One of the individuals working in the background to make so much of Mayor Sylvester Turner’s agenda and initiatives over the past seven years successful is none other than Janice Weaver who deserves a spotlight all her own.
If there’s one word that best captures Weaver’s essence, it is the one she uses whenever someone ask her how she’s doing—Amazing.
A cancer survivor who is proud and humbled by that fact, yet not defined by it, Weaver is a force of nature who impacts the local and national scene in a myriad of ways, including through her life-saving organization One Body Networking (OneBodyNetworking.org) that conducts multiple blood drives annually.
The Defender spoke with Weaver about her incredible life journey that includes working with Turner, US Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, founding a life-changing nonprofits, serving as a police chaplain, and more.
DEFENDER: How are you, Mrs. Weaver?
JANICE WEAVER: I am amazing. Let me tell you, after 10 years of remission (from cancer), every day is amazing. We’re celebrating that all year this year.
DEFENDER: Congratulations. Can you introduce yourself to Defender readers?
WEAVER: My name is Janice Weaver. I refer to myself as “The” Janice Weaver . The reason I do that is because I’m so amazing; in order for people to grasp that. And then also, it is a way to, if a person is not doing real great, or… people really don’t know how they are when you ask them truthfully, “How are you today?” So, the response is sometimes phony. Sometimes they have to think about it. So, when I say “I’m amazing” it just opens the door to tell people, “You are amazing.” I turned 65 on January 24, and so I’m an official senior citizen, I guess you say, now . I am married to an amazing husband. We have been married 40-plus years. We have four children, one deceased. So, we have three living children, eight grandkids and three great-grandkids.
DEFENDER: What do you do on a daily basis as the City of Houston’s Director of Community Relations?
WEAVER: I directly communicate with the community . It’s a wide range. I have a very good relationship with faith leaders in the community. I have a very good relationship with different community-type organizations, whether it is civic clubs, or it may be HOAs, other organizations, nonprofits—I deal a lot with nonprofits, which, I hope, has been a teachable moment for them over the eight years that we’ve been here. And I do a lot of youth activities. So, anytime there’s something going on in Houston and it’s community-related, I may help them by getting people there or finding possibly a sponsor to help them out with their event.
DEFENDER: Before that, you worked with US Rep Sheila Jackson Lee. So, who’s the better boss?
WEAVER: I’ll take the fifth . How dare you . They both are. Working in the federal government and then working for city, local government are two totally different worlds. I have been introduced to some great things, especially the federal world, meeting kings and queens, going to inaugurations and just working with federal partners across the globe. I mean, who would dream of something like that. And Congresswoman Jackson Lee, she’s a rockstar. Mayor Sylvester Turner, he’s a rockstar, equally. So, it’s been a good ride with both of them.
ABOUT JANICE WEAVER
Place of Birth: Houston
Favorite placed to eat: Graces. On Kirby. The fried chicken is bomb.
Currently reading: Emails . I read my Bible. Every day. But, I’m reading emails .
Mantra: Lord, just lead and guide me to do my best to serve the people.
DEFENDER: How were those first days in office as part of Mayor Sylvester Turner’s administration?
WEAVER: We came directly into office with disasters. Our first disaster was the Memorial Day Flood. Then we had the Tax Day flood, Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Emelda, COVID, the Winter Freeze, you name it. And then outside of Houston, we have gone as far as Florida, California, Puerto Rico, when they had their disasters. So, I’ve worked with agencies that are nonprofits that could help us to truck things out to other cities or fly things out to another country; like a company like A-Rocket who has been really, really good to us by helping us to get those things done. Getting water to Jackson, Mississippi. Having a one-day drive just to say, “Hey, Houston, we’re gonna try to get this water out.” So, shutting off McKinney and having people to come in and drop the water off or, or whatever items that may be needed, for a city. And it’s recently Pasadena, with the recent tornado we just had. So, working with a nonprofit agency called NACC, the National Association of Christian Churches. They have really been good. We have not wanted for anything, working with other nonprofits. We’ve been blessed to be able to be there for the citizens of Houston, because my taglines is, “It’s all about the city.”
DEFENDER: Before that, you worked with U.S. Rep Sheila Jackson Lee. So, who’s the better boss?
WEAVER: I’ll take the fifth . How dare you. They both are. Working in the federal government and then working for city, local government are two totally different worlds. I have been introduced to some great things, especially the federal world, meeting kings and queens, going to inaugurations and just working with federal partners across the globe. I mean, who would dream of something like that. And Congresswoman Jackson Lee, she’s a rockstar. Mayor Sylvester Turner, he’s a rockstar, equally. So, it’s been a good ride with both of them.
DEFENDER: Which role suits you best? Because you said it’s two different worlds. So, which one do you feel like is most congruent with your spirit?
WEAVER: Actually, both of them, believe it or not. Because I’m a can-do person. That’s what I’m known as. And so, again, in the federal world, I’ve worked with [Jackson Lee] as an administrative assistant; worked with her very closely. So, personal things, being able to keep secrets or not to discuss her private life. There was the time she was going through cancer, didn’t want anybody to know that. And, coincidentally, same thing with the mayor. He was going through cancer, didn’t want anybody to know that. And that is their right: to share or not to share. So, it’s really been amazing. I’ve been in the political sector for about 40 years now. And so, working with them in the community, boots on the ground, it’s been equally the same, really. I get a high off of helping people. It’s just what I do.
And, I have taught my children to do the same thing. And now teaching my grandchildren to do the same thing. If a storm or something happens and we need to, to set up to get items to people, they’ve been there with me. And they love it because they think it’s fun. But also, in the same breath, they’re helping people and they don’t even know that they’re helping people, which is kind of the same for me. I’m helping people, but, it’s like, “Am I really helping them?” Because I’m enjoying it just as much as the next person. Like I said, I get a high on helping people because it’s like, I have been blessed and so God has blessed me to be able to do that.
DEFENDER: To what do you attribute your heart for service?
WEAVER: Growing up as a Catholic, my uncle used to take us, on the back of his truck, we’d go to the big bread store and everything. They’d give us day-old bread and we would go through the neighborhood handing out those items. So, my Catholic background and my Catholic mentoring from my uncle, brought me to where I am today.
DEFENDER: I read that you early retired from AT&T after working there for nearly 25 years, yet, you’re still working. Why aren’t you out chilling on somebody’s beach somewhere?
WEAVER: So, this is my deal. So, you’re sitting at home and you’re doing nothing. Well, that’s not my gig. Now, my husband’s retired and he does nothing . And he doesn’t wanna do anything. I’m different. If I’m sitting, my mind is spinning: “What can I do? How can I help? Where can I go?” My mind is always… it never shuts off. If we’ve got a project or something going on, I go to bed at night, I may wake up three, four o’clock in the morning trying to think, “Okay, what is it that we can do to make this better?” Especially during Hurricane Harvey. Hurricane Harvey was one of the worst disasters that we experienced.
DEFENDER: What made Harvey so uniquely bad?
WEAVER: The city did not move. You couldn’t move in the city. Nobody could move. Nobody could go anywhere. And so, what we did or what I did, because we were in the room, we had Red Cross, we had OEM (Office of Emergency Management), we had fire department, we had all these people, and we would meet in these rooms every day, and I told the mayor, finally, I said, “I’ve gotta get out this sandbox. We’ve got to find a way to get this stuff to (the people).” And then I’m talking to my (community) partners saying, “Hey, we’ve got it. We’re ready to move.” And so, calling the pastors and the community folks saying, “Hey, we’re gonna set up and if y’all can get to us, we’re gonna make sure that you can get [needed supplies] to the community.” So, my mind is never at rest. It just wants to go, go, go. It wants to do, do, do .
DEFENDER: Yeah. I asked that question almost knowing the response, because my wife makes fun of me. She says, “You’re never gonna retire because you enjoy working too much.” So yeah, I can definitely relate.
WEAVER: That’s it. You enjoy doing it. I see people at work, they don’t enjoy being at work, they don’t wanna be at work, they don’t wanna help anybody. And I tell people, find you a purpose. There’s got to be something out there that you can do to be able [feel rewarded]. And I think helping somebody, to me, it’s always rewarding. Because at the end of the day, I can say, “God, how did I do today? Can I do more? What can I do different?”
DEFENDER: Your list of organizations that you volunteer for is beyond impressive, but I want to hear about the one that you founded, One Body Networking. What’s that all about?
WEAVER: As I said, I was working for Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee at that time. I got up to go to work one morning, on Monday morning. It was September 9, to be exact. And I thought that I was having a stroke. So, I called my daughter and told her. She rushed over, and we went to Willowbrook Methodist Hospital. And, to me, this is all a God thing. Because when we got to the hospital, the emergency room doctor was like, “No, I don’t think this is a stroke. So, we’re gonna hold off on giving you the medication that [we] would give to reverse the stroke.” I happened to be seeing an oncologist for a high protein count.
And Methodist has the best system in the world to me, because that emergency room doctor took a blood smear and sent it to my oncologist. My oncologist then sent it to a plethora of other doctors. And one of the things they found out is that my platelet count was only 5,000. Your platelet count should be 150,000 or above. The way they described it is that my body was in the shape of either a car wreck victim or a gunshot victim. It was traumatized because my blood had depleted out of my body. No visual signs of any blood loss or anything. So, finally they diagnosed me with what’s called TTP (Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura). TTP is a rare blood disease. The way that they treated is with plasma freeze.
So, they immediately started treating me. They had to put the port in, just like a dialysis patient. And so they started giving me this plasma freeze where I was cycling this plasma in and then cycling out. Kind of flushing, I guess you could say. I was in ICU for 22 days that they did that because you have to be in quarantine to get it done. Then, I was in the hospital for like 29 days, the first time. The first couple of days I went through the treatment it, and (my platelet count) would get back up to maybe like 130, 140,000. But then it would plummet right back down. I was like, “Oh man.”
After they did that for about two weeks, the oncologist said to me, “If this does not work, you are gonna have to start doing chemo.” And I was like, “Oh no. I don’t want no chemo .” And it’s crazy because every time something happened to me, “Oh Lord, not the stroke thing.” Then they’ve got to the chemo. “Oh Lord, not the chemo . I don’t want that.” And each time God found favor in me. So, like I said, 22 days of the plasma-free treatment, several hundred units of plasma. No idea where the plasma came from. I would ask them, “Does my family need to come up and give blood?” They responded, “No. We got you.” So, that was a blessing.
So, once I healed, I wanted to give back; you know, pay it forward. So, I was like, “I wanna do a blood drive,” and they were like, “You don’t have to do that.” So Methodist was like, “If you just wanna do it, we’re gonna do it.” But I thought that was the right thing to do, actually, to replenish the blood. So, we did it at a facility called Texas Women Empowerment Foundation, Deavra Daughtry. She has a very nice building. So, she allowed me to use the building. Methodist came out, and we had our first blood drive. After that we just kept having blood drives, blood drives, blood drives.
And so here we are, nine years later, still doing a bunch of blood drives. As a matter of fact, I have one scheduled for February 25. I call it “Giving the Gift of Life.” I also call it, “It’s in Your Blood to Save a Life.” And, recently, my nonprofit, the foundation gave me a celebration for my 10 years in remission. That celebration turned out to be awesome because there were two people that I know here personally in Houston that were getting blood transfusions this past weekend. And I thought, “Wow. This is the reason that I do this.” Because these individuals are getting blood transfusions.
DEFENDER: How did the pandemic impact your work?
WEAVER: With COVID and what have you, the numbers (of blood donors) went down tremendously. So we did something called a “Blood Drive Tour.” You know how concert artists go on tour? Well, we went on tour with our blood drives. So, we had we had 11 months straight of blood drives, is what we did. And because of that, Gulf Coast Community Blood Center awarded us what they call the Small Hero Award. And we beat out the Jewish Community Center and we beat out the Houston Museum of Natural Science. So, we were super proud of that. Yeah. The blood drive thing has just been a natural. Again, my community experience… we don’t have blood drives. We have what’s called blood events.
DEFENDER: What’s the difference?
WEAVER: So, each blood drive is different. We also have sponsors. Like I’ve had Burns BBQ come out, and they have given away free barbecue to people. We’ve had the snow cone, slush man come out giving it away. When people come and they’re nervous about giving blood, you have something to kind of distract them from that. And then we also have raffles. We give gift cards. Every person that successfully donates can get like a $25, $50 gift card. World Youth Foundation has been a sponsor of that. They provide the gift cards and we provide them to the people coming and give blood. And then the other major, beautiful thing, nothing planned, is that when I started having blood dries, people would say, “Oh, well I don’t wanna give blood. I’m just gonna give you some money.” So, I found that we had thousands of dollars sitting there, and I’m like, “What are we gonna do with this money?” Because I know you gotta get rid of it. I can’t just keep it, I can’t go buy me some furniture, or what have you. So, we started doing scholarships. Last year we were able to give two $750 scholarships and nine $500 scholarships. And these scholarships are probably the best scholarships in town because there was no requirement. We have to change that now though, unfortunately.
I come from the underserved community. And my parents, they weren’t poor, but they weren’t knowledgeable, I guess you say, about what to do for a child growing up. And so there are still those other Janice Weavers out there whose parents really don’t know anything about what they’re doing. They’re trying to get by the best way that they can. So, when they graduate, they could take that money and they can go buy them some new clothes. A lot of them have their own cars. They might pay their car insurance; just whatever. Because it’s for them. It doesn’t go to school. It goes directly to them.
DEFENDER: And, it’s for high school students going into college or for college students?
WEAVER: High school students going to college. I think we’re going to extend that to college students this year. We’re gonna have our board meeting and then we’re gonna decide how that’s gonna work. Because college students need it just as much as the high school students need it.
DEFENDER: Where did your passion for community service and for politics come from? Was that what eight-year-old Janice Weaver was thinking about?
WEAVER: No. When I was a teenager, you had the likes of Senfronia Thompson. You had Judson Robinson. And Ernest McGowan and I were kinda-sorta, like friends. Not real friends, but friends. And so, they would do this great thing—block walking. And we’d go block walking. We’d go knock on people’s doors, tell ’em about [upcoming elections]. And then the best part of it, we got paid to do it . So here we are, teenagers, we’re getting a hundred bucks just to go knock on some doors. o, block walking, phone banking. Again, it just comes back to wanting to reach people, wanting to teach people to be able to do things.
DEFENDER: Break down the phone banking experience.
WEAVER: Phone banking; you really get people who are not really educated, but they just need a job. But you have to teach them, this is not just a job. You have to have your courtesy. You have to be polite. You have to be all those things. You can come here and pick up the phone, but I need you to have a little energy behind that. And then I need you to care about the candidate. I worked for Mayor Turner, all three terms. I worked for Jackson Lee, helped out with many other candidates. Really. So again, service for me is enjoyable no matter what it is.
DEFENDER: As if that’s not enough, I also read that you’ve done some chaplaincy work with the police. How, how did that come about? And do you still do that?
WEAVER: Yes, I do. I’m a chaplain with the Harris County Chaplaincy, as well as the Houston Police Department chaplaincy. So that came about because, with me again, working community, I felt like that in order for me to pull a minister or a faith leader into doing that—and it’s like a 10 week course that you have to take and then continued education as well—I thought that if I took the time, and this was like 10 weeks, twice a week, after work, not during work… I could then ask faith leaders to do it.
So, I took the course and then it also gives you an opportunity to learn about our law enforcement agencies. These guys are everyday common people just like you and I are. And then doing ride-alongs with them. When you’re riding along, especially if it’s a night, you learn a lot about them—”I’m married, I’m divorced, I’m this. I’m that. My wife is blah, blah, blah.”—and in a way, really servicing them. Because they need to have that conversation. Whereas, they wouldn’t have it probably with a partner or whoever. But it’s in confidence also. And we give death notices. We’re involved, and it’s a way to take some of the strain off of our law enforcement officials to be able to have a common person go and share with somebody, “I’m sorry to let you know that your loved one was found dead or was in a car crash, or just whatever,” whatever the situation may be.
DEFENDER: Favorite thing about Houston?
WEAVER: I just recently stayed at the Hilton and had my grandkids, because I had this big event this past weekend. It was amazing. I always like to include my grandkids. So, I got a room for them. And our view was the Discovery Green area. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Remembering back in the day, what it was like, and seeing what it is now. Just proud for people. And I had some people here from New York, Chicago, Dallas, and they were just admiring and were just like, “Wow, this is so pretty.” So, I would say that our city is a beautiful city, and we’ve done some amazing things. And being a part of that, with the mayor’s administration, it’s just been, it’s been awesome.
DEFENDER: Most memorable moment working for Mayor Turner?
WEAVER: Inauguration Night. Being a part of that three years , trying to get over that hump, Inauguration Night, just to say “We did it; we finally did it.” Because it was hard. It was hard. And then everything that came with it after that. The city has done some amazing things. Like, I’ve hosted Jazz Education with Bubbha Thomas. When we finally got in to help them out, they were giving out like $5,000 in scholarships. We gave out $50,000 in scholarships. And then seeing the kids. And then seeing Houston come together for an event like that. And then the mayor has another event that I do called “Family Day in the Park” at Sylvester Turner Park in Acres Homes. Everything is free. Everything is free. You don’t have to pay for anything. It’s all free. And that’s my baby.