D

riven By Purpose

My Path to my Why
Meet the Faces Behind Justine Petersen: Unveiling their WHY! Get to Know Our Talented Staff and Their Stories on Our New Staff Biography Page.
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Company Photo
Company Photo

Fredrica "Cookie" Graham

Chapter 1: Roots of Inspiration

Once upon a time, there was a spirited young woman named Fredrica Burnett—me. In April of 1999, at just 23 years old, I embarked on a new adventure, arriving at a small, close-knit organization known as JP, with my two little children, DeVante: aged 5, and Viveca, aged 3, by my side. Though young and inexperienced, I was brimming with determination and love for my children.

Chapter 2: A Legacy Unfolds

As the years passed, I watched Justine Petersen evolve, weaving a tapestry of trust and resilience within its walls. The bonds forged between clients and employees were more than transactions; they were testaments to the enduring spirit of collaboration and support. With each passing day, I found myself captivated by the stories of transformation and the unwavering dedication of our founders, Rob and Sheri.

I started as a volunteer receptionist, my nerves often getting the best of me as I worried about whether I could measure up and secure a permanent position. But my dedication and warm spirit shone through, and within just a few weeks, I was the newest full-time hire!

Chapter 3: Stepping into the Light

Back then, Justine PETERSEN was affectionately known as a "Mom & Pop" organization, a small team that felt like family. The office atmosphere was relaxed and inviting, filled with warmth and camaraderie. Rob, the CEO, was a firm believer in comfort at work, encouraging everyone to get the job done while feeling at ease in their attire. It wasn't uncommon to see staff members in scarves and house shoes, much to the amusement of our clients. The memory of Chonda, one of my colleagues, roller skating around the office still brings a smile to my face. Those were the days of laughter and light-heartedness.

Chapter 4: A Journey of Growth

I found my place within the Housing Department. I dove into roles that included Housing Counseling, Down Payment Assistance, and Home Loan Closer. In 2001, I welcomed my third child, Malik, into the world. In true JP family spirit, I brought Malik to work with me until he started walking. This early bonding meant Malik grew very attached to me, making his transition to daycare showed to be a challenging one. Often I found myself picking him up from daycare and bringing him back to the JP office where he was a familiar face to all.

Tragically, Malik's story took a heartbreaking turn. At just 13 years old, while practicing varsity football in the Granite City High School gym, he suffered a fatal heart attack. This devastating loss shattered my world. But in my darkest hour, my JP family rallied around me, providing unwavering support.

The grief took a heavy toll on my health. I lost my eyesight and developed leukemia, among other health issues. It seemed as though life had dealt me more than I could bear, but my spirit remained unbroken. I stood tall, drawing strength from my passion for helping others and the steadfast support of my workplace.

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Epilogue: 25 Years Later

My journey has been shaped by the incredible leadership at JP, molding me into the resilient and compassionate woman I am today. Even as the company has grown and evolved, its core values remain intact, guided by the same CEO and COO who have always steered it in the right direction.

Today, I cherish my time with my loving husband, daughter Neecy, and my grandchildren. I also find joy in watching my sister Rhoda G perform with her saxophone, each note is a reminder of the vibrant life and enduring love that surrounds me. My story is one of strength, perseverance, and the unwavering support of a community that truly feels like family.