Jennifer Neff-Whitlow is one of Goodwill of Central and Southern Indiana’s Nurse-Family PartnershipⓇ (NFP) Community Health Advocates. In this role, Jennifer introduces community partners and community members to NFP, networks with community partners throughout southern Indiana to bring referrals and resources to both the NFP moms and nurses, and consistently advocates for Goodwill through her work presiding on many county chamber boards and groups. Jennifer has over a decade of experience working in a similar role and uses her knowledge and experience to provide the best support for our nurses and program participants. Read below to hear more about this extraordinary leader!
What is your favorite part about your work and why?
I absolutely love working with my community partners. We are like family. We all collaborate when it comes to helping each other with referrals and resources. Prior to my current role, I was a case manager for 14 years where I would assist clients who were in crisis situations. I built my community around me in order to better assist my clients with resources and I’m thrilled to be able to continue fostering those relationships in my current role. By utilizing and continuing to build those valuable community partnerships, I’m able to provide our NFP South nurses with resources for their clients, whenever they need them. An equally favorite part of my work is when I get to talk to our new NFP participants. I am the first point of contact for our clients once they are referred; providing resources, program information and maintaining contact with them until they are assigned a nurse.
What do the next five years look like for you or your team or your area?
I’ve seen our team grow and flourish over the past few years, so I’d absolutely see that growth continuing. We now have a full team of eight nurses serving Clark, Crawford, Floyd, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Jennings, Scott and Washington counties. My certifications as a Child Passenger Safety Technician (CPST) and Direct On Scene Educator (DOSE) Trainer allowed us to partner with the Criminal Justice Institute and the Automotive Safety Program to bring a Car Seat Certification Course to Southern Indiana. We were able to hold it at The Excel Center in Clarksville and graduated seven new CPST’s, two of which were NFP South nurses. This past January, our offices in Southern Indiana became a permanent car seat fitting station, providing a great resource for our community. I can see us having another team of nurses join the NFP South team and continuing to take part in unique opportunities that provide resources for Hoosier families.
What is the biggest challenge in your work or role?
The biggest challenge by far has been the pandemic and the changes that came with it. We had to adapt quickly in order to continue serving our program participants, who were especially vulnerable. There were formula shortages in stores, many of our community partners had to cease in-person appointments and the housing resources we normally used became scarce. We also saw our program referrals drop as our partner agencies ceased in-person appointments with potential program participants. With the help of the NFP Nurses, we were able to reach out and forge new partnerships throughout our community, including some Obstetric doctors. I’m happy to say we’re slowly getting back to our pre-pandemic numbers though.
What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
The best career advice came from my late grandfather, Dr. Franklin Neff. He and I shared the same Christian faith, and whenever things were changing drastically, he would say that there was a season for everything, that God had a plan and all we had to do was be ready to embrace the changes. When funding was cut and I lost my job as a case manager, I remembered what he said and knew I just had to embrace whatever changes were coming. As I was working my last week as a case manager, the then Nurse Supervisor for NFP South attended a meeting at my agency. She and I chatted and she eventually asked if I’d be willing to interview for an Outreach Advocate position. Before I knew it, I was hired and started to work as an Outreach Advocate which soon turned into a Community Health Advocate and allowed me to be a certified Community Health Worker (CHW).
What would you like others to know about your work or role?
My job is very rewarding! Both my southern Indiana team and my outreach teams are like family. We encourage, empower and lift each other up every day. I love working for an organization where I am allowed to grow in my career and have the support to do so.
What would you tell someone who is thinking about a career at Goodwill?
I used to be one of the people who didn’t really know who Goodwill was and I definitely believed the social media gossip and negative rumors about the organization. There was even a time when I wouldn’t donate to Goodwill! Once I started working for the organization though, I found out how wrong I was. Now, I’m a huge advocate for Goodwill and I can’t wait to talk about all of the programs and services we offer. Goodwill is so valuable to the community, I absolutely love sharing all the wonderful things about Goodwill in my community presentations. I would encourage anyone to join the team at Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana.
Thank you to Jennifer for your service and dedication to Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana. We’re incredibly proud and very grateful to have you as a leader and advocate in our southern Indiana region.