The Richmond Register

December 27, 2011

New Opportunity School still functioning after fire

By Ronica Shannon
Register News Writer

BEREA — The New Opportunity School for Women (NOSW) continues to function after a fire early this month that gutted the facility used to house the non-profit organization.

The school’s headquarters, formerly located in a First Christian Church parsonage in Berea, reportedly was set on fire Monday, Dec. 12 by a burglar/arsonist, according to police.

The former parsonage had housed the school’s office, classroom space and its clothes closet for the past 15 years, according to director Lori Sliwa.

“We are committed to continuing our mission of serving Appalachian women and greatly appreciate the out-pouring of concern and the many offers of help,” Sliwa said. “We are maintaining our business operations and our new location is in the lower level of the First Christian Church in Berea (204 Chestnut Street). The New Opportunity School’s voicemail is now activated and we are able to retrieve messages. You also may contact us via e-mail at”

The school was founded 25 years ago by Jane Stephenson, whose late husband John Stephenson was then president of Berea College.

The program grew out of an urgent need for women in Appalachia to become better educated and employed, and also to improve the overall personal circumstances of low-income, middle-aged women in Kentucky and the south central Appalachian region, according to the program’s mission at

“We are hard at work making sure our organization continues to function through our time of distress and loss, and we appreciate your patience as we work through the many challenges that lie ahead,” Sliwa said. 

The NOSW can be contacted by calling 985-7200. Sliwa encourages callers to leave a message and “... someone will respond within 48 hours.”

The organization’s mailing address remains the same: 204 Chestnut Street, Berea, Ky., 40403.

Financial donations can be made by visiting the NOSW website at or by mailing it to the address given above.

Donations of professional clothing, office supplies and paper products can be delivered to the Maxwell Street Presbyterian Church, 180 East Maxwell Street in Lexington Monday, Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The NOSW’s Berea office will begin accepting donations at the First Christian Church on Monday, Jan. 16, Tuesday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Ronica Shannon can be reached at or 624-6608.