Name: Jennifer Weatherford
Hometown: Seguin, Texas
Alma Mater: Arizona State University
Volunteer history: Let Girls Learn Fundraising and Awareness Project for Senegalese girls (2016); Votua Village Service Learning Project to maintain agricultural projects in Votua, Fiji (2015). I’ve also volunteered my time as a research assistant during my undergrad and spent a couple years as a foster for cats in the East Valley in Arizona.
Why did you choose VISTA: I recently relocated to Northeast Texas and was looking for a way to connect to my new community while putting my love for volunteering and community service to its best use. VISTA was the best option for me—not only does the VISTA program give me the resources I need to grow as a service-minded individual, but offers incentives for me to continue my education and pursue my graduate degree after my year of service has ended.
Tell us a little bit about what your organization does and your role in it: I’m serving as an Affordable Housing Advocate VISTA with the Aging and Disability Resource Center at the Texoma Council of Governments. Essentially, my role in the organization is to connect with housing developers, landlords, homeless coalitions, and other partner agencies in order to expand the capacity of my community to offer affordable housing to homeless, at-risk homeless, seniors, veterans, low income families, and disabled persons.
What is your biggest accomplishment as a VISTA so far? My role with VISTA has been a roller coaster of information, particularly because I’m the first VISTA in my community and the first to serve in this capacity. There was a lot to learn early on but the rewards from my time spent providing outreach to Northeast Texas have begun to show themselves; I’ve helped house a dozen individuals by connecting them to services throughout the region, and I’m excited to begin the next step of my service by providing much needed outreach to builders and developers to expand affordable housing.
Jennifer Weatherford serves with the Texoma Council of Government’s Adult and Disability Resource Center as the Affordable Housing Advocate VISTA. On Tuesday, July 11, Jennifer drove to Van Alstyne, TX to meet with Irma Eaves, owner and operator of Camelot Multifamily Investments, to discuss affordable housing. Mrs. Eaves expressed interest in acquiring nine furnished units, split into three buildings, to low income individuals but was having trouble with the logistics of financing. In the weeks leading up to the meeting, Jennifer had started a Housing Grants and Loans Master List and was able to offer Mrs. Eaves information regarding a Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) Multifamily Direct Loan that would offer her significantly reduced interest rates and give her the means to see her project through. During the course of the meeting, Jennifer was also able to counsel Mrs. Eaves on the types of low income tenants that would be best suited to the location and function of her units, taking full advantage of the communal spaces offered in each of the buildings. With the submission deadline for the loan document set at October 31, 2017, Jennifer intends to keep in close communication with Mrs. Eaves through the course of the paperwork and the development process, as well as introduce her to partner agencies and land surveyors that will work to expedite the process of both installing the units and introducing tenants.
On Saturday, May 20, Affordable Housing Advocate VISTA Jennifer Weatherford rose before the sun and drove the approximately three hours to Texarkana, TX to attend the annual Texarkana Veterans Information Fair. Jennifer’s host agency, Texoma Council of Government’s Aging and Disability Resource Center, acts as a referral agency and advocates to address the needs of the elderly, persons with disabilities, low income individuals and families, homeless and at-risk homeless, and veterans across 12 counties in Northeast Texas. During her time spent at Saturday’s information fair, Jennifer shared crucial information about the ADRC’s available resources to clients who, until then, were not aware of the help TCOG and the ADRC offers. She also identified a supplemental veteran resource and developed a working relationship with a prospective landlord in Texarkana who is eager to begin to develop affordable housing in the area.