Pay It 4ward: Shelter leader recognized for helping fire victims

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LAS VEGAS, N.M. – Through all the devastation and dark days in Northern New Mexico this year, we’ve seen bright lights shine through.

KOB 4 helped Pay It 4ward to perhaps the brightest light, who is still finding ways to shine for her community – months into the recovery process after those devastating wildfires. 

The fire and smoke have cleared in Las Vegas, but the recovery process is just starting.

Chuck Medina and his six kids got lucky. 

“We left at 3:30 in the morning and we had to be gone from our house for about two weeks,” said Chuck Medina, Pay It 4ward nominator. 

They came back to their home still standing, but they spent time eating hot meals, and getting their recovery questions answered at the Neighbors Helping Neighbors shelter in town.

“People from Mora County all the way up to Pecos were here,” said Medina. 

So was Janna Lopez, the shelter’s fearless leader, who’s been there every day since the state’s most destructive wildfire in history started in April. 

“She did it out of the goodness of her heart, and it was impressive because it was so much, and she just seemed to handle it really well,” Medina said. 

Medina describes her as the rock holding the whole operation together.

“Without her, I mean it might’ve been a worse disaster,” he said. 

So, it was time to Pay It 4ward with $400. We had no trouble tracking her down, she was front and center – working on how to help one of her neighbors.

“Janna thank you for everything you’ve done for the community. We’d like to thank you in this way,” said Medina. 

They were feeding more than 100 every day in the beginning, and meeting immediate needs.

“If they didn’t lose it to the fire they lost it to the flood, and we just have to help them rebuild a piece at a time,” said Janna. 

Janna says it’s now down to about 30 families per day, and they’re moving toward long-term recovery.

“We had probably 40, 50 volunteers in the beginning, and now we’re a group of 10. And it’s just unbelievable that we’re able to continue helping our neighbors and this $400 is gonna make a lot of people happy for Christmas,” she said. “We have a Thanksgiving event and now we’re in the middle of planning Christmas, so I’m gonna donate this back to Neighbors Helping Neighbors to help our neighbors have a better Christmas.”