When 58-year-old Kyle Caldwell started noticing changes in his Atlanta, Georgia community that put a burden on low-income seniors, he decided to offer support, street by street. “Our elderly can’t do for themselves anymore and they’re on a fixed income,” says Kyle. “Rising taxes put a really big burden on their health and wellbeing, and we wanted to be able to relieve that suffering.”
Founding Neighbor in Need, the organization helps low-income residents living in East Lake, Kirkwood and Edgewood communities make emergency home repairs. Connecting with thousands across East Atlanta in the past two decades and helping 40 to 80 families with costly home repairs each year, Kyle is helping to keep seniors in their homes and strengthening his community through service.
What inspires you to volunteer?
I’m inspired by the relief of the suffering of these elderly folks, because they’re terrified they have a roof leak, or are suffering because they have to carry hot water to the bathroom to have a hot bath. It’s very scary to own a house and have things go wrong with it and not have enough money to fix it. Through volunteering, we want to find a way to keep seniors in their houses for as long as possible without fear.
Describe your volunteerism with Neighbor in need.
This isn’t all me. The work doesn’t happen without support from our neighbors in East Lake, Kirkwood and Edgewood. As founder and president of the organization, I keep the business running and help with different needs across Neighbor in Need chapters. My primary job is the intake of residents in certain neighborhoods. I’ll make the house visit, set the work up and ultimately, when the job is finished, pay for the work. To fundraise and raise awareness, I plan parties and social gatherings, and manage marketing and communication.
Share one personal story with me from your volunteerism.
It’s the thank you cards. I’ll get a piece of mail out of nowhere, a lady has taken the time to write and tell me the impact [of our service]. One lady was 100 years-old, she was just spry, she’s a great lady. I knew what we did was going to help her stay in her home for a long time. We have people bake cookies for us (laughs) and do other sweet things. It takes so many people to do (the work), it’s amazing to me that we get so much support. It’s the way the community reacts to Neighbor in Need that is so humbling.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
Nothing gets better unless we work together at the local street level to improve things. I’ve been in community service for literally 40 years of my life. We can’t wait on others to change things, we have to dig in on the street level, that’s why at Neighbor in Need we say we’re changing the world on the street.
How have you continued to volunteer throughout the COVID-19 pandemic?
We immediately had to pivot during the pandemic. We were getting calls from seniors saying they needed food and because they feared going into grocery stores, that was creating a lot of food insecurities. We assigned volunteers to families, and each month the volunteers would get food to deliver to seniors. Later when the vaccine came out, we set up vaccines for seniors, and volunteers drove their elderly neighbors to get the vaccine. We also worked with local restaurants to deliver meals to seniors, a program that supported our neighbors and restaurants.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
Everyone is called in a different way. You have to be open to hear what your particular calling is. It may be sports, youth development, planting trees, or neighbors in need.
In one word, what does volunteering mean to you?
Gift. It’s a gift to me to volunteer.
How can readers help?
We would like to offer the opportunity to help people across the country. If you’re interested in starting your own Neighbor in Need program, visit our website and connect with us.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Kyle Caldwell? Find local volunteer opportunities.