(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a feature series focusing on women who play powerful roles in Darke County. It will run on Fridays, in lieu of the Pillar of the Community, and will feature many more women.)
ANSONIA — Laura Francis is the epitome of a model Generation Y’er. She is tech-savvy, family-centric, achievement-oriented, team-oriented and attention-craving in the form of feedback and guidance as one website describes those of her generation.
The 2009 Ansonia High School graduate works, is continuing her education, volunteers her time [at a home for handicapped people in Muncie, Indiana, and as a religious education teacher at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Union City, Indiana, which she has been doing the past five years], works with 4-Hers, performs in Darke County Civic Theater productions, competes at the Great Darke County Fair, and gets a lot of personal satisfaction from using her skills [cake-baking, sewing and refinishing furniture] … and still finds time to get a run in.
“I’m rarely at home,” the 2011 Miss Annie Oakley said. “I pretty much go from one place to another. I don’t like being bored, so I try to keep busy.”
And, busy she is.
She had lived on campus at Ball State University, where she was studying elementary education and special education, but said she hated it that first year. Now, she living at home with her parents, Gary and Susie Francis, and travels to school several times a week.
Laura has also been working part-time at Kroger’s in the bakery for nearly four years, and is an avid baker just like her mother.
“Mom had me doing cupcakes at the age of 5 for fun,” Laura said. “I help Mom with bigger cake orders.”
As indicated before, she won the Miss Annie Oakley Shooting Competition in 2011, and is still on the committee helping when she can. Just recently, she and her significant other of five years, Brad Schafer, assisted Hugh and Melinda Linebaugh in putting up new directional signs for this year’s festival at York Woods north of Greenville on U.S. 127.
Laura, whose two older brothers, Chris and Ryan, are in the military, remembers well the evening she won the shooting competition.
“I shot from 100 feet back,” she said. “Dad taught me to shoot, but it’s too cold to go hunting for me. If I had time I probably would.”
Her younger sister, Rachel, was second runner-up in the shooting competition two years ago and may run again this year, if she can talk Laura into making her an outfit.
Yes, Laura can do that, too.
Mainly, she sews costumes for her productions as well as for whatever is needed around the house, such as curtains or cushions for the camper.
“I picked it up on my own,” Laura said, “But, my aunt, Lillie Gibbons, helped me a little as did my dad’s aunt, Eloise Barton.”
With the civic theater, Laura has been in many productions, mostly murder mysteries, and, if approved, she will be writing a murder mystery script next spring.
“It’s not completely finished, but I have a synopsis and characters,” she said.
She indicated there are two civic theater productions a year, with practices once a week for two months, which she juggles into her busy life.
She got involved while in high school when she was recruited by Dane Leeper, who spearheads some of the productions, especially melodramas.
“My first play was in a melodrama at Prairie Days,” she said. “After high school, I dropped out and then rejoined. At last year’s festival, I took the place of someone who dropped out at the last minute, and I still had my own stuff to do for the festival. But it was only two lines.”
She enjoys acting.
“Once you get into a character and start practicing it, you feel almost like that character,” she said.
Laura is a 4-H Cloverleaf adviser, in her second year advising for the Crowing Coops 4-H Club. Members are mainly a poultry group but do other projects as well. Laura herself was a 12-year member of 4-H program in her youth.
“I showed rabbits for a short period of time … a year or two … and poultry the rest of the time,” she said. “And, I did some scrapbook projects.”
Four days a week, Laura ventures to Muncie, Indiana, to help disabled adults at an art studio and gift shop.
“I started doing it for class, then I liked doing it, so I kept on going over,” said Laura, who will mark her 23rd birthday on July 13.
This summer, she has been working on some dressers.
“I wanted to redo my dressers, but it was too big a task,” she said. “I did my headboard and dresser this year. I just took on the project myself.
She also babysits two days a week, one day for a cousin and another day for the Bergman triplets down by New Madison.
Laura estimates she will be done with college in the fall of 2015.
“Then, I will hopefully find a teaching job,” she said. “I want to stay around here.”