A macro-view of what it means to be a good neighbor
Palermo Galindo works for the City of Fort Wayne and has been a resident here for over 25 years. I’m sure it’d be easy to get jaded, seeing neighborhood after neighborhood, each with its own set of needs. Some of us might tend to get overwhelmed with all that needs fixed and changed in the city, or at least what everyone suggests needs fixed or changed. But Palermo has kept his tender heart for the city and its neighborhoods and the people in them. He has not grown weary of fighting for the people and neighborhoods in the dusty corners of our city, giving back to the city that gave him the opportunity to oversee the community in the way he does.
Because Palermo has been working in neighborhoods for so long, I first met him not long after I started at NeighborLink. Palermo has such a unique perspective of Fort Wayne and what neighboring looks like throughout our city. The city originally had 4 liaisons like Palermo, but over time it has become just him taking on this role. Most of us only have a micro-view of our city – we only see and interact with what’s right in front of us, within the small pockets of our neighborhoods. But Palermo gets to see and interact with a much broader spectrum of neighboring, as he is the liaison between the Mayor’s office, the local businesses, the civic entities, and the actual neighbors. His job is to be present, learn, and then connecting neighborhoods to the resources they ask for or need for development or improvement. And he takes this role very seriously, a servant leader to the people to create a culture in Fort Wayne that is more than just a city, but a place of refuge and safety – one big community. If you know Palermo, you know he works extremely hard and handles people's issues with grace and responsiveness. I've always been impressed by the amount of connectivity he's able to manage at any given time.
There are over 400 neighborhood associations in Fort Wayne, but only about 300 of those are active, and it’s Palermo’s job to oversee and collaborate with those associations to get them the resources for new neighborhoods to thrive and old neighborhoods to reenergize. Although he works as a businessman with the City of Fort Wayne, he has a topical, and hands-on vantage point of the strengths and vulnerabilities and overarching needs in neighborhoods city-wide. I wonder what gaining insights from an eagle-eye view of the city would teach us about ourselves as a unit? Rather than seeing ourselves as individuals living in our own separate territories, maybe we would start seeing ourselves as all part of one unit, one community. I wonder if understanding a macro-view of Fort Wayne would cause us to feel like we are all part of one team, rather than 400 separate little ones?
No matter the neighborhood or its location, he has found that everyone wants that higher quality of living where they feel safe and be proud of the neighborhood. Something that might be a misconception is that poorer neighborhoods are unhealthier, but in reality, the healthiness isn’t based on economics, but off neighbors’ willingness to be connected and investment in their homes and neighbors. For those of us who live in poorer areas, it’s easy to get discouraged and believe nothing can change unless the socio-economics of it change. How encouraging that it starts with us. There is hope for change in any corner of the city, if we are willing to step out of our comfort zones.