Check back often for the latest news regarding Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana.

  • 01 Aug 2016 5:30 PM | Joel Crandall

    Join us for our next Hot Spot at The Golden on Thursday, August 18 from 5:30-7:30 PM. 

    Have you ever attended a YLNI Hot Spot? This social networking event offers a great opportunity for you to interact with several young professionals in a low-key, relaxed atmosphere. Whether you’re new to Fort Wayne or have lived in town for years, Hot Spots are always filled with individuals who are ready to help you make great connections with organizations and people around Fort Wayne.

    If you haven’t had the chance yet, this is the perfect time to check out The Golden, a new favorite dining and nightlife spot in downtown Fort Wayne. Invite you friends to join us and learn more about YLNI!

    RSVP on Facebook:¬if_id=1470079416572040

  • 01 Aug 2016 4:12 PM | Joel Crandall

    On Saturday, September 24th, 2016, come join us as we embark on the inaugural Fort Wayne Hop On Brew Tour!  Join us as we take a tour of some of Fort Wayne's best breweries.  Tickets are $35 for members and $40 for non-members.  Ticket purchase includes a T-shirt and transportation to and from all breweries!  

    All proceeds from the Hop On Brew Tour benefit Community Transport Network.  Funds raised will help more people in our community connect with healthcare, community events, schools, field trips, and more. 

    Community Transportation Network is a non-profit transportation company that empowers people of all ages and abilities to access the community. 
    Their mission is to provide dependable and efficient transportation so no one is left behind.  Check them out at!

    The Hop On Fort Wayne Brew Tour is a fun way to give back to your community, learn and meet greet people!  Click here for tickets!

  • 18 Jul 2016 7:00 AM | Joel Crandall

    We Must be Moved
    By Kara Hackett

    Earlier this month, the Riverworks Design Group unveiled its designs and plans for riverfront development.

    If you’ve been following riverfront progress for the last few years, then you know that it’s been a long time coming.

    We’ve seen sketches and elaborate renderings of what might be. We’ve attended public meetings, read articles and watched news reports. And now, we have an official blueprint, a brand and a plan.

    When it was revealed on July 7, I realized the power this project could have for our region in a new way.

    The rallying cry for Riverfront Fort Wayne is “Always Moving.”

    Our rivers are on the move. Our city is on the move. New restaurants and businesses are opening every month. A different festival is happening every week, and you can feel the rush.

    Facebook calendars are telling me I’m missing one event while I’m attending another. There’s so much to do.

    It’s the type of time when my mom tells me to slow down, or I’m going to get sick.

    But I like the fast pace, and if we want our region to keep going, keep attracting people, it feels like it’s good to keep busy and keep moving.

    But as I thought about the phrase Always Moving more, I realized it works on a deeper level, too — one that often gets overlooked in the rush of everything we’re trying to do.

    Sometimes, when we’re running around, going from place to place, it’s easy to forget about the bigger picture. It’s easy to be in the here and now, and the here and now is important. We’re a distracted, smart-phone generation, after all, so we need to be focused and present.

    But Always Moving reminds me that we need to take a step back to be moved by something, too. We need to be intentional. Driven. Inspired by a larger purpose.

    In my experience as a “young adult,” that seems to be the hardest part of the equation to achieve.

    It’s easy to keep going, keep yourself busy, but it’s much harder to identify what you’re moving toward. And if we keep moving at breakneck speed, we might end up somewhere we don’t want to be.

    This applies less to the brick-and-mortar part of riverfront development and more to the attitude we take going into this next chapter as a region and as individuals.

    We need to be moved by something. We need moments of rest and silence. Spaces to let the weight of life wash over us, and time to let the meaning sink in.

    Our rivers are where we come together. Where people of all ages, incomes, backgrounds and beliefs can be in the same place, and everyone feels at home.

    In one of our meetings about the riverfront’s brand, a member of the group described the rivers as a space like Central Park where you see all members of society. Where there’s always an open bench. Where people come together.

    In the world today, we need more of that. We see lives torn apart by racism, fear and hatred. Our rivers should be a place of peace where we come together on equal terms. A neutral ground where we stop hating, stop criticizing, stop pretending we have all the answers and just be moved.

    One of my favorite authors is Elie Wiesel. He died on July 2 at the age of 87 after living through the atrocities of the Holocaust, authoring more than 40 books and winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.

    In his life, Wiesel witnessed the struggle of ethnic differences and the horror that people can inflict on each other in fear and hate. But he also witnessed hope.

    His writing is some of my favorite because it’s spiritually written. As a Hasidic Jew, Wiesel considered writing an act of faith, an act of reaching into the depths of himself where his voice could not reach and letting his spirit speak through his pen.

    But one of the things I think is especially cool about him is his appreciation for empty space.

    In his books, Wiesel said he believed in the importance of white space as much as the importance of words—the importance of nothing as much as the importance of something.

    In a documentary with PBS called “First Person Singular,” he said silence tells stories.

    “Silence in Jerusalem is something very special. It is unique. That silence itself becomes like a book. You can read it. You almost can hear the pages turning in that silence.”

    When I think about Always Moving, I feel the power of silence, and I realize it’s not always the rush that moves us; sometimes it’s the empty spaces that allow us to just be.

    As we watched the plans for the riverfront development unfold, we saw a lot of empty spaces. Places where you can sit and contemplate life. “Watch the world go by” was the term architects at Design Collaborative kept using.

    My hope is that as we seek silence, as we watch the world, we will be moved.

    Looking to the future of our city, our region, our country, it’s easy to see what we want. It’s easy to pursue personal goals for personal reasons. To see this city as our city. This river as our river. This country as our country. This life as our life. And to some extent, ownership is good and natural.

    But as we keep moving forward, we must move together. We must allow the triumphs and tragedies we experience to change us. We must think back on those who have gone before us and remember the lessons of history, or the witnesses in our lives and in our world have gone to waste.

    In busy, exciting times, it’s easy to forget. But we must remember.

    We are moving, and we must be moved.

    “First Person Singular”

    HereSay, in partnership with YLNI, is a bi-weekly blog about our say on what’s happening here.  It is written by YLNI member Kara Hackett, and the opinions are her own. Photo by Matt Thomas.

  • 23 Jun 2016 9:09 AM | Joel Crandall

    The wildly popular YNLI Living Fort Wayne Film Series is back for a third year this summer!  On the last Saturday of each month now through September, you can enjoy a free movie while sitting under the stars in beautiful downtown Fort Wayne.  Films will be showing at a variety of locations and each event will offer kid-friendly activities and food for purchase prior to the film.  The films were chosen by community voting in April, and the schedule and location for each event is as follows:

     “A League of Their Own” June 25, 2016 at the PNC parking lot

    • 120 W. Berry  Street – Bring your lawn chairs, folding chairs, inflatable couches, or other comfortable blacktop/parking lot seating!
    •  7:00 p.m. Activities and music begin, food available to purchase
    •  Film begins at dusk (approximately 9:15 p.m.)
    • Join us after BuskerFest and enjoy the film!

    “The Never Ending Story” July 30, 2016 at Wells Street Bridge

    • N. Wells Street
    • 7 p.m. Activities and music begins, food available to purchase
    • Film begins at dusk

     “It Happened One Night” August 26, 2016 at Taste of the Arts (downtown)

    • Arts United Campus – 303 E. Main St.
    • This film will be presented on Friday night in conjunction with Taste of the Arts
    • Film begins at dusk

    “The Book of Life” September 24 at Downtown Library Plaza

    • 900 Library Plaza
    • 7 p.m. Activities and music begins, food available to purchase
    • Film begins at dusk

    For additional information check out or follow Living Fort Wayne Film Series on Twitter and Facebook at @LFWFilmSeries for the latest information leading up to each event!

    The Living Fort Wayne Film Series was an idea that developed from the 2014 My City Summit. After the Summit, a group of volunteers came together who were passionate about creating a free film series that not only offered free entertainment for all ages, but also introduced individuals to different areas of Fort Wayne that they may not have visited otherwise.  The excitement and support for this series has grown tremendously, and we’re so excited that we were able to bring it back for a third year!

  • 17 Jun 2016 8:56 AM | Joel Crandall

    The 2016 Riverpalooza Dragon Boat Race is here and Team YLNI is back and determined to be this year's champions!  This June 25th, teams will compete to row 46' long dragon boats down the St. Mary's river in order to be crowned winners of this year's Dragon Boat Race.  The race is for a good cause with donations going to local, non-profit organizations.  Time is short and we can't do it without you, so join today and help take Team YLNI to the finish!  Also, be sure to check out our video from last year's race.  

    When:  Sat, June 25th 2016, starting at 8am

    There will be about 30 boat teams. On race day morning, each boat (3 at a time) will race starting from Headwaters Park West to the Wells Street bridge, about 300 meters.  In the afternoon, the boats will race again based on their times from the morning sprints. The winners will be announced by 4:00pm.

    Who Can Enter:  Anyone can do it, regardless of your level of fitness.  There will be 21 people per boat team (20 paddlers + 1 drummer).

    Each team member needs to raise or donate a minimum of $50 in pledges which goes towards the team entry fee of $2100 (YLNI is sponsoring the other 50%).  All team members, as individuals or as a team, MUST attend one 90 minute practice session on a weekday evening before the race in order to be eligible to compete Saturday.  Equipment will be provided.  

    How to Join the Team:

    1. Email Vinod Vijayan at  A group conference call or in-person meeting will be scheduled to answer any questions and to confirm plans.
    2. If you are unable to participate in the race but would still like to support and donate to the team, benefiting local charities, then please do so at the following link:
    3. If you know someone who would be interested, please pass the message.

    For More Information:

    Questions?  Email Vinod Vijayan at

  • 14 Jun 2016 8:58 AM | Joel Crandall

    Evergreen Leadership is accepting nominations for the first annual Community Builders Award.  The Community Builders Award recognizes and connects emerging leaders between the ages of 25 and 40 across the state of Indiana who are actively working to improve their leadership and the communities they live in.

    If you know someone in your community who you’d like to sponsor, nominate them now!  Nominations will be accepted until June 24th, 2016, and award winners will be notified by July 4th.

  • 14 Jun 2016 8:40 AM | Joel Crandall

    Do you want to have a positive and meaningful impact this summer and meet amazing people in the process?  Then here's your opportunity!  Turnstone, a local non-profit that empowers people with disabilities, is looking for volunteers to help out with many of the events happening at the Plassman Athletic Center at Turnstone.  Sign-up is easy, just click here.  Here are some of the great events you can help with:

    • Restoring the Fieldhouse (June 16th-17th)
    • National Power Soccer Tournament (June 17th-21st)
    • US Goalball National Championships (June 23rd-25th)
    • Parkview Basketball Tournament (July 2nd-3rd)

    Also, be sure to check out Turnstone's many other volunteering opportunities.

    For More Information:

  • 06 Jun 2016 9:29 PM | Kara Hackett

    Visit any major city, and you’re sure to find a shopping district with the traditional mass-market retailers.

    Macys. H&M. Forever 21.

    Colorful window displays bring city streets to life and mark the area as a place with enough pull to attract big business.

    There was a time when Fort Wayne had a similar feeling with department stores like Wolf & Dessauer stretching several floors of buildings downtown.

    Even now, it’s easy to look back on those days as the golden years of city life before suburban sprawl relocated shops outside the city center.

    “Retail follows rooftops,” said Sharon Feasel, Fort Wayne’s Development Finance Administrator.

    But unlike some, Feasel isn’t looking to recreate the romanticized downtown of yesteryear, or even emulate bigger cities with the same stores that crowd Glenbrook Square.

    Instead, she sees downtown Fort Wayne as a different kind of shopping experience—one that focuses on unique, one-of-a-kind goods.

    It got me thinking that maybe I need to reassess what an urban shopping district looks like in our region.

    As downtown Fort Wayne develops, I naturally expected it to follow the patterns of bigger cities with large chain stores, and there is some merit to those models. Having a few mass retailers downtown might bring a regular base of mall shoppers to the area.

    But it turns out, retail is evolving worldwide, and our region is one of several areas developing a modern approach for the new age.

    Just ask Jack Ellsworth, general manager of City Exchange shops in downtown Fort Wayne.

    “People will start to notice that many of their favorite big box stores will begin to have more ‘negative space’ and less product at their locations,” Ellsworth said.

    With the rise of online shopping, retailers with big stores are struggling to stay relevant, downsizing stock, and directing customers to their websites instead.

    To help smaller, more nimble retailers break into the new market, City Exchange shops offers a model for what Ellsworth calls “the future of retail.”

    It’s an indoor mini-mall with more than a dozen incubator spaces that retailers can rent as stepping-stones between booths and storefronts.

    “It’s a place for companies that might do the bulk of their business online, but want a small, local presence,” Feasel said.

    And if the concept seems foreign in Fort Wayne, it is.

    Ellsworth said the idea for City Exchange came from similar malls in places like Portland, Oregon; Nashville, Tennessee; Washington DC, and parts of Europe.

    But despite a prime location next to JK O'Donnells on Wayne Street, the concept is still slow to catch on around town.

    “People don’t really think of shopping downtown,” Ellsworth said. “It's not in their routine or their vocabulary yet.”

    And while some of that will just take time, maybe part of the reason we don’t think of shopping downtown yet is because we’re waiting for it to become something it’s not.

    It’s not the beginnings of a traditional big city shopping experience or even a return to it’s own past.

    It’s redeveloping into something entirely new, and it’s going to take a changed mentality to see it for what it is—unique and one-of-a-kind.

    As you’re walking to events and restaurants this summer, allow some extra time to experience downtown shopping like you’ve never seen it before.

    Visit The City Exchange shops website

    Downtown Fort Wayne shopping directory

    HereSay, in partnership with YLNI, is a bi-weekly blog about our say on what’s happening here. It is written by YLNI member Kara Hackett, and the opinions are her own. Photo by Matt Thomas.

  • 27 May 2016 7:00 AM | Joel Crandall

    It’s that time of year again, when YLNI gathers to reflect on our annual accomplishments and looks forward to embarking on a new year.  Let’s celebrate our success! 

    The YLNI General Membership meeting is a great opportunity to engage with other young professionals and community leaders.  This event is open to all, not just YLNI members. 

    Our keynote speaker is Tim Ash, CEO of Ash Brokerage, a respected community advocate and leader. 

    We hope you will be able to join us for our annual event!  Please RSVP to, by June 16 if you can attend. 

    Read more:

  • 23 May 2016 10:12 PM | Kara Hackett

    One of my friends was talking about getting over an ex-boyfriend when she said something profound.

    She said, hate is not the opposite of love because love and hate are both passionate, powerful things. They show that you still care about something.

    Instead, the actual opposite of love is apathy because that shows that you don’t care enough to get upset about it.

    It struck me as the type of obvious breakthrough that we all sort of know deep down, but never really think about. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized how it applies to our region, as much as any romance.

    When we talk about talent retention, or more specifically, convincing high school and college students to come back to Northeast Indiana after graduation, we tend to get disappointed when we hear them say they “hate” their hometown or complain that there’s nothing to do here.

    I was a writer for the Journal Gazette for awhile, and a local high school teacher asked me to speak to his class about the city and downtown development.

    One topic that kept coming up was how much these students couldn’t wait to move, and there was a real vengeance there.

    They said it was boring here. They didn’t know much about downtown developments. And they thought most of the city’s attractions were for people 21 and older, or children much younger than them.

    It’s a valid point of view. There’s always the notion that your hometown isn’t cool, and there’s something better out there. Somewhere. Anywhere else.

    A whole slew of reasons students choose to leave Northeast Indiana are listed in last Sunday’s Journal Gazette

    But even though cities in this region are small and “essentially nonexistent to outsiders,” maybe the hate—or more accurately frustration—some students (and residents) feel about where they live isn’t a doomsday sign for retaining talent in the region. Maybe it’s reason to believe that people care enough to get upset about it, and we can channel all of that negative energy into something positive.

    Groups like the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership’s Millennial 2020 are already starting to do it.

    Sonya Snellenberger, YLNI member and Millennial 2020 specialist, said the Regional Partnership isn’t telling students they should never leave town.

    “We quit fighting that mentality, and started to redefine what retaining talent looks like for this age group,” she said.

    Their strategy involves telling students it’s OK to leave home because that’s what helps you grow and enrich your experiences. But when you’re ready to build something or start a new venture, Northeast Indiana is ready to help.

    One of the benefits to living in a smaller city like Fort Wayne as opposed to New York, Chicago, or LA is that everything isn’t already decided for you.

    There are gaps here that you can fill with more opportunities to make an impact, and if you have a good idea, then what you start will break the barrier of “nonexistence” anyway.

    We can talk about the Midwest brain drain and the lack of opportunities here all we want. Or we can rise up and do something about it, and when you rise up in a small town, you make a mark.

    The trick is getting people who are discontent with the region to see it that way.

    As a junior at Snider High School, Kaleb McCague thinks a little “pushing” is what it takes.

    McCague said most of his classmates had negative opinions of Fort Wayne until he started actively encouraging them learn about the community and get involved.

    “I see potential here, and I want to help it and put my effort and input into it,” McCague said.

    And he’s not alone. Actually, he’s one of 20 members of the Mayor’s Youth Engagement Council (MYEC) in Fort Wayne—which is one of three similar youth councils in the region.

    The MYEC is a group of high school students selected every school year to develop personal leadership skills, learn about their city, and boost community engagement among their peers.

    They also spend time with Snellenberger’s Millennial Leaders Alliance to get involved with community development, so they see ways they can make a difference here and experience what it’s like firsthand.

    For the past three years, the MYEC has put on the Riverpalooza Festival in Headwaters Park, and this year, the event is back with the 2nd Annual Fort Wayne Dragon Boat Races, food trucks, vendors, live music and more on June 25.

    It’s one way you can see what a few kids, a big idea and community support can do in this region, and it’s already starting to help students see their hometown in a new light.

    Hope Steele, a senior at Canterbury High School and a 2nd-year member of the MYEC, said she knew last year’s festival was a success when more than 2,500 people showed up, and she saw her friends who never come downtown posting about it on social media.

    MYEC leader Karen Richards also sees success in the number of graduates want to come back and help.

    “That tells me the interest is really there,” Richards said.

    If you think about it, interest of any kind shows that people care, and projects like riverfront development could help students see our region as a place where things happen—a place where they can personally make a difference.

    Where there’s hate, there’s hope.

    About Riverpalooza
    An all-ages festival featuring the 2nd Annual Fort Wayne Dragon Boat Races, starting at 8 a.m. at Headwaters Park. Colorful, 21-person Chinese dragon boats will race a 300-meter course on the St. Marys River. Team registration to race is open until June 13. Visit for more information.

    HereSay, in partnership with YLNI, is a bi-weekly blog about our say on what’s happening here. It is written by YLNI member Kara Hackett, and the opinions are her own. Photo by Matt Thomas.

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Fort Wayne, IN  46853

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