Franklin Countys First News

Northern Franklin County Literacy Center creates community hub

Phillips Public Library Librarian Hedy Langdon (left) and Franklin County Adult Education's Greta Espeaignnette at the Northern Franklin County Literacy Center held at the Phillips Public Library.

PHILLIPS - Facilitators of the Northern Franklin County Literacy Center never quite know who is going to walk through the doors of their Phillips Public Library classroom site. A grandmother wanting to learn how to read so she can have story time with her grandkids, an unemployed man needing help with a new job application, or maybe a high school student who just needs an extra boost to reach graduation.

"We're here so folks can achieve their goals. And in order to organically develop those relationships and build support in this region, we need to be here," Literacy Volunteers Director Barbara Averill said.

Averill is referring to the lack of a presence in the northern region of the county up until now. Franklin County Adult Education has two representatives who work in northern regions- one in Rangeley and one in Strong. Both staff members have operated out of the local schools, focusing primarily on High School Equivalency Test preparation or boosting support for students in danger of not graduating.

The Northern Franklin County Literacy Center aims to focus on a wider range of student- from the teens need to further their education to adults looking to catch up. The program brings together the diversity of support services through FCAE with the foundational support from Literacy Volunteers of Franklin and Somerset Counties. The two organizations have always worked closely together, and the new hub hopes to strengthen their presence for those living in rural towns such as Phillips, Avon, Freeman Township and Madrid. By choosing the location of the Phillips Public Library, the hub is within a 20-mile radius of the majority of the surrounding towns, relieving the need for someone to drive 40 miles to the FCAE central office in Farmington.

"We've recognized the needs and we are trying to respond to those needs. Our real purpose of being here is to build those relationships and communicate with people to let them know that FCAE services are being offered right here in their own community," Averill said.

Averill and FCAE MSAD 58 Coordinator Greta Espeaignnette have been working closely to get the center off the ground. The program officially kicked off six months ago, funded by a five-year grant earmarked for expanding services into rural areas of Maine. Espeaignnette heads up the FCAE offerings while Averill pulls in the literacy support, with an emphasis on families reading together. The collaboration with the library has been a driving force, both women said.

"We're in here, and we're hearing things like the local churches are closing because the community of the church is dwindling and they can't afford to keep it open. So where do people meet? Where are the community hubs? Well. It's here. It's at the library," Averill said.

So far the center has worked with local residents on a number of things. Many people have come in seeking help with applications, whether for a job or a credit card or health insurance. Literacy Volunteer tutors have met with their students in the space, and the center hosted a family game night that brought a small crowd of excited people to the library. Many people have come in for technological support, which Espeaignnette specializes in. Everything from how to use Facebook, to how to use a Fitbit, the lack of technology and technical support is a hugely apparent need according to Espeaignnette.

In addition to the regular, weekly offerings, a Career Perspectives class will be held bi-weekly beginning March 4. The class will help locals explore career possibilities and design a plan for applying and obtaining. The class will be every other Wednesday evening from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Also once a month, the center will be hosting Women, Infants, Children so that more families have access more easily. Averill said the idea being that parents come in for WIC-related purposes, but end up reading a book, or seeing that FCAE is there, and come back the following week for more help.

"What we're all doing together is building a community of literacy. That's what it's all about," she said.

For more information about the Northern Franklin County Literacy Center call Franklin County Adult Education at 778-3460 or the Phillips Public Library at 639-2665.

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3 Responses »

  1. Great job!

  2. The Phillips Library is so much more than books and computers. Thank you to the staff and volunteers who are always willing to host services and great programs that are needed in the community!

  3. This is a fantastic program and we are so blessed to have both of these dynamic women serving a very real need. Thank-you!