Virginia Alvino loves the ‘Little’ in our Little Big City.
She hasn’t been here long – not even two years, actually. But Virginia Alvino has a lot to say about Fort Wayne, Indiana.
As a 24 year-old from the bright-light city of Las Vegas, Nevada, she had a lot to discover in her travels (first north to Oregon, then southeast to Indiana). But, that’s what Virginia does. She listens and learns. “It’s the intangible things that shape our lives” she says. Virginia has used those intangibles, those “authentic experiences” to understand our people, our city, and to make it home.
Virginia is a journalist/reporter for NPR member station here in Fort Wayne. She easily explained to me that she ended up here because “people move around a lot in public radio.” She was looking for a small station to make her own. What she found here in our “little big city” was ideal. “I loved the station and the people immediately. I had never even heard of Fort Wayne, but when I got here I loved the city too.”
“It felt like home before it was,” she continued. Virginia made it a priority to learn about her neighborhood and others, recalling a feeling of Americana. She and her roommate have made a promise to each other to “walk through every alleyway from every angle.” This is a true testament of someone who can’t get enough of her surroundings, always yearning for a more meaningful understanding of them.
In our talk, Virginia was candid, brutally honest. She was as raw and pure as I could expect a person to be about the experience she has had during her two years in our city. It wasn’t surprising to me when she said people often apologized to her when she told them where she had come from. But why? Are we really sorry to another person that they found themselves in Fort Wayne, Indiana? “I mean, I get it,” she says. “I left my hometown as soon as I could. But you don’t know what you’ve got. You’ve got to go discover it for yourselves.”
For Virginia, it was less about the things she found in our town, and more about what the town did for her. “Fort Wayne is a space you can claim as your own. People are grounded here, but they let you in. No one knew me here, yet I was invited to Thanksgiving dinner.”
To some of us, our city may be just about as big as you can handle. But, our nights and lights and clean, open streets were a vast contrast from what Virginia was used to. The move to Fort Wayne allowed her to slow down and take long moments to see and feel the life that was going on around her. “It let me breathe,” she said. “People find importance in busyness. But, my priorities changed. Now I know that there are more important things in life. It’s not all about having somewhere to go or something to do.” Fort Wayne taught Virginia how to love.
It seems to me that love, in many forms, is exactly what encourages us to slow down. It may be a love for that one person, or that one song, that quiet park, or even the distinctive aroma of fresh bread filling our downtown streets. Whatever it is, it makes us stop and take it in. It provides us with the authentic experience Virginia continually searches for. In the presence of love, we are always at home.
Virginia Alvino is a human advocate. She is a Big Sister and maintains that her Little is a million times smarter than she and will most certainly change the world someday. She is on the Wunderkammer board of directors and has a profound passion for the rights and accessibility of resources for everyone. She is bold and driven. Her time in Fort Wayne may not be forever, but she will tell you this is the place it started. She started living her life here, in our little big city. Our own private piece of Americana.
Go to these sites to learn more about Virginia’s passion and advocacy in our community.