It all began with a big pile of shredded paper.
About 35 years ago, a group of Club supporters rallied the troops to collect and shred newspapers as a Club fundraiser. Greeley resident Nick Francis willingly helped out at the event with his friend Bob Childers, and he was immediately hooked—on the Club’s mission and the big smiles he saw on the kids’ faces.
On Saturday, May 1, Nick and Jan Francis were able to experience their own rally-the-troops moment. Taking the stage at Elegant Night to accept this year’s Champion of Youth Award, the couple shared their decades-long story of philanthropy, inspiring others to donate and generously offering to match funds for those who did.
Until now, the couple was always content to give from behind the scenes: “It’s not about us,” Nick says. “It’s about the kids.” But they decided it was extremely important for them to travel from Tucson (where they live part of the year) in order to speak at the event.
“The purpose of us being there, or of anyone being honored in this way, is to encourage others to give,” says Jan. “So we were happy to do that, because we truly believe that it’s more blessed to give than to receive.”
Giving, they maintain, is even more of a blessing when you’re supporting such a great organization. “It’s unbelievable what the Club does, and the staff is so professional at helping these kids,” Nick says, adding that he and Jan had both attended YMCA programs back in St. Louis where they grew up, so the Club also brings back happy childhood memories. “The support of the Club to these kids, at this age, is phenomenal. They’re telling them that if you believe you can, you can succeed.”
The Francis family mission has always been to reach out and help those who need help the most. That includes not just Nick and Jan but their son Randy—a former Club board member—and Randy’s family. Donating to the Club is a meaningful way for Nick and Jan to achieve their goals, and they also support the community in other ways, including donating to Sunrise Community Health and funding a scholarship for local students who wish to transfer to UNC from Aims Community College.
Although the couple is grateful to be this year’s Champion of Youth Award recipients, they’re not looking for praise; they’re just trying to do their part to serve underprivileged people in their community. Thank-yous aren’t necessary, but they’ve been extremely touched when they’ve received handwritten cards and letters from those they’ve helped.
“What successful human beings these kids are,” Jan says. “It’s such an honor to help them and watch them succeed. We’re happy to be able to pay it forward.”