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School on Wheels adds new sites to help children in need

School on Wheels director Cheryl Opper with Christophanie Julien, an alum who won a scholarship to attend Massasoit Community College. School on Wheels director Cheryl Opper with Christophanie Julien, an alum who won a scholarship to attend Massasoit Community College.
By Paul E. Kandarian
October 10, 2010

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NEW SITES FOR SCHOOL ON WHEELS: Extra tutoring and mentoring to help children who need it most are rolling out this month, thanks to School on Wheels of Massachusetts, with the addition of six sites this month.

Four are in Brockton, where the nonprofit agency is located, including at Penelope’s Place, a shelter for women and children, and three public elementary schools: Arnone, Downey, and Manthala George Jr. The other two are at the Rehoboth Shelter in Norwell and Harbour House in New Bedford.

The program offers free, after-school tutoring services for children in need, said School on Wheels director Cheryl Opper. The additional sites brings the number of children served each week to 150, and the number of program sites to 13, with the others located in Brockton, Stoughton, Middleborough, and Peabody.

“Right now, we’re at 13, but we’re putting together a strategic plan to roll the program out statewide in the next year,’’ Opper said.

The program began in 2004, serving two homeless shelters, she said. It also has expanded into the college realm; Opper said the program has a High School Plus program to help young people get into college, guiding them through the application process, and assisting them financially.

To reach children in need, the organization worked with the Brockton homeless liaison to bring the tutoring services into the city’s after-school program, and learned that funding for the late bus in Brockton had been cut, she said.

“Without it,’’ Opper said, “there was no way to transport the children home after tutoring.’’

The agency stepped in and funded the bus from its own budget, she said. The next hurdle is lining up enough one-on-one volunteer tutors, some 60 in all, to work with the children.

“We are working closely with Bridgewater State University and Stonehill College and reaching out to the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth, and area schools, churches and temples, to recruit more volunteers,’’ said. “In the past, we’ve had more volunteers than kids. Now we need more volunteers.’’

The need is greater than ever, Opper said, as homelessness in the state continues to rise. She said there are now 2,000 families living in state-sponsored emergency shelters and more than 800 families living in hotels and motels, with hundreds more in transitional apartments or doubled up with family members or friends.

For information, visit www.sowma.org or call 508-587-9091.

FRIENDS WITH STROLLERS: The Friends of Growing Families in Weymouth raised more than $24,000 at its 8th annual Stroller Stroll at the Hanover Mall recently. More than 250 people participated, including graduates of the neonatal intensive care unit at South Shore Hospital and their families and friends, along with volunteers.

BUSINESS BRIEFS: The J-Team at the Jiffy Lube Service Center at 239 Turnpike St., Canton, was one of the top teams in the country during the Jiffy Lube International All Stars Competition. The Canton location was one of 11 teams left after three rounds of competition among 1,300 participating service centers. They made it to the fourth round, but not the fifth and final round, company officials said. The Canton squad included Stephanie Belanger of Holbrook, Aaron Gross of Stoughton, Beverly Wooten of Randolph, Keith Heyd of Mashpee, and Engracio Abreu Jr. of Marlborough.

Kelvis Camilo of Stoughton has joined South Shore Savings Bank as manager of its Stoughton branch, and Joel South of Canton has been promoted to IT officer/senior network administrator in the bank’s headquarters in Weymouth.

Martine L. Taylor of Foxborough has joined South Shore Habitat for Humanity as executive director, bringing more than 15 years of organizational development and management experience in the corporate and nonprofit sectors, said the Habitat’s board president, Christopher R. Dunn. Taylor most recently was a consultant for the development and operations departments at Project Hope in Boston.

Marie-Jean Earnshaw of Methuen has joined Rapid Ambulance Service Inc. in Canton as director of business development, and oversees public relations, marketing, and community relations. Rapid Ambulance is a medical transportation company specializing in ambulance and medical van services in the Boston area.

Paul E. Kandarian can be reached at Kandarian@globe.com

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