Mr. James Leonel Perez is the Executive Director. He graduated from Texas State University in the Fall of 1999 with a Bachelor's of Social Work degree. He is proud to be a founding father of one of the first Hispanic fraternities at Texas State University, Omega Delta Phi. After undergraduate studies, he served as a Child Protective Services (CPS) Caseworker in Nueces County for two years (1999-2000) advocating for the safety and well being of young and vulnerable children in the Corpus Christi and South Texas area.
Seeking a higher education, Mr. Perez pursued a law degree from South Texas College of Law and graduated in May of 2005. During his final year of Law School, Mr. Perez completed an internship working at the Harris County Children's Advocacy Center through the Harris County Attorney's office, observing child abuse cases in Houston's Family Law courtrooms.
In 2006, Mr. Perez was licensed by the State Bar of Texas and began accepting court-appointed cases in Wharton and surrounding counties. His practice focuses primarily on criminal law (including Juvenile law), family law (including CPS cases), and personal injury law. He is happily married with four beautiful daughters and a granddaughter. He says that he is "Thankful and Blessed" to work for Just Do It now because it allows him to "help the people in the community that need it the most". He has been on the JDIN Board of Directors since August of 2014, President of the Board since April of 2016. We are proud and honored to have his leadership, experience, and passion in leading JDIN as our Executive Director, a roll he accepted in April of 2019.
Barbara “Barbie” Fortenberry, is the Assistant Executive Director. She graduated from Wharton High School in 1993 and has three wonderful children. She is very invested in the community and loves serving the community with a great passion. She has over 25 years of management experience and over 22 years of working directly with the youth. She has volunteered with many organizations and served on several boards, such as Wharton Youth Football League, Wharton Girls Softball Association, East Wharton County Crime Stoppers, Colorado River Youth Football Coalition and more. She was honored by the Wharton Police Department in 2014 as Citizen of the Year. She volunteered with JDIN for three years before accepting the position as Activities Coordinator in 2012. Being a part of JDIN has been a blessing to her, she says, and in her life. She added, “I am honored to work for an organization that prioritizes serving our community. We surround ourselves with staff who have a heart and desire to see the members of our community have a safe place to grow mentally, emotionally, spiritually, educationally, and financially." There is no greater reward than to ensure our community is cared for and to ‘Love the Community Back to Health!’”
Patricia Swanks has served as the Youth Program Leader since early 2020. “One thing I love about my job is the ability to work with kids from all walks of life.” Patricia has been working with children and youth for over 10 years and each child brings something special to her, as she prays she does for them. “Another thing I love about Just Do It Now is the fact that we help our kids, families, our community, and other organizations. JDIN is more than just a job, we are family, and what does family do? We stick together. That is what we do here at JDIN. Also, one thing that touches me so deeply is how our leadership acknowledges the work ethics of their employees and praises them with these words, ‘I see your hard work, I see your heart in the work you do and thank you for all you do. The thank you means so much to me because it is heartfelt.”
Xavier Hearse, has been working at Just Do It Now since July of 2020. He has lived in Wharton all of his life. He graduated from Wharton High School, then graduated with an Associate Degree at Wharton County Junior College. As a teenager, he was a member of the Wharton Wolves Select Basketball team with Just Do It Now. Many memories were made, and life-long lessons learned through this program. “The thing I love about working at Just Do It Now is that we always help serve the community! It’s great to put smiles on people’s faces while serving them.”
Crystal Rodriguez was born and raised in Wharton. She married her husband, Patrick Rodriguez, in 2006 and they have three beautiful daughters. Crystal serves as the Administrative Secretary and is over registration of The Food Bank of Victoria Program for Wharton County at Just Do it Now. She volunteered with JDIN for several years before accepting her position in 2017. "It has been a true blessing to be a part of such an amazing organization. It has taught me to understand so much about people in our community, giving back and expressing my faith in God openly. I could not imagine not working here.
Akaih’ Terrell-Randall graduated from Wharton High School. She is currently a Junior at Prairie View A&M University and on the Dean’s List. She is working towards a Major in Sociology and a Minor in Communication. She has been working at Just Do It Now since 2018 and plans on being a social worker. She has been working with the youth of Wharton for over six years through her church and various other organizations. "I love working at JDIN because we stick to our motto of “Loving the Community Back to Health.” I enjoy helping guide young children and helping them further their education. I love being a role model and showing them that there are no limits as to what they want to do in life and that anything is possible."
Yanitza Gonzalez is currently a Boling High School Senior and will graduate in May 2021. She has been working at JDIN since September 2021. After graduation, she plans to attend college and major to be an English teacher. "Working with the children at JDIN has been a great experience and I am thankful for the opportunity to be here. It has brought me much peace and love to be able to work with the kids and be able to help the community in such a wonderful way."
Emelia Lozano has been working with JDIN since September 2019 as the master cook for the “Yes We Can” Afterschool and Summer Programs. She enjoys cooking a nutritional hot cooked meal daily for our children and youth. She also enjoys working for JDIN because she has seen how the team works together as the family they are. "I love to see the smiles on the members faces when we go on field trips and have parties/celebrations for holidays and events. It blesses me to see them blessed! God has truly blessed us all at Just Do It Now."
Devory Ann Francis, graduated from LaMarque High School in 1984. I then attended College of the Mainland for a year and then relocated to Wharton. Ever since, she has been serving the community of Wharton. She also served on the Wharton Beautification Committee for two years. Most of her years and dedication has been with Pizza Hut. Known to most as Ann, she started her career at Pizza Hut as a cook and worked her way up to Manager. She was with Pizza Hut for 30 years. She also worked at Valero in Wharton part-time while maintaining her work at Pizza Hut for 2 ½ years. In 2015, she became Assistant Manager at Valero and began a full-time position there until June 2019 when she was able to join Just Do It Now as the Food Program Manager/Administrative Assistant. "I love what I am able to do here and how we serve the community of Wharton. What I love most about my job is meeting and working with youth of all ages. I hope that I am able to make an impact on their lives because they have really made an impact on mine!"