Monticello school volunteer sought to carry on uncle’s legacy

Monticello Middle School volunteer Pamela Arechigo was the type of school volunteer who staff say positively impacted every teacher at the school in her eight years of service.

She dug into one project after another and quickly became an indispensable member of the school’s community, much as her great-uncle, Dr. Frank Ellison, was an indispensable member of Monticello’s school system and community for many years during the 20th Century.

Besides being one of the community’s first medical doctors in town, Dr. Ellison served on Monticello’s school board for 30 years, helped to organize the town’s American Legion Post and served as its first commander, among other things.

“I know how Dr. Frank loved the Monticello community and gave so much of his time to create a better living environment for the community,” Arechigo said. “When we chose Monticello as our ‘home,’ I knew I had to continue on the family legacy.  It became very important for me to carry on the Ellison tradition and give of my time and talents.”

Arechigo moved to Becker with her two daughters in 2006. At the time, she decided to open enroll them into the Monticello school district, despite the 17-mile commute each way to the schools.

“It was the right choice to do,” Arechigo said, despite the distance.  Arechigo, who was named the Monticello School District’s Friend of Education three years ago, dug her hands into a myriad of different projects to help the high school and especially the middle school, which she said expressed the most need for help when she initially inquired about volunteering.

“I have four pages of volunteer activities that she has been doing, and I have to figure out how we’re going to get this all done,” said middle school principal Jeff Scherber. “One person leaving the community will leave quite a void.”

One of Arechigo’s biggest projects was the implementation and running of the Middle School Collection Fund, which has raised over $12,000 for the school since 2007. The funds have been used for field trips, guest speakers and purchase of supplies and media center updates.

Arechigo started this fund by signing the school up for General Mills’ Box Tops for Education program, but kept expanding it every time she heard of a new way to raise funds for the school such as ink cartridge collection, milk caps and other programs.

However, the collection program was only one of the ways she helped out. Arechigo collected all types of different odds and ends jobs to keep the school running smoothly, from keeping the teacher work rooms, mail rooms and copy rooms stocked and organized, maintaining and organizing the school’s lost and found, laminating, walking the halls to hang up or take down posters and flyers and starting or working on booster program for the sports her daughters played, among other things.

Another volunteer project that snowballed for Arechigo was painting Monticello’s logo all around the school district. It began when she noticed that the middle school’s gymnastics room was pretty dull-looking and offered to pain the logo on the wall, and once word spread she found herself with several more painting projects to bring some school spirit to other spaces in the district as well.

“She took advantage of every opportunity to work in the schools and volunteer,” Scherber said. “Looking back at all the different things she has done, she has done a great job behind the scenes helping all the teachers and students.”

Now, with both of her girls graduated from MHS, Arechigo is moving on as well. Her fiancé has taken a job in the Milwaukee area and the couple will move Aug. 1.

On the last day of school, Scherber said he broke the news to the middle school staff that Arechigo would be moving out of state, and he said you could hear the collective sigh in the room, knowing they were losing a great volunteer and great person.

True to her nature, Arechigo is already planning how she will make an impact on her new community, saying she hopes to try her hand at hospital volunteerism this time around, as both of her parents worked at a hospital when she was growing up.

“It’s going to be hard,” Arechigo said of her upcoming move. “I’ve established a good footwork in the Monticello community and lots of friends. But I’ll always volunteer.”

“I know that in everything I have done, I have made Dr. Frank proud,” she added. “I’m so pleased that I was able to spend the past eight years in an area that has such rich family history.”

Scherber added: “She’s not just a great volunteer, but a great person as well. She’s really got a big heart and that’s illustrated by all the things that she has done.”

Freelancer Meghan Gutzwiller covers education and the Monticello School District.