NEIGHBOR BY NEIGHBOR
2021 Annual Report
Watch Us Grow!
Neighbor by Neighbor
P O Box 30
Union Pier MI 49129
MISSION STATEMENT: Partnering to alleviate poverty in southwest Berrien County through three strategies: 1) working with clients to take greater steps toward independence; 2) collaborating with government agencies, faith-based organizations and other groups of shared purpose; and 3) bringing together neighbors to strengthen our community for the common good.
2021 Annual Report at a Glance – Watch Us Grow!
The dollar figures below represent Neighbor by Neighbor funds spent in the various categories; funds from other organizations spent on behalf of clients are not included.
- 279 new clients served representing 153 households
- 8 vehicles donated to NbyN clients
- 623 volunteer hours donated for a value of $6,230
- $4,052 value of other inkind donations
- 213 utility bills paid for 219 people in 96 households totaling $69,334.80
- 34 rent bills paid for 60 people in 29 households totaling $19,060.51
- 10 mortgage bills paid for 28 people in 9 households totaling $9,072.65
- 17 car repairs paid for 23 people in 12 households totaling $3,563.24
- 1,016 times seniors received fresh produce bags (105 people in 74 households)
- 324 days of emergency shelter paid for
- 9 home repairs for 11 people in 9 households totaling $2,929.94
- 2 Wheelchair ramps built for homebound
- 2 new Board Members added
- 1 full-time social worker hired
- 10 applications completed for other organizations resulting in confirmed financial assistance for NbyN clients (not all other organizations share whether a client’s application was successful)
- Office space secured in Union Pier
- Application filed with the IRS for 501c3 nonprofit status (awarded 1/3/22!)
- Client data and donor management software purchased and implemented
- New website created
Theme: Growing Independence via 501c3 Application
The partnership between Neighbor by Neighbor and Harbert Community Church has been wonderful in many ways. There is very strong support from parishioners both monetarily and with volunteers. A small group even makes home-cooked meals and places them in the church freezer for NbyN to give to homeless individuals staying in hotels and have only a microwave available. Primarily, Harbert Community Church has provided financial oversight and management to NbyN as a part of their mission to love their neighbors, while looking to build NbyN as a self-functioning organization that includes the diverse participation of many in the community. As such, NbyN does not proselytize or promote the religious interests of one church or faith tradition over another.
It became clear that it was time for the “adolescent” NbyN program to launch into “full-fledged adulthood” and become its own nonprofit. In May of 2021, NbyN submitted its application to the IRS for 501(c)3 status and it was granted effective January 3, 2022.
Future Direction: NbyN has hired an accounting firm for all the bookkeeping and transferring accounts into the NbyN name.
Theme: Growth in Ensuring Health and Safety for Seniors and People with Disabilities
Home repairs in 2021 include 2 wheelchair ramps, both senior women were only able to exit their homes by sliding down the steps. The ramps allowed them both to use their wheelchairs to safely exit their homes.
2 clients were awarded significant grants through the Federal Home Loan Bank Indianapolis branch for major home improvements including new HVAC, new roof and new front door and screen door. The local Horizon Bank facilitated the grant process.
Fixed Income/Sponsor a Neighbor
Each month a 60-year-old woman lives on $973 in Social Security Disability and $163 in SNAP (Food Stamps) which totals $1,136. She provided a monthly budget to Neighbor by Neighbor as part of the process to be included in the Sponsor a Neighbor program whereby NbyN pays the monthly electricity bill for people on low fixed incomes. Here is what she listed for her expenses:
Electricity: $145 to $355 depending on the time of year
Cell phone: $25
Groceries: $175 in addition to Food Stamps
Monthly Total: $915 – $1,125
Can you see the problem here? The rate of increase in Social Security Disability (as well as Retirement) lags behind the cost-of-living increases, putting more strain on people unlikely to be able to get a job. Clients like her inspired board member Bob Stine to suggest that NbyN create the Sponsor a Neighbor program where the monthly electricity bill is paid for 12 months as a way to keep clients safe and with utility services. At the end of 12 months, each case is reviewed. Currently 13 clients are enrolled, and new clients are added as new Sponsor a Neighbor funds come in. To donate to Sponsor a Neighbor, you can donate online (www.neighborbyneighbor.org/donate) or send a check to Neighbor by Neighbor indicating “Sponsor a Neighbor” at P O Box 30, Union Pier, MI 49129.
For two-thirds of 2021, NbyN volunteers delivered fresh produce to 50 seniors every other week in partnership with Meals on Wheels. In October, Meals on Wheels took over delivery to NbyN clients. Our volunteers looked forward to seeing families faces when they delivered, and clients were thrilled with the fresh fruits and vegetables.
Future Direction: Enroll more NbyN households in various discount programs to reduce their utility bills. As funding permits, repair more homes, especially in ways that result in reduced energy usage. Secure funding, partners and contractors to complete as many home repairs as possible in 2022.
Theme: Growing Homeless Population – A Distressing Sign of the Times
2021 saw a significant increase in the number of homeless people needing temporary shelter. Funds through Southwest Michigan Cares and The Pokagon Fund allowed NbyN to pay for up to one week’s stay in area hotels. Staff also linked them with Emergency Shelter Services in Benton Harbor which is the organization charged with providing a plethora of services to the homeless. Food that can be heated in hotel room microwaves are also provided and are donated by local churches.
The trailer park in Three Oaks was purchased by a new owner who immediately raised lot rents by a huge amount, and also required sizeable security deposits. A significant portion of residents could not afford it and moved out. The lack of affordable housing in our area means that low-income people must leave the area, resulting in Three Oaks schools losing 40 children in a very short time.
Acquiring land and building affordable homes is a dream. In the meantime, Neighbor by Neighbor is working with clients to determine which repairs are needed to keep them safe, and make changes so the homes are energy efficient and healthy to live in.
Theme: Growing Partnerships with the Business Community and Churches
Big C Lumber gave a discount on materials so that students in New Buffalo School’s Building Trades Program could build 2 ramps allowing homebound clients to get in and out of their homes.
Brunke Geiger Heating and Cooling went way above and beyond helping a client with a HVAC replacement.
Olson Electric donated time and materials to change out a rod and knob electrical system for a home bound client.
McGhee’s Heating and Cooling technicians crawled through water in a semi-basement to get a new furnace in for a client who was without heat from October through December.
Schrader Drain Cleaning opened a drain so that a homebound client did not need to go to the laundromat to do her laundry.
Damen Automotive, Grand Beach Automotive and Roger’s Wrecker evaluated donated cars to make sure the clients had safe cost-effective vehicles.
Sunset Coast employees deliver boxes of commodities to NbyN seniors once a month.
New Buffalo Business Association chose Neighbor by Neighbor to receive tips from the annual New Buffalo wine festival in September and $700 was raised.
American Electric Power – Indiana Michigan Power
18 NbyN clients were referred to AEP for Virtual Audits, a thorough analysis of a home’s fixable energy losses. Eligible repairs qualified for up to $4,000 grants from AEP with the goal of reducing energy use and costs. 41 NbyN seniors enrolled in AEP’s Senior Discount Program through NbyN, and 24 clients enrolled in AEP’s Low-Income Discount Program resulting in reduced electricity bills.
Biggby Coffee opened a new store in Sawyer across from the truck stop and chose NbyN to receive $1 from every cup of coffee sold on a day in November and NbyN received $250.
Corvette Central employees chose NbyN to receive their monthly donation to local nonprofits.
Circle Credit Union donated the graphic design costs to produce the holiday give-back poster listing NbyN.
Members of Harbert Community Church donated $90,000 to Neighbor by Neighbor in 2021.
Water’s Edge Church paid for a client’s serious home repairs when a poorly installed gutter resulted in water pouring into the house, resulting in damage and mold.
12 clients received food monthly from New Buffalo’s Calvary Chapel—enough for 10 meals per month. They also received Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner makings.
Church of the Mediator provided financial support and Thanksgiving dinner boxes for 20 NbyN families. They also adopted 2 families for Christmas, purchasing presents for each family member.
15 families were able to purchase new Christmas gifts paying 10% of its value through Mosaic’s annual Wonderland Toy Store program.
A Three Oaks group of neighbors “adopted” 3 Neighbor by Neighbor families for Christmas this year, as they had last year. Each member of the families (including adults) received gifts from their wish lists.
The first Sunday of each month, parishioners of Harbert Community Church bring cans and boxes of food to be distributed to NbyN clients, especially homeless staying in hotels who only have a microwave available.
The Harbor Country Emergency Pantry and New Buffalo Service League matched Neighbor by Neighbor’s contribution for client utility bills.
Future Direction: Continue to form partnerships with more businesses and churches for both financial and volunteer resources. Possibly develop home repair or other projects that can be adopted by groups.
Harbert Community Church was awarded a $2,118 grant from The Evangelical Covenant Love Justice Do Mercy fund to provide financial literacy instruction and help NbyN clients open savings accounts. NbyN has identified clients who are interested in financial literacy. Due to Covid, the launch of the effort was delayed to 2022.
In 2020, NbyN was awarded the Alamar Grant through Berrien Community Foundation which provides $75,000 over three years and is intended to promote sustainability. In 2021, NbyN used $18,000 of its first year of Alamar funding by buying office furniture for the new office, paying a portion of the rent and purchasing a new computer.
Harbor Country Mission has been an incredible partner by outfitting Neighbor by Neighbor families moving from homelessness into new housing. The outfitting has included furniture, clothing, and everything needed for cooking.
Anonymous donors gave $6,000 to go toward office rent and NbyN moved into its space in February 2021.
When it was clear that sinking more money in a car that is just not worth it, NbyN was able to give 8 donated cars to clients who needed transportation to continue to work or get to doctor appointments. Damon Automotive, Roger’s Wreckers and Grand Beach Automotive looked the cars over and made any necessary repairs so that the recipients could accept them worry free. When necessary, NbyN staff assisted recipients with securing licenses, tags, registrations and insurance. One recipient previously drove a gas guzzling truck to and from multiple doctor appointments in South Bend and Niles, and the gas alone was making it impossible to save even a penny. When given a used hybrid Prius, the client was over the moon with the immediate savings in both insurance and gas.
6 computers were donated by Toni Morris and given to GED students lacking their own.
Rainbow Farms donated 27 dozen eggs.
Future Direction: Continue to grow donor base through outreach, especially to second homeowners and new retirees. Secure more government foundation grants.
Theme: Growing Staff, Board and Volunteers
Two new Advisory Board members were added in 2021, and each brings new skills, contacts and ideas that complement the other board members. David Ball works in marketing and branding. Janet Henderson is a retired attorney from an internationally known Chicago law firm.
The staff grew by two in 2021 with the addition of two very talented women. Courtney MacKay joined us with a degree in social work and years of prior experience. She handles the bulk of client requests for help with referrals and financial assistance. Courtney is skilled in finding resources for the clients to leverage Neighbor by Neighbor’s funds with other funding organizations. Jen Bomar works half-time managing social media, volunteers, the donor database and coordinating food delivery programs. Thanks to Jen, NbyN has a new website and a completely new look–check it out at neighborbyneighbor.org.
Sadly, Neighbor by Neighbor bid Tate Butler farewell at the end of the year. Tate brought amazing technology skills to NbyN by analyzing our system needs and finding software to meet the needs. Tate also facilitated the donation of furniture from his family business, Hunden Partners, for the new office.
The Board and Staff created a three-year Strategic Plan and has checked off many boxes in 2021 like a new website (www.neighborbyneighbor.org), stronger social media presence, expanded staff and board.
Board members David Ball and Janet Henderson hosted a fundraiser for a small group of select friends in October and they raised $3,600 for NbyN and $2,500 for ramps for people with disabilities.
The current roster of volunteers includes 30 people, and they were busy in 2021 delivering Easter baskets, buckets of cleaning supplies, fresh produce bags, senior commodities and more. A total of 634 volunteer hours were donated with an estimated value of $6,340.
Thanks to The Pokagon Fund for supporting intern salary. Benjamin Almquist brought knowledge of community food insecurity, willingness to tackle any task and the ability to establish rapport with clients.
Future Direction: As board members complete their terms, replace them with carefully screened and judiciously selected people with skills, contacts, passion and ideas that complement the rest of the board. Pandemic allowing, hold more fundraising events. Recruit more volunteers to serve as one-on-one mentors to clients making significant transitions such as going back to school or training.
Theme: Growing Community Awareness of Poverty and Neighbor by Neighbor
Neighbor by Neighbor works in many ways to get the word out both to those in poverty and our neighbors who are part of the solution to reducing poverty.
- Articles in newspapers
- Monthly eblasts/newsletters
- New Instagram account
- Articles in New Buffalo, River Valley and Bridgman Schools parent newsletters.
- Monthly River Valley Ministerium meetings
- Presentations at Harbor Country Rotary
Future Direction: Continue to submit articles to local newspapers and distribute monthly enewsletters. Hold community-wide educational events such as a poverty simulation.
Theme: Growing Relationships with Non-Business Entities
Building Trades program at New Buffalo High School built 2 wheelchair ramps for homebound clients.
School Social Workers at River Valley, New Buffalo and Bridgman High Schools regularly refer families to NbyN and vice versa. They disseminate information provided by NbyN to parents about resources and opportunities.
Emergency Shelter Services is Berrien County’s primary homeless service provider. They received federal funds during the pandemic to help homeless people become housed, as well as payments for rent for the non-homeless.
United Way for SWMI Cares funds paid $70,000 in funding for rent, mortgage payments, housing homeless, utility payments including gas, electric, water, fuel oil and wood.
Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency provided senior commodity boxes monthly to those who did not have the transportation to go to the senior center.
A senior client received a replacement furnace through USDA Rural Development.
Senior Nutrition/Meals on Wheels provided bags of fresh produce and protein every other week in 2021.
Future Direction: Forge new partnerships with nonbusiness partners including offering office space and time to staff of other nonprofits. The Disability Network and Veterans Affairs have already expressed an interest in offering staff availability in the NbyN office.
Theme: Growing in Ability to Address Underlying Causes and Not Just Immediate Crises
“Our calling is not only to pull people out of the river, but to go upstream to find out what or who is pushing them in.” Jim Wallis
In large part, NbyN services have overwhelmingly focused on immediate crises such as keeping people housed, their lights on and food on their tables. The Covid pandemic presented tremendous barriers to moving beyond crisis mode. One major theme of NbyN’s Strategic Plan is to focus efforts increasingly on moving people toward greater independence through post-secondary education, job skill acquisition and college degrees. 2022 will see staff efforts increasing on getting clients to take practical steps forward.
GED Pilot Program Launched in 2021
Retired school superintendent John “Kip” Walker volunteers to shepherd NbyN clients seeking to earn their GED (high school equivalence). He currently works with 4 clients who are enrolled in Michigan Works! GED program. The program allows enrollees to work totally online, in a classroom setting, or a combination at their own pace. Kip provides encouragement and help in addressing barriers, especially transportation.
Future Direction: More clients lacking GED will be strongly encouraged to enroll in the Michigan Works! GED program. Staff will approach clients to determine their interest level in finishing high school, going to college, or completing a technical training program. The State of Michigan offers a number of free options to further their education such as free tuition and fees for people age 25+ at Lake Michigan College. Free training programs are also locally available, and there are even apprenticeship programs that pay during training.
Theme: A Year of Tremendous Budgetary Growth and Expansion of Service
Neighbor by Neighbor is grateful that individuals and organizations recognized the dire need for funds throughout the pandemic. Parents (usually women) quit jobs to stay home with children when schools closed. Business closed either for the season or forever. Work hours were reduced. People living on the margins, many of whom had never had to ask for help previously, needed Neighbor by Neighbor’s financial help to keep their heads above water.
Extra funds were distributed to area nonprofits from the State of Michigan and through Southwest Michigan Cares which was established by United Way and The Berrien Community Foundation (those dollars were 100% pass through and are not reflected in the report that follows). If it “takes a village,” our “village” came together.
2021 Financial Highlights:
The Pokagon Fund 75,000
Alamar Grant 18,000
Other Grants 52,167
*A portion of 2022 operational funding was raised in 2021
Direct Client $ 85,791
Direct Client 148,507
John Krsul Fund 14,830**
**To grow organizational sustainability