EQUITY e-newsletter: May 2006 (Equity Home Page)
When Life Gives You Lemons...
What is a single, African-American mother of three, living with fibromyalgia, arthritis, chronic pain and other disabilities to do to make a living? Wanda Parker tried to work a typical 9-5 job, but because of her disabilities, it proved impossible. Wanda was not content to sit at home waiting for her benefits check, providing a meager existence in suburban Chicago for her and her three girls. Despite the pain and fatigue, Wanda is a go-getter. She wanted more from life and wanted to be a good role model for her children.
Wanda also wanted to be a real estate agent, but she needed to work from home, money for real estate listings, fees, and license and a decent, reliable car. Yet, with two of her girls in college and a 14 year-old, living on disability benefits meant that there was never enough to save towards her goal. For Wanda, it was never a question of if, only when and how. Then she found out about TechConnect, the Illinois Telework loan program that helps people with disabilities purchase equipment, services, and home modifications for home-based employment. Eric Guidish, Tech Connect's loan coordinator, was just the person she had been searching for- supportive, straightforward, and he made invaluable suggestions to improve her business.
It has not been easy. Wanda had been forced to declare bankruptcy and has faced enormous amounts of misinformation- usually from so-called experts that were assigned to help. Wanda is proof that perseverance is everything when navigating the disability benefits world. She learned that in order to be eligible for the Telework loan, she would need to write a business plan. With the help of Jim Huston from Venture Mentors, LLC, Wanda wrote what the bank told her was the best business plan they had ever seen. Even though the writing took far longer than Wanda ever anticipated, it forced her to really think long-term. Jim helped by asking her the right questions and preparing the necessary financial statements.
Despite her less than perfect credit history, Wanda's Telework loan was approved in August 2005. She received $34,000 to buy a new Toyota Camry, a GSP navigating system, a laser printer, a desktop computer, a laptop computer, a digital camera, a desk, bookshelves, filing cabinet, and other home office essentials. Wanda says the car is the most critical aspect for a real estate agent. However, being able to work from home and have quality equipment are truly the keys to enable her success.
Wanda is just getting started. She is working towards her broker's license and wants designations in both residential and commercial property. She gives back to the community as well, volunteering at the NAACP ACT-SO project that helps prepare, recognize and reward African-American youth who exemplify scholastic and artistic excellence. She is also setting up a coalition in DuPage County, Illinois to develop homeownership opportunities for others with disabilities. Wanda wants to help people with disabilities find accessible, affordable housing. So, if you are looking to move to Chicago (Wanda serves the entire metropolitan area) or live in the area and are looking for a home of your own, Wanda Parker is there to help.