The COVID-19 pandemic has brought challenges many people couldn’t have anticipated, but it also brought forward people who could overcome those challenges, like Francis Shaw, this year’s Lovington Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the year.
Shaw was able to sew and organize others to sew more than 16,000 masks for healthcare workers and patients at Nor-Lea Hospital when personal protective equipment was scarce and the hospital was in need.
Although there was not a big celebration this year due to COVID-19 this was the most heartfelt year yet Chamber Executive Director Leslie Boldt said.
Shaw’s family and Boldt worked to surprise the winner — something Boldt does with the winner’s family each year. With social distancing and COVID-19 safe practices in place, the five previous award winners and the chamber presented Shaw with the award over Facebook live.
David Shaw, Francis’ husband and CEO of Nor-Lea Hospital District, told her the hospital won an award to get her to attend and she was surprised when she found out it was all about her.
“I am very humbled by this,” Francis said after receiving the award. “(There were) many, many other deserving people.”
She told the News-Sun she loves serving her community.
“I think Lovington is a loving community. That’s what makes it a close nit family and helping anybody where we can,” Francis said.
During the 20 years the Shaws have lived in Loving-ton, Francis has spent time working as a teacher, helping at First Baptist Church, Rotary Club and has helped more than 300 kids as a volunteer as a Court Appointed Special Advocate.
“Family is the most important part of her life,” Dixie Drummond, former mayor and last year’s Citizen of the Year said of Francis.
When Francis’ husband David, came home early during the pandemic and worrying about getting masks for the hospital staff Francis kicked it into gear.
“He would have to send his staff into battle without proper protection,” Drummond said. “Francis said, I bet I can make some masks and get others to help me.”
Finding surgical drapes and a pattern, Francis made a YouTube video, which was used by others throughout the state and as far away as Maryland.
“Francis, who is a shy person, realized in order for this to work she would have to quickly organize others to help,” Drummond said. “The result: 16,000 masks.”
Francis told the News-Sun the combined efforts of elementary school kids to 80-year-olds worked to make masks for hospitals, churches, family members possible.
“We estimated between 100 to 200 people, but I have no clue really how many people,” Francis said. “Our goal was 5,000 and we ended up with 16,000 masks.”
The New Mexico Hospital Association and New Mexico Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase were given the video so others could utilize it throughout the state.
Nor-Lea employee, and another former citizen of the year, Kim Osborne spoke as a hospital employee about the difficult time when the pandemic began.
“We would come out of the hospital and we would see the sun shining and the birds singing and we couldn’t figure out how that was going on because it was a dark place. It was a very dark place,” Osborne. “Then we saw a bright spot. We saw Francis who put a plea out and we received emails asking for assistance.
“Dean Stanley once said the true call of a Christian doesn’t lie with doing extraordinary things, it lies with doing ordinary things in an extraordinary way. I can say Francis truly used her skills in sewing.”
Drummond told the News-Sun making so many masks during the pandemic is “so special” and that is what put Francis over the top to win this year.
“I don’t know her very well but I would sure like to,” Drummond said. “She seems like a wonderful person. The more I researched the better she looked.”
David spoke after Francis received her award and explained how his wife is an example to follow.
“She sets a great example for myself and others in service and gratitude to others,” David said.