Episode 9: Ewelina Connolly

20 years ago, Ewelina Connolly immigrated to America from Poland on a quest to find independence from an inter-dependent culture. Ewelina shares what it was like growing up in a collectivist culture and the transition to our American, independent culture. Ewelina is currently the Clinical Director at Amani Family Services - a social service agency that provides resources like counseling or therapy for refugee and immigrant families and helps them assimilate into American life.

Ewelina shares some universal truths about being a good neighbor no matter what country you're from or where you live today. We all have much to gain from diverse, multi-cultural relationships. She reminds us that all relationships are different and must be established through one-on-one interactions.

Link to Ewelina's Video and Andrew's written reflections from the interview. 


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Episode 8: Zachary Benedict

Zachary Benedict from MKM Architecture takes us on a fascinating, informative dive into how architectural shifts over the last several decades has impacted how we as a society neighbor. Zach and I were introduced not long after I started working at NeighborLink in 2008, and he has been blowing my mind with the ideas in this interview and dozens more ever since.

Zach talks about the core of what has shaped our neighborhoods when he talks about the American Dream. America is so fixated on independence and autonomy, and what Zach labels the “glorification of privacy.” There has become an assumed correlation between how independent you are and how well off you are. The more independent/private things you build your life around, the more successful or well off you are. Such as attached garages, no porch, privacy fence, private office, private gym, private school, or the private theatre. Even the switch from police patrolling on horseback to squad cars impacted how connected or safe neighborhoods were along with the public perception of police officers. These are all things that begin to limit the interactions, whether intentional or accidental, that we have with those around us. It creates physical barriers to those around us, giving us justified and comfortable excuses to not build relationships with others. 

Link to Zachary's Video and Andrew's written reflections from the interview. 


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Episode 7: Jesse Jackson

Jesse Jackson was an ordinary neighbor simply taking care of his own home when one day was called into becoming a neighborhood president because of what a previous leader saw in him. Jesse responded to that call because he recognized he had a responsibility to create the place he and others wanted to live in, not just hope someone else would do it.   

Jesse’s story brings up an interesting idea that maybe if we’re willing, we can create the change we keep hoping for in our neighborhoods and city. Jesse’s strong-held belief of inside out transformation is one of the core mindsets of neighboring. Sometimes we sit idle, look at the issues and brokenness around us we want fixed, and wait for someone else to come in and fix it. What if we didn’t look to blame or wait on others, but were willing to be the fixers? Right in our own neighborhoods?

Link to Jesse's Video and Andrew's written reflections from the interview. 


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Episode 6: Jarrod Tobias

Street and public art have been telling stories, advocating for important issues, and describing society's current state for as long as art has been around. Jarrod and his team at Tobias Studios have been exploring the role of public art as a tool to facilitate diverse conversations in a neighborhood context for over a decade through wheat paste, small scale stencil painting, and large murals. The events of 911 happened when he was in art school and sparked deep questions of how an artist should or could respond through their art. That question continues to fuel his desire to explore humanity, social connectivity, justice, and ask question after question in the pursuit of truth and honesty. Jarrod shares about the role of public art in the neighborhood and the ways its universal ability to draw people to a shared space to engaged, process, and interact with one another together. 

Link to Jarrod's Video and Andrew's written reflections from the interview. 


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Episode 5: Kevan Chandler

If you’ve spent much time downtown around Fortezza, you’ve probably seen Kevan. Kevan is hard to miss because he's such a friendly guy who engages you almost immediately when you're in his presence, and he's in a power wheelchair due to having Spinal Muscular Atrophy, which is a disease that affects the central nervous system. 

Because I find myself at the front window area of Fortezza several times a week, I’ve had the privilege of talking with him and getting to know more of his story. 

Kevan’s story about how his physical vulnerabilities have made way for deep, authentic, and rich friendships that are genuinely awe-inspiring. The kind of community that we all seek, Kevan’s circumstances somewhat force him to have. We all long to have those people we can depend on when we’re in need to come help us, to talk with us, to live in genuine relationship with. 

We are all hardwired for that, but it seems so difficult to attain. I love that Kevan’s story offers this unique perspective of community and how stepping out in vulnerability changes the relationships around us.

Link to Kevan's video and Andrew's written reflections from the interview. 


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Episode 4: Donnivan & Jordajé

Donnivan and Jordajé prove that our neighborhood kids are bright, observant, and probably know more about what's going on in our neighborhoods than we do. They're tuned into justice related issues, what healthy relationships could look like, what seems to be broken around them, and the ideas that could be solutions to that brokenness.

You'll want to watch this entire episode to be inspired by a 9 and 7 year old. We were reminded just how broad a child's worldview can be and how we as adults have a responsibility to nurture that rather than narrow it. 

Link to Donnivan & Jordyace's Video and Andrew's written reflections from the interview. 


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Episode 3: Cyndi Demaree

Cyndi and her husband, Paul, started the Firefly Coffee shop 19 years ago after a professional transition and a deep desire to create a public space around their love for coffee and people. Since then, they've worked hard at creating the culture and environment that makes the Firefly truly unique. There is more in that cup than just coffee. Cyndi shares about how the coffee shop can be it's own neighborhood, what makes their environment unique, and some tough calls along the way to create a healthy community for all that come.

Link to Cyndi's video and Andrew's written reflections from the interview. 


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Episode 2: Ed Fenstermacher

Ed is the quintessential neighbor. You know, that Mr Rogers type. Ed has lived in his neighborhood for 34 years and in that time got married, had children, cared for aging family there, and has seen the neighborhood develop in that time. Ed shares how even after 34 years, that he's still learning how to engage and ask questions of his neighbors before drawing conclusions. Ed believes there is always more to the story and that if we simply stop at our initial conclusion, we'll often make the wrong decision when attempting to address it. 

Link to Ed's video and Andrew's written reflections from the interview. 


"Neighboring" is now available on iTunes - Click Here to Subscribe

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