The JP UP Date: JP Celebrates Black Leaders

Katie ArnoldThe JP UP date

Number 211                      February 24, 2023                                   St. Louis

Black History Month Spotlight: St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell

Justine PETERSEN is proud to call St. Louis home, a city that is no stranger to historical events and changemakers that continue to propel the urgency of civil rights. One such figure is St. Louis County Prosecutor, Wesley Bell, who was elected in 2018, and the first Black person to hold the office. JP’s Chief Partnership Officer, Shawna Collier (pictured here with Prosecutor Bell on February 16, 2023 at the St. Louis American Foundation’s 21st Annual Salute to Excellence) was able to speak with him about the importance of his experience and leadership.

Shawna Collier (SC): What impact can Justine PETERSEN have for victims of violence?

Prosecutor Bell (PB): It’s so important that victims impacted by violence know that they are not alone and that there are resources to support them. Many are not aware of these resources, and the more we can do to promote and educate about those types of programs is invaluable to those struggling as the result of abuse.

SC: What experiences influenced your career trajectory?

PB: As a young person, I was a volunteer coach for youth sports at the YMCA. Volunteering and being involved with my community was that light-switch moment that inspired me to run for office.

SC: Would you consider yourself an entrepreneur?

PB: As a former small business owner, one does need an entrepreneurial mindset to be successful in politics. It requires many of the same attributes, such as identifying and convincing people to buy your product, or in this case to support your candidacy.

JP is most grateful for Prosecutor Bell’s time and ongoing efforts to support survivors of violence. We want those impacted to know that Justine PETERSEN offers free credit building services and a variety of loan products to meet people where they are as they begin a new chapter. To learn more, contact Shawna, or Asset Building Manager, Tatiana Gillum.

JP Clients Continue Being an Anchor for Their Community

Since 1999, entrepreneurs Alonzo and Barbara Harris have been there for the community that has always meant so much to them. Their first business sold diverse beauty supplies to fulfill a large demand within the Wells-Goodfellow and Hamilton Heights neighborhoods. After several years of being unable to secure traditional banking capital and financing to continue growing, they attended a business forum hosted by several banks, aimed at supporting low-to-moderate income (LMI) households at nearby Lexington Elementary. Mr. and Mrs. Harris vocalized their struggles they were experiencing in accessing financial resources as business owners in the neighborhood. It was then and there that they were approached by Justine PETERSEN’s Galen Gondolfi about wanting to support their need and vision. The Harris’ not only were able to obtain a loan with JP, but remained as loyal clients, consistently paying their loans off in full and referring a number of other businesses who needed someone to say “yes” to their dream.

For those who are aspiring or growing business owners, the Harris’ have several pearls of wisdom to share. First, have a business plan and a goal that you believe wholeheartedly in. Always know that ownership is the key to prosperity. Most importantly, “you must stand in it to go through it.” Finally, know that you will have to learn about resetting your life; it’s important to take good care of yourself and your needs in order to take the same good care of your business and community.

The Harris’ still own and operate their second business, A&B Phase II Auto – awarded Neighborhood Business of the Year, and now own the entire plaza it resides in. In fact, they’re looking for a startup business to join them and enjoy the same success they’ve experienced. With 1,500 square feet available and camera-ready, it’s the perfect space for an entrepreneur “who has love for what they do and wants to be there for the community.” Mr. Harris thinks it would be the perfect location for a confectionary, in particular. To learn more, contact them at 314.517.6764 or

JP Welcomes Director of Finance, Sonia Smith!

Justine PETERSEN is thrilled to introduce our new Director of Finance, Sonia Smith! Sonia comes to JP with over 25 years experience in the accounting and finance world. The last 16 of those were spent within the non-profit sector, serving well respected organizations such as Annie Malone, Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri, and Peoples Health. JP was a natural move for Sonia as she is driven by a passion for financial literacy, and educating both adults and younger people about making healthy generational wealth decisions. Sonia says, “I teach them to look at money from a new perspective, allowing money to work for them and not the other way around. Enabling people to see that all dollars matter, regardless of their economic status, is so important.” At JP Sonia will be focused on accountability, accuracy, and financial process and procedure. Her goal is to make sure our organization is operating efficiently and effectively together, as well as for individuals. Sonia states that St. Louis native, Maya Angelou, has been a wonderful influence in her life. Ms. Angelou’s words “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style” we’ve already found to be most apt for Sonia.

Mortgage Assistance for Illinois Homeowners

As a HUD certified counseling agency, Justine PETERSEN is here to support. We encourage anyone interested in learning more about mortgage assistance and the application process to contact us by emailing More information can also be found here.

Black History Is Always

As the month of February wraps up, so too does Black History Month. We want to remind everyone though that Black History is always. We’ve compiled this Black History Month playlist to keep those vibes going. So pull (it) up!