Regional Partnerships

In the fall of 2015, USDA-RD Area Director, Joe De Ochoa, received a “why is your area not making very many grants for the elderly and disabled home renovation program?”. Since I was in his office, he looked to me for an answer and suggestion.  I determined the limited “in-house” staff was overextended and outreach efforts were not successful.  I recommended a partnership with a strong non-profit with the capacity to execute outreach and process applications.

A meeting with a long-time colleague, Mrs. Becky Ballou, and her great staff set the project in motion.  In a short time outreach was in full swing and applications began to come in, not only for Maverick, Zavala and Uvalde counties, but Dimmit, Frio, and La Salle counties as well.  The need was quickly addressed and awards to those much-needed repairs began to come to a realization.

Strengthening partnerships with non-profits provided scalable business processes, caseload management solution for accelerating the application and drive a consistent and compliant processing path for every application resulting in increased satisfaction in meeting the needs of residents. This system allocated tasks to appropriately skilled staff and provided a means to smoother cross-channel communications and resident interaction. Introducing this process ensured minority-owned businesses offerings to special grant funding and opportunities to get their business certified by the federal government to bid for specified projects. Serving small, disadvantaged businesses is the mission of PVAMU’s extension, the staff organized a HUB Conference and Expo themed “Business in Development”. The outcome of the conference resulted in three contractors becoming HUB vendors while answering the question alerted the community to support for elderly home renovation and rehabilitation through USDA-Rural Development funding.

  • More than 250 applicants have been reviewed
  • 167 awards
  • Regional Financial Impact of $1,540,511.
    • (On-going project)

(The 502 loans can also be attributed to the success of the outreach for the USDA Rural Development Housing Programs)

Phyllis Varnon


Phyllis R. Varnon
FCS Extension Agent Zavala County
(830) 374-2883