relational impact already as she builds relationships with our partner neighborhoods and the neighbors she meets. I think you’ll enjoy our conversation.

I’m really excited to have Bernadette come alongside NL and myself as we dive deeper into our Healthy Neighborhoods research. I’m going off 12+ years of practical lessons learned from neighbor interactions and from our time in neighborhoods with little to no formal education. Bernadette is bringing the academic side to this project and rounding out the practical with concrete, researched evidence that aligns with our current findings. You can hear that in our conversation near the end as I share about the lessons we’re learning and Bernadette giving definition to what it is we’re feeling and seeing. Expect to see some really great reports that combine the quantitative with the qualitative data and lessons.

Bernadette isn’t afraid of the camera or sharing her personal story as it happens, so tune into our blog to see her “Bernie on a Journey” series, which is a weekly reflection journal.

Neighboring Check-In With Andrew

Neighboring Check-In With Andrew

July 25, 2019

Neighboring launched it’s 27th episode last week, which is 14 more than we thought we’d ever do when we started this last summer. Whether or not we’re generating an audience, it’s been an incredible exercise in listening to our neighbors and friends who are living life intentionally in their neighborhoods, at home, or at their workplace. I’m thrilled with our progress and the conversations we’re having. I think they’re extremely important for anyone trying to learn how to be a better “neighbor” in the places where they want to have, or need to have, influence.

Building community is hard work and as leaders, we’re usually trying to get people to follow us to the places where we’re going to need help. In environments where there is no acting accountability or requirements to participate, you have an uphill battle. Unless you spend time with others in your community to build trust, you’ll walk a lonely road. In many cases, you have to work hard to get the community to show up around you before you can even get to know them, which is even harder at times. What I think these Neighboring podcasts are doing are giving us insights on how to be the type of people that gather an audience and build trust with our neighbors.

We all see the brokenness and the things not getting done that no one is responsible for around us, and we’re waiting on someone else to do something about it even though we know that we could be that person. The best neighbors are the ones stepping into the brokenness to try to sort it out or their taking responsibility for the things no one wants to. What happens when neighbors step in, it breaks the ice for all those that know what the right thing to do is, but have been waiting on the fence to do it.

Neighboring is all about sharing stories of those that hopped off the fence first and are working out the way forward. I hope you’ve found a few episodes that have resonated with you. I know I’m continuing to learn each episode and those lessons are impacting our work at NeighborLink. If nothing less, NeighborLink is going to be a stronger organization because of this podcast series.

Thank you for listening and please offer some feedback, questions, or suggestions on topics or people we should talk to, even if that’s you. We want to talk to the people that are quietly and often behind the scenes being radical neighbors in your circle of influences. Email me at andrew@nlfw.org if you have some folks.

Please share the podcast with your friends, give us some stars, write a review, and whatever else you think you can do to help us raise the awareness of this show.

In addition to all of that, I highly recommend you consider joining us for Be A Good Neighbor Week at NeighborLink between July 8 - 14th. Our staff will be organizing projects and making volunteering with us as easy as we can. There will be big projects, small projects, day time and evening time projects. It’s simple, your family is invited, and we’d love to spend time with you. Details here.

Episode 27: The Sweetwater Neighborhood

Episode 27: The Sweetwater Neighborhood

June 6, 2019

You can’t go a week without hearing about Sweetwater in our community. Chuck Surack started a music recording business in his VW van and poured his life into building what is now the largest online retailer of music instruments and pro audio gear in the US. They experienced another record-setting year in terms of sales growth and job creation, adding over 400 new employees in 2018. Forty percent of those coming from outside of Fort Wayne, IN. There is a great press release outlining all the details of that growth here: Sweetwater Announces Another Record Year

Sweetwater isn’t just getting attention because of their economic impact in our region. Chuck is one of the most generous businessmen in our area who invests millions of dollars into other community projects, a number of local businesses, and in hundreds of philanthropic efforts. He and his wife are extremely generous and care deeply about people, which was a motivator for this podcast .

Working with over 150 different groups of volunteers, many coming from the corporate world, NeighborLink gets a look into a lot of different organizational cultures over the course of the year. The reality is, all entities take on the life of the leader and reflect their values, good or bad. You would tend to believe that it would be hard to stay connect to the org culture when you have 1,500+ employees and more things trying to get your attention than you can keep up with. Somehow, Chuck is able to keep up with those right alongside his very competent leadership team. There is an ethos that runs deep in the culture that shows outsiders like me that this is an important place to work, and you want to take responsibility for its success as an employee. Many see it as an opportunity to be employed at Sweetwater, not just a job.

I first met Nate Edwards through a local church in a neighborhood where we did a lot of projects. His congregation was trying to figure out how to be more intentional neighbors and be a resource for their community. Nate is a dynamic and energetic guy who brings all that energy to all the things he’s involved in, not just work. He also happened to have relocated to Fort Wayne to take a position at Sweetwater in the early 2000s when there was almost 200. He’s now a manager in the sales department and we’ve developed a relationship over the years. He’s been thinking critically about ways they do their work at Sweetwater and how it could impact NeighborLink. As we have these discussions, I learn a little more each time about how unique their culture really is.

One of the things I learned is that Sweetwater uses a “neighborhood” model for diversifying and building their teams of sales engineers and support staff. They’ve had this model for over 15 years and I was instantly intrigued because I’ve never heard of another business using a neighborhood model of connecting teams internally. Essentially, they break down all their employees into smaller groups of 10-12 employees with two neighborhood leaders in each group. These groups are made up of diverse backgrounds and employment duration in an effort to make what is huge, small. They’ve learned that relationships and creating small communities of people that have a shared vision will care for each other much better than keeping large numbers of people together. In addition to connecting their sales engineers and support teams together, they connect each neighborhood with a different division of the company, like distribution. Another way to encourage organization cohesion when division is natural.

Nate Burkhardt was recruited from a competitor and moved his family across the country from California to work at Sweetwater. That’s a significant move and has more than just an economic impact on a family. Life is disrupted and starting new in a big company can be overwhelming, even if you’re competent in the job. These neighborhoods allowed him to get connected inside and outside of work quickly. These neighborhoods support each other at work and create opportunity to be connected socially, including opportunities to be generous together. As you listen to the podcast, you’ll hear Nate talk about how vital these neighborhoods are to the success of the company, but to each other.

Nate Edwards talks about having 25 new sales engineers start in his area each month, which is the kind of growth that feels like you’re chasing after to keep up with. The neighborhood model allows new employees to be dispersed with other employees at various states of their journey, whether that’s just a few months or a few years. From listening to these guys, it sounds like you’re never alone and have all the resources you need to succeed if you want to on day one. There is nothing like starting a high intensity job and feeling like you’ve been thrown into it without help.

The operational impact of this effort is that Sweetwater has roughly 10% turnover rate in their sales team each year, which is unheard of in the sales profession, let alone in their industry. Investing in creating community, focusing on relationships, and supporting your people is worth every penny and moment of energy if I hear these guys right. There is a communal love for music, musical gear, and all the structure needed to keep you motivated and supported. It always comes down to people and Sweetwater is investing in their people.

Episode 26: Jason Eicholtz - Adventure Widely

Episode 26: Jason Eicholtz - Adventure Widely

May 30, 2019

YOUR KIDS ARE READY FOR MORE THAN YOU THINK. QUESTION IS, ARE YOU READY?

As a father of three young kids that wants to do all that I can to develop them into well rounded, loving, generous, brave and a million other adjectives, this is one of the most relevant conversations I can have. Parenting is hard, developing your children is harder, and trying to live a balanced life that includes the things that bring you joy without abandoning your family is the hardest. This podcast with Jason is a great illustration of a parent doing his best to be able to do all of these in unison.

Jason started getting involved with NeighborLink through our Team NeighborLink efforts by riding bikes with us and eventually picking up a cycling kit. We usually don’t get to know many of our TNL athletes kids unless the kid is a bit older and also active in the sport, or if they family travels to races with us. So, it’s rare to meet the younger kids for a lot of logistical and kid watching reasons. When someone does incorporate their kids regularly, it’s noticeable and that was the case with Jason and his daughter. Get to know Jason and you realize that doing these kinds of things together has been woven into their lives since the beginning and it’s normal. And, it’s great to see them share these experiences and have a mutual level of desire to participate. This is a practice that I experienced as a kid with my dad and one that my wife and I embrace with our kids. I’ve got so much to learn from Jason and his daughter as well.

Jason has his own website and YouTube channel, Adventure Widely. Check it out if you’re interested in learning from them as they explore.

This is an important conversation as part of Neighboring because it relates to all aspects of parent/kid/activity. It brings light to the barriers in our lives that keep us from pursuing the adventures or the experiences that we know will shape our kids into the people we hope they become. Developing our kids starts early and has to be modeled by us as parents.

We get asked all the time at NeighborLink whether we allow children to volunteer with us. The answer is always as big of YES as I can express. NL will never ask you to take on a project that you aren’t confident that you can accomplish on your own, and if you’re choosing the project you do and want to incorporate your kids, then you’ll choose a project right for them as well. Even if you go out as a family with toddlers knowing full well that all the work responsibilities may fall on dad, being present together in a service context is the right thing. Play with your kids in the front yard, talk to the person you’re helping, walk the neighborhood you’re in, and know that presence is as powerful as the activity.

By the time my kids get to teenage years or older, I hope they have a broader worldview than I had at that age. I hope they are more compassionate, courageous, and gracious towards the diversities they’ll experience. I realize that it will only happen if my wife and I embrace that for ourselves right now and take them along for the journey as we work that out. If we wait until they’re older, easier, or have better attitudes towards the discomfort that is part of the journey, then we’ll have an even harder time getting started than we do now.

Jason’s stories inspire me to keep taking my kids with me. Jason's daughter is pushing past her fears, growing as a person, and gaining confidence along the way. And, it sounds like they are having a blast along the way. What’s better than that?

While I know that embracing this may compromise achieving my own personal pursuits or cut into some much needed personal time, I think it’s worth it. I would rather ride bikes with my kids or take on smaller volunteer projects than not be able to do it with them. I see this playing out with parents that are have kids getting older and I know if I’m patient, soon enough my kids will be on a similar level and ready to blast past me. I think it gets really fun then.