Maria Sykes (left) and Frances Erlandson (right) address the Spring Summit participants (Green River High School, March 2022)
This month we bid a fond farewell to Frances Erlandson who has spent the last two years with us here in Green River. Frances joined us as an AmeriCorps member to work with PACT and Epicenter in 2020. (Yes, you read that correctly: she volunteered for national service during a pandemic— what a rockstar!) During her year of service she was even recognized as AmeriCorps of the Month, an honor given to one AmeriCorps member monthly statewide. And despite the ongoing pandemic, Frances and her AmeriCorps cohorts (Darcie Quist, Emily Mora, and Doug Tolman) made excellent progress on their primary project, Pearl Baker Park. On any given day you could find Frances getting her hands dirty helping at the park, working with artists around the country to compile a forthcoming publication, lending a hand in the office, reading with kids at the library, and so much more. She even led the effort to get many local kids enrolled in Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program through which kids get reading level appropriate books delivered at home for free!
Maybe most importantly is that Frances stuck with it! After her year of service, Frances stayed in Green River for an additional year working primarily at PACT as Youth Programs Director, but also helping Epicenter on a few “small” (we say that jokingly) projects including our tremendously successful Spring Summit.
In her work at PACT, Frances is inspired by a love for reading and is often found taking field trips to our neighboring library. By encouraging library exploration, leading writing activities and facilitating paired reading, Frances hopes to generate excitement in literacy for the kids of Green River. — excerpt from Frances’ AmeriCorps of the Month nomination
To say Frances was an ideal fit for Epicenter would be an understatement. She studied poetry and architecture at Bennington College, a college in Vermont that Epicenter turns to often for interns and visiting artists. Plus, Frances is intimately familiar with the Southwestern desert, traveling through Green River many times before calling it home. Her perspective, lived experience, willingness to help, her joy, and her love for Green River will be missed in our daily work and life, but we know she’ll return to us in varying capacities in the coming years.
Past the library, three men wrestle a fire hydrant, us all watching porch-side, till something better passes, the train or a neighbor-boy telling: in winter when he fell below the ice, the others used a shotgun to break it. On the curb, the children dance for the semi-truck’s horn. In the post office, my tongue made delicate, held the Green heavier than its River. Like the goat tied to the sidewalk, the bleating not bloodied, but arriving. When I come back, when I bring you back, I will say, “here,” and “there,” my arms widened in the bed of the silvered truck. Permanently waving, for fear of missing someone. Spring again, everyone climbs out all at once, even the canal made new. — poem by Frances for Thrive 125, an initiative developed by the Utah Department of Cultural & Community Engagement to celebrate Utah’s 125th year of statehood
Need more Frances content in your life? Go back to the archives and read this post from her first days at Epicenter.