Meet the team from Friends of the Children–Lane County Oregon.

Frankie Cohen-Rencountre

Frankie Cohen-Rencountre

Professional Mentor - Friend

Frankie Cohen-Rencountre

Professional Mentor - Friend

Frankie joined Friends of the Children in August 2021. Frankie has worked with children for much of her adult life, beginning as a relief care provider for a foster child and most recently working with early childhood and elementary students in Minneapolis Public Schools for four and a half years. Frankie as also worked at summer camps, day camps, and as an education assistant at a children's museum. She brings an amazing combination of education, prior experience in mentorship and education, and skills in communication, facilitation and collaboration to her new role as a Friend.

As an educational support staff, member of the LGBTQ+ community and a parent of Native children Frankie has seen just how important relationships and support for individual as well as cultural identity are to the success of our youth and families.

Frankie loves working with children and is committed to supporting our youth in all areas of academic and social success.

Elliott VanZandt

Elliott VanZandt

Professional Mentor - Friend

Elliott VanZandt

Professional Mentor - Friend

Elliott joins friends of the children with over 13+ years of experience of working with youth. 10+ of those years were specifically working with young people struggling with mental health. Elliott is originally from St. Louis, Missouri. He started working with young people by taking a temporary position at a summer camp in northern Minnesota. When Elliott finished working at the camp, he wanted to pursue working with young people full-time. Educating, guiding, mentoring, and learning from them. Elliott has lived and moved all over the country chasing jobs with that purpose and meaning. Including working at Leadership camps, in outdoor education, wilderness therapy, adventure therapy, at a residential boarding school, and young adult transitional programs in places ranging from Missouri to Minnesota, North Carolina to Utah, and finally landing in Oregon. Recently Elliott and his wife have bought a house and have made Eugene and Lane County their permanent home. Elliott is excited to be part of the Friends team and aligns with their values, goals, and mission. Elliott is excited to mentor and work with the Children and learn and grow alongside of them.

Perry Washington

Perry Washington

Professional Mentor - Friend

Perry Washington

Professional Mentor - Friend

Perry joined Friends Lane County in November 2021, coming to us after over 10 years working with marginalized youth in Lane County. Through his prior work as well as Pop Warner coaching Perry has developed a relationship focused approach to services and found himself continuing to gravitate to mentoring roles. Having worked with runaway and homeless, LGBTQIA+, nonnative speaking, ODHS, and youth of color has been a wealth of learning experience. Perry enjoys the personal interactions and continuing to gain and share knowledge with developing minds. Having been blessed to help many children and families, though for relatively short periods, Perry is excited to be with Friends of the Children, making a long-term commitment seeing kids through graduation.

When not working Perry enjoys spending time with his partner, three kids and a spunky cat.

Daysha Denight

Daysha Denight

Professional Mentor - Friend

Daysha Denight

Professional Mentor - Friend

Daysha Denight joined Friends Lane County in December 2021. Daysha brings a great combination of work and lived experience to her new role as a Professional Mentor – Friend. When starting at University of Oregon, she worked towards a degree in Human Physiology in hopes of becoming a physical therapist. After working as a Camp Counselor with Duck Trails and a Tutor with BEST Afterschool Program, she found a love of caring for children and watching them grow. She switched gears and obtained a Bachelor of Science in Educational Foundations in June 2021. Daysha is very excited be a friend to kids, to help them set academic, social, and emotional goals for themselves, and witness them achieve those goals. When not working, Daysha enjoys traveling with her partner, spending time with her dog and cat, and trying new recipes in the kitchen.

Abi Hernandez

Abi Hernandez

Professional Mentor - Friend

Abi Hernandez

Professional Mentor - Friend

Abi Hernandez joined Friends-Lane County in March of 2022. Abi has worked as a youth development professional both while continuing her education and after graduation from Chapman University. Abi has worked at Loch Leven camp in California and, most recently spend two years in Japan working at a unique school that holds a 9-month training program for rural leaders from the most poverty-stricken areas of Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. As a second generation Guatemalan-Mexican-American Abi brings a keen understanding of the challenges around blending cultures, succeeding through adversity and the tremendous value of supportive adults in children’s lives. Abi is eager to integrate the combination of her background, being a positive influence on children and understanding the impact of one person on entire communities to her new role as a Friend. When not at work Abi enjoys hiking, dancing, watching movies, and exploring her new home city of Eugene.

Sloan Hamilton

Sloan Hamilton

Program Director

Sloan Hamilton

Program Director

Sloan’s 20+ years of youth and family engagement experience comes from previous roles running residential camps and retreat centers, and community parks and recreation programs. Sloan has been responsible for staff/volunteer development and training, outcome-based program design and implementation, youth and young adult development, family engagement and events, fundraising and marketing, emergency action plans, facility management, site development/ land-use, budget development, asset management, and food/nutrition services. Learning from and working with diverse populations, generations, and people of differing abilities has defined Sloan’s career.

When not working, Sloan loves playing in the outdoors – walking the dogs, kayaking, tree climbing, hiking, and gardening; as well as playing indoors - backgammon, cooking, watching sports, and lounging with family are all favorites.

Cynthia Nagao

Cynthia Nagao

Family Engagement Specialist

Cynthia Nagao

Family Engagement Specialist

Cynthia joined Friends Lane County as our first Family Engagement Specialist. Cynthia has a long history of serving youth and families in both Hawaii and Oregon. She has served in a variety of roles, including Site Coordinator for CAFA’s Supervised Visitation Program, Board Member and Youth Leader for Life Church in Thurston, and Treatment Foster Parent through OCP. In her role as Family Resource Coordinator at Hamlin Middle School for 14+ years, Cynthia has been the driving force behind multiple key initiatives such as Student Voice, Y.W.E. (Young Women Empowerment), HMS Career Fair, Game of Life, and a variety of mentoring programs. She also spearheaded several fundraising and community events for youth and families in need. . Prior to this, her 15+ years experience in hospitality and hotel management equipped her with a unique set of skills to pursue positive impacts for our community. She serves as a Co-Chair of the 90by30 Springfield Regional Leadership Team, and is involved in initiatives for developing a youth center in Springfield. Cynthia was introduced to Friends of the Children in 2018 and her passion for youth mentorship services made her an instant fan.

In her free time, you might find her at the coast, walking her dogs, tackling her latest DIY project, traveling, or spending quality time with friends or family.

Matt Springer

Matt Springer

Executive Director

Matt Springer

Executive Director

Matt Springer joined Friends of the Children in 2020 as Executive Director of the Lane County Oregon, location where his career in social services began 22 years ago. After stints working for various local nonprofit agencies, including Looking Glass and Northwest Youth Corps, Matt gained a Master's in Public Policy and Certificate in Nonprofit Management from the University of Oregon. Fueled by a strong commitment to social justice and systems reform, Matt championed sweeping changes in the higher education system in Montana prior to returning to Lane County in 2017. Recently, Matt served as the Programs Director for Northwest Youth Corps, serving close to a thousand youth each year through immersive workforce programs across Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. Matt's wife, twin children and their dog, Hank Stamper, live in Eugene where an affinity for Sweet Life's cinnamon rolls presents a persistent distraction.

Heather Moats

Heather Moats

Operations Manager

Heather Moats

Operations Manager

Heather Moats serves as the Operations Manager for the Lane County, Oregon Chapter. Heather joined Friends of the Children in 2020. Prior to Friends of the Children, Heather worked in the Maritime Ship Agency industry evolving from a boarding agent to a Regional Operations Manager, a position that focused on process improvement and efficiencies. The maritime phase of Heather’s career culminated in being the Director of Operations for SphereMD a small Healthcare company whose core business is providing healthcare to predominantly foreign maritime workers. During the eight years with SphereMD Heather was instrumental in building the processes, work-flows and data systems to support a national expansion, where the company grew from Portland, Oregon to providing services in all ports of the United States. Having also overcome adversities growing up, the vision, goal and methods used by Friends of the Children touches Heather at the core. When the Friends of the Children - Lane County Chapter opened Heather knew the opportunity was too good to be passed up and jumped onboard. When not out riding her motorcycle Heather enjoys hiking, music, reading, and puzzles mainly crosswords, sudokus, and nanograms.

Joel Erickson

Joel Erickson

Professional Mentor

Joel Erickson

Professional Mentor

Joel Erickson joined Friends - Lane County in May of 2022. Joel has over a decade of experience working with youth in various capacities. He started early, working with youth groups right out of high school. While playing music semi-professionally throughout his 20s, he worked in daycares, summer camps and retreats, and provided music lessons and occasional respite care. He is passionate about community building and engagement and has experience with community activism and outreach, including work with houseless youth. Joel then moved into education, working in after school programs before landing a full-time role at Hamlin Middle School in 2016. He spent the next 6 years there working in behavior in different roles. While this work presented many challenges, he quickly grew to love working with these kids and appreciated the growth brought about by relationship-centered strategies. Joel looks forward to continuing this kind of work with Friends Lane County.

When not working, Joel loves getting out in nature, spending much of his free time hiking and camping. He also enjoys music, art, cooking, reading, writing, and believes that everything is interesting if you ask the right questions.