Have you ever met someone in life whose energy, zest for life and passion is easily contagious? Spend about fifteen minutes with Louise Thaxton, a 61-year-old mother of four; grandmother of 17; and the director of Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation’s American Warrior Initiative; and you will quickly be infected.
With a career in the mortgage industry nearing two decades, Louise’s career path has endured despite obstacles encountered along the way. In fact, not even 2005’s Hurricane Rita would level her career despite it taking out a portion of her husband’s farming business. In fact, it was that storm that whirled her into the direction of Fort Polk in Louisiana to drum up more business to make up for the loss of her husband’s income.
Upon her arrival to the military town, Thaxton had no previous experience working with service men and women. In fact, she really hadn’t been exposed to military culture at all, but it wouldn’t be long before she was quickly introduced. While networking the unfamiliar territory, she became acquainted with a leading real estate agent who regularly served military families. In trying to gain referrals, she quickly discovered the real estate agent was fiercely protective of the service men and women she served and recounted what that agent said.
“There I was, asking for her business and she threatens me and says, ‘You better take care of my Sergeant.’ She was so adamant,” explained Thaxton. “This lady had grown up in Leesville [near the base] and was one of the top real estate agent’s [in that area]. But I realized she was just protecting them from anyone who might not handle their mortgage correctly. So after that, I fell in love the first time when I sat across the desk from a young man just back from Iraq—and I felt like—I have to do this right. I have to do this right.’”
Now, years later, doing it right may be a bit of an understatement. After she came to realize how important it was to take care of our heroes, she said she went to bed studying the VA manual and was intent on educating herself on the military culture, VA loans and military resources. Before long, she became a self-proclaimed, “watchdog” between the warriors and the wolves. Having a heart for doing what was right on their behalf was the driving force behind her new mission. “I just thought, what if this were my son in a different state and I knew he had risked everything to serve, how would I want him to be treated if he were purchasing a home?”
Having the mortgage industry as a platform enabled her to move forward serving the military her way. Thaxton explained that before she decided to devote her career to servicemen and women, she was an average loan officer closing, an estimated, five-to-six transactions per month. After she started serving the military, however, her transactions went from 70 units per year to 280 units per year. “When people asked how I did it, I explained it was because I had a heart to serve those who served.”
Taking her mission to heart, Thaxton would find ways to give back as well, and started giving a portion of each loan she closed to various non-profits. But, it was around four years ago, when Thaxton was introduced to the Boot Campaign that her involvement eventually reached new heights. After seeing a post about the Boot Campaign on Facebook, and that same day, seeing a segment on Fox News about the foundation, she decided to do her own research and looked them up online. “I went to the website and I saw, ‘Get Your Boots On’ and I thought, ‘Now that is cool!” Shortly thereafter, Louise ordered 17 pairs of boots, one for each employee in her company at that time and designated every Friday as a day to get their boots on. She became so taken by the campaign that she scheduled her employees to take a group photo in their boots and created her own video. At that point, she decided with every loan she closed, she would buy a pair of boots and give them away to help spread the word. Because of the response she received, Thaxton quickly employed the Boot Campaign’s mission into her everyday work. When she spoke or gave presentations, she would wear her boots and show her video. Just last month, she took part in a Seattle half-marathon in the very first pair of boots she purchased. Because of her passion and enthusiasm spreading like wild fire, the Boot Campaign soon found out about Louise and before she knew it, they enlisted her as an ambassador.
But, her efforts didn’t end there. She took her message to Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation, the company for which she has worked for almost 14 years. At an annual meeting for her company, she shared the mission of the Boot Campaign and proposed what could be possible with employee donations, and within ten minutes, over $250,000 was pledged by the employees over the course of a year through payroll deductions.
Thus, Fairway’s American Warrior Initiative was born. Since its inception, a number of programs have been implemented to contribute to the Boot Campaign and its initiatives. For instance, the “Give a Day, Get a Day Program” enlists employees to give up one day’s worth of pay and in return, that employee will get a day off. Because of these generous Fairway employee contributions, the Boot Campaign receives monthly checks through that program.
To date, Fairway’s commitment has also generated enough money to sponsor mortgage-free homes for 26 wounded heroes through the campaign’s housing assistance initiative.
Thaxton continually seeks for ways to generate funds and raise awareness for our servicemen and women, not just through the mortgage industry, but related industries as well. With this goal in mind, she was able to recruit the help of Todd Duncan another industry leader who hosts the annual Sales Mastery event and Dave Savage of Mortgage Coach. Between the three of them encouraging as many mortgage companies as they could to get their boots on and contribute, they raised $300 thousand for the Boot Campaign and presented the check last October.
Other programs that Fairway has put in place continue to build the momentum of giving back and raising awareness. The education of mortgage and real estate professionals on how to best serve the military community is another important mission within their American Warrior Initiative. As of this date, Louise has held dozens of boot camps around the country and trained almost 4,000 real estate agents. A key part of these boot camps is a call for real estate agents and mortgage professionals to “get their boots on”!
As the watchdog for servicemen and women, Thaxton has also been able to do more than just protect and serve. But, she won’t take sole credit for the success in the spread of her passion. She explains that Fairway’s CEO, Steve Jacobson deserves credit for ensuring the efforts move forward and continue spreading.
“Just the fact that Fairway does have an initiative probably sets us apart,” explained Thaxton. “To me, it’s not so much what we do, it’s who we are. We are a giving company. Without the cooperation and participation of Steve Jacobson, it never could have happened and he has been behind it all the way.”