New York native Doug Friedlander got his first taste of the Arkansas Delta in 2004 when Teach For America assigned him to a school in Helena-West Helena. His girlfriend Anna, originally from Illinois, was also assigned to the town.
“It was a two-year commitment, but we’re both most of the way through year nine,” he jokes.
The transplanted couple counts several factors for reasons they’ve stayed: warm welcomes from the community, close relationships and virtually no traffic.
In 2010, Doug joined the Phillips County Chamber of Commerce as executive director, a role that he says is as enjoyable as teaching, especially with recent large-scale projects happening in the city.
“The business scene is much more interesting and dynamic than you would expect,” he says.
In May 2013, the couple got married in one of the city’s historical landmarks, flanked by the entire community.he says.
“The way people rallied around us, supported us and celebrated with us, it was truly momentous,” he says.