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SOWMA Volunteer Appreciation 2019

Celebrating our volunteers with a shout out to a few in 2019!  

We were honored to celebrate our many outstanding volunteers at an awards ceremony recently, courtesy of the Fine Arts Cafe of Brockton,
a catering venue at Brockton High School where food is prepared and served by the students.  

2019 CHAMPION FOR OUR KIDS - Robin Gilbert 

Robin Gilbert – began with SOWMA in 2011 and was charged with developing our education program.  In that role she emphasized the social/emotional well-being of students through a one-on-one tutoring model and developed protocols that enabled us to continue services for students throughout and beyond high school.  In 2015 Robin helped to develop our donor database system to monitor and acknowledge our growing community of supporters.  After successfully streamlining our donor platform, Robin attempted several times to retire - but to no avail!  For the past year, Robin has worked tirelessly to pass her torch and pay forward her non-profit knowledge and expertise to ensure SOWMA's continued growth.   She has been a cornerstone of the success behind our mission to ensure students facing homelessness receive the educational support they need to succeed.  Thank you, Robin Gilbert!   

TUTOR OF THE YEAR - Cauna Magner

Cauna Magner began working at two of our family shelters in Brockton two years ago and added another shelter in Dorchester when we opened there in September.  She is featured above with SOWMA's Executive Director Kathleen Graham and our Shelter Site Coordinator Jonathan Vincent, who nominated her.  Cauna has been an inspiration and role model to volunteers and students alike.  Jonathan applauded her kind and patient nature with students and her steadfast and reliable commitment to our tutoring program.  In fact after observing her skills many times with students struggling with homework, Jonathan asked how long she'd been teaching.  He was surprised to learn she was not a teacher at all - and had never taught formally in a classroom.  "You're a born teacher," Jonathan said.  "Your gift of working with students is organic and natural."  Cauna reminds us all that what every child needs is a champion.  Someone who listens and hears their story.  Thank you, Cauna for being a role model for us all! 

Community service hero - Darlene LaFrance 

Darlene LaFrance of Bridgewater is a steady and reliable force behind the community outreach program of SOWMA.  Darlene is a former reading specialist for the Brockton Public Schools.  She learned of SOWMA while attending a wedding, where the bride chose to defer gifts, instead asking guests to make a donation to School on Wheels.  She called to learn more and the rest is history.  Darlene, an avid reader, is known to spend hours reviewing the new books generously donated by publishers, bookstores and donors, to ensure our students receive the best classics and current grade-level materials in their backpacks.  Darlene's selfless volunteerism and countless hours devoted to our backpack and supply program enabled us to provide more than 4,500 students with the tools they need to succeed in school last year alone.  In addition, any event conducted by SOWMA, from our annual Open the Door Gala to our yearly spring Run, Walk & Wag, Darlene is there to ensure things run smoothly and our supporters are celebrated.  

 COMMUNITY SERVICE HEROS - "The Bridgewater Sisters" 

"The Bridgewater Sisters" keep our community room flowing smoothly and with ample laughter!  From left: Jenny Williams, Lesley Anderson and Martha Amara join Kathleen Graham and Community Outreach Director Barbara Fox.  The  three sisters have been working together at SOWMA consistently for the past three years.  They inventory thousands of supplies, prepare and quality check backpacks and ensure a smooth operation during our busiest times of year.  Their commitment and passion for our mission and great love for kids have made our days brighter and ensured that thousands of quality, grade-level backpacks find their way to children and youth in need.  One day last January our office could not accomodate volunteers for the day.   When notified, the "sisters" quickly asked in astonishment, "Are we fired?!"  No, Martha Lesley and Jenny.  You are not fired!  We couldn't do what we do for kids without your hard work and good nature!  Thank you!  

COMPANIES CARING FOR KIDs - pegasystems, cambridge

Pegasystems of Cambridge, MA has been caring for students impacted by homelessness through SOWMA for more than five years.  Laura Starr-Houghton (far R) and Carla Rodney (L with son Marcus) make it their mission to gather the staff behind this community-minded technology leader and collect state-of-the-art calculators, laptops and backpacks filled with not only high quality grade-level materials, but notes full of hope and wisdom lovingly crafted by Pega employees.  Laura was drawn to SOWMA after hearing the story behind our mission from our founder Cheryl Opper, featured above in white.  Thank you, Laura, Carla and the staff and leaders of Pegasystems!  You are teaching Marcus valuable lessons through your service to others.

Above:  Brockton Superintendent of Schools Kathleen Smith joins Kathleen Graham (L) and SOWMA Board Member Carol Augustyniak Marcus (R) in congratulating our volunteers and award recipients. 

Above:  Molly Sullivan and Andrew Waldorf are student volunteers who helped organize the evening festivities.  Congratulations to Molly for graduating from South Shore Charter School and heading to Loyola New Orleans on a full scholarship.  Andrew is a junior at Oliver Ames High School. 

Above:  Bridgewater State University Fellow Kelly Graham spent the spring semester working with Community Outreach and Marketing.  She created a spectacular photo montage of our volunteers and 
worked with her university colleagues to spearhead fundraisers.  Kelly will be back this summer to help with our college mentoring program.  Thanks for your service to our kids, Kelly!  


Full photo gallery of our 2019 awards dinner coming soon!  


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United Way of Greater Plymouth County

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School on Wheels - MA
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