ORLANDO, Fla. – Every neighborhood association needs a champion. Someone needs to organize, plan, and keep residents up to date on the comings and goings.
Madeleine Francois has been this person for the St. Andrews community of MetroWest for nearly 30 years.
Francois is the 2021 winner of the City of Orlando’s Neighborhood Champion Award.
She moved to the area 26 years ago.
At the time, large sections of the planned community were still sand and scrub. She remembers watching the other homes on her street being built.
“There was nothing down this side and nothing on that side,” Francois said. “I just saw it all develop around me.”
Homes were eventually built and it was time for the builder to turn the association over to the homeowners. Everyone was asked to be on the board.
“He invited us and he wanted people to come together so we could get some members and I was the only person to show up. Nobody else,” Francois laughed, adding that she settled on taking the role of Landscaping Chair Person.
“At the time I was very honest,” Francois remembers. “I said, I have never done anything like this before so I’m expecting to get help from everybody.”
For years to come, that would be the way Francois got things done. She eventually served 15 years as president.
Neighbor, Gerri Lostlen said Francois has a way of motivating others.
“She gets things done,” Lostlen said. “She’s got a kind heart and she looks out for everybody.”
Lostlen, Manuel Fernandes and Alberto Fernandes gathered in Francois’ home. They all served on association committees over the years.
“She gets results,” Manuel Fernandes said. “She did a lot for this community.”
“The result is everyone lives in a nice neighborhood,” Alberto Fernandes adds.
Francois was responsible for getting a fountain feature built, adding street-side lighting, updating the neighborhood’s security system and creating a neighborhood watch program. She said she is most proud of creating bonds between neighbors by organizing the first National Night Out event in MetroWest and many holiday parties.
She was also recognized by the MetroWest Master Association for her outstanding support in 2019.
“If you live in a place and you want the place and the community to look good and for everyone to work together, you can’t sit back and let someone else do it. You have to pitch in and that’s what I was doing.”
Francois stepped down as president but still plays an active role in her neighborhood association.