December 4, 2017
By Koch Campus’ Committee of Advocacy and Leadership (COAL)
December 4, 2017
By Koch Campus’ Committee of Advocacy and Leadership (COAL)
Opportunity Partners is hosting a job fair. Come learn how you can make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities.
Tuesday, January 23, 2:30 – 6:30 p.m.
Opportunity Partners – Koch Campus
5500 Opportunity Court
Minnetonka, MN 55343
A variety of positions are available:
– Direct Support Professionals (residential, apartment living & in-home services)
– Adult Special Education Instructors
– Site Supervisors in community Supported Employment Teams
– Production Work Skills Instructors
Take a look at our current openings!
For more information, call 952.938.5511 or contact Human Resources.
November 20, 2017
By Sade Harrison, Service Coordinator
Fall is here, so the holiday season is right around the corner! Being at Opportunity Partners means that we work and learn with so many people with diverse backgrounds. The holidays are the perfect time be cheerful and reach out to others to learn about what they do during their holiday season!
“For Christmas, my mom makes a big dinner and we all meet up at her house. Last year, she made a big lasagna. My family is Puerto Rican, so we always have a lot of Puerto Rican desserts. Last year she made flan.” – Jo Ann
“During the holidays I like to go out with my family. I also like waking up with my family to open presents.” – Megan
“I like to spend time with my mom during the holidays. I like opening presents on Christmas. For Thanksgiving, I always eat pumpkin pie.” – Holly
“For Thanksgiving this year, I will go to Denver. My sister lives in Denver, so we are going to visit her. We are hoping that this Thanksgiving, my sister will have her baby.” – Teddy
“For Christmas, we open presents the night before. This way, we get to sleep in on Christmas day. I love being around my family for the holidays.” – Jordan Pearson, Service Coordinator at Koch Campus
“My family celebrates Christmas. For the Christmas break, I go home to Rochester, MN where my parents live. We also celebrate Christmas at Thanksgiving because my grandparents are snowbirds. They go to Texas after Thanksgiving and stay until April. We celebrate with them early. It is like we get to celebrate Christmas for an entire month!” – Rebekah Wold, Service Coordinator at Koch Campus
“For the Holidays, I cook a big meal because I always invite over people that may not have anywhere to go. There are a lot of people that have moved to Minnesota and may not have family here. They come to my house and it is like my family becomes an even bigger family. I do this for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. We have ham, turkey, macaroni and cheese, collard greens, sweet potatoes and so much more food.” – Colette Durr, Service Coordinator at Koch Campus
In case you missed it, OP was in the news for National Disability Employment Awareness Month! Check out the stories below.
FOX 9 story about Dylan Dreifke working at The Home Depot
Story in the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal about our Fire Starter launch
FOX 9 Weekend Spotlight with Bill Schultz and Tori Soosai
MinnPost column about Steve Lengyel’s success at Matthew’s Family Restaurant
KFAI Radio “Disability and Progress” program featuring Rick Grimes, Julie Peters, Phyllis and Tori Soosai (October 12 episode)
Star Tribune “Minnspirations” featured a story about Dylan at The Home Depot
Comcast Newsmakers interview with Bill Schultz
November 6, 2017
By Grace Brennan, Donor Relations and Events Manager
Give to the Max Day is one of my favorite days of the year. I love seeing not only the generosity of Opportunity Partners’ families and friends, but of the entire state of Minnesota rallying around their favorite nonprofits. I expect this year’s Give to the Max Day on Thursday, November 16 will be no different. With your help, we hope to raise $30,000 for OP!
Our services develop each individual’s potential and ability to lead a fulfilling life. Your support gives us the tools and resources we need to help individuals build themselves up, and that is what builds up our community. Take a look at what your gift can do:
$50 pays for a cooking activity at one of our residences.
$100 covers one semester of art supplies for a Learning Options class.
$250 offers cultural opportunities like a music class or museum visit.
$500 presents work skills training like taking a computer class.
$1,000 could provide job training via a partial scholarship for a Career Learning Pathway.
$1,500 is a month of gas for our vans to transport people to Supported Employment Teams working in the community.
$2,500 increases independent living by helping with costs to install new technology in one of our residences.
You don’t have to wait to give your Give to the Max Day gift! Scheduled gifts are now processed in real time. Any gift made to our campaign between now and November 16 will count toward our goal.
There are plenty of ways to increase the impact of your gift on Give to the Max Day. Thanks to a generous OP family, your donation will be matched – up to $10,000! GiveMN draws Golden Tickets every day leading up to November 16, potentially adding $500 to your gift. Golden Tickets worth $1,000 will be awarded every hour on Give to the Max Day. Your gift, at any amount, will make a difference.
Follow along on social media to hear more about the work happening at OP and watch for our Give to the Max Day results!
We rely on philanthropic support to give us the tools and resources we need to help individuals build themselves up, and that is what builds up our community. Whether it’s living independently, learning new skills or working as part of a team, our services develop each individual’s potential and ability to lead a fulfilling life. We are overwhelmed with gratitude by the out-pour of support from our friends.
October 23, 2017
By Armando Camacho, President & CEO
As October winds to a close, I want to share with you an important milestone.
Steve Lengyel, 35, is celebrating seven years of employment this month at Matthew’s Family Restaurant in Circle Pines, where he washes dishes and performs light food prep. Steve receives support through Opportunity Partners.
“I’m super proud of him,” says restaurant owner Amy Salo. “He’s important to this place.”
Not only is Steve filling an essential role, his reliability on the job means the owners can focus on other duties. Imagine the time, money and headaches saved in not having to repeatedly recruit, hire and train for this key position.
“Monday through Friday I know he’s going to show up,” Amy says. “It takes a lot of stress off you.”
In any given year, our team at Opportunity Partners helps about 1,500 people with various types of disabilities find, retain and achieve at employment. We support another 400 people through residential and community living programs.
During October – because it is Steve’s work anniversary and because it also happens to be National Disability Employment Awareness Month – I want to take this opportunity to make sure everyone knows about great employees like Steve.
Like Steve, many of the people we work with at Opportunity Partners excel at repetitive tasks and appreciate jobs others may not stick with. Generally speaking, they often thrive with routine and don’t tend to job hop. They are reliable, dedicated and grateful for the opportunity.
Take it from Steve himself. When asked what he likes about his job, he provided a hand-written list of 13 reasons. Here are a few:
And perhaps most significant of all:
Our experience shows that most of the people with disabilities who we serve just want an opportunity to prove they can do the job, and they want to be treated like everyone else.
Unfortunately, studies show that for every Steve who is out working, there are many, many more individuals waiting for their opportunity.
A recent National Core Indicators survey of Minnesotans receiving services from disability agencies found that just 1 in 4 has a paid job in the community. Of those without a paid job in the community, more than half said they would like to work.
With 1 in 10 Minnesotans having a disability and the clear underemployment of people with disabilities, this population plays a key role in bolstering our state’s labor force and the economy as a whole. Organizations like Opportunity Partners and many others exist to bridge the gap between high unemployment for people with disabilities and the growing labor force crisis many companies face.
While making a direct hire is a great fit for many businesses that we work with, others partner with us by contracting for a supervised team of workers at their location or by relying on us for light packaging and assembly work done in one of our facilities. Both options provide solid training opportunities for people with disabilities, often leading to more independent jobs in the future.
If you are a business owner or human resources manager, we can help you meet your corporate and diversity goals, and you can help advance the careers of individuals who will be matched with jobs that fit their unique skills and abilities.
Sound like a winning combination? Let us help you get started.
Frank’s dedication, focus and high energy make him the ideal candidate for a mail associate position at General Mills through Xerox.
“My time at General Mills has been awesome since I first started there in 2007 – it has been almost 10 years!” Frank said, adding that he has learned many new tasks over the years. “Working on those projects made me feel like a part of a team and teamwork is what got those projects done.”
Frank originally worked as part of a contracted supported team through Opportunity Partners and in March 2017 he was offered an independent position. “I felt proud,” he said. “It’s awesome. I like the people.”
He knows his job well and thrives in the busy environment where he scans documents, handles mail and packages, and makes deliveries throughout the enormous General Mills campus. Processing 6,000-plus pieces of incoming and outgoing mail each day and roughly 300 packages, on top of countless other duties, Frank moves through his day with speed and precision. “He’s amazing. He does a great job,” said site supervisor Barb Smith.
Frank shows great determination in order to succeed in an independent position, traveling on two city buses two hours each way to get from his home in Eden Prairie to his job in Golden Valley.
Barb says Frank sets a great example for his peers, who look up to him. He serves as a resource to less experienced team members and trains in new hires.
When not working, Frank enjoys superheroes and sports, especially baseball, football and wrestling.
For Rochelle, working at Lunds & Byerlys brings an opportunity to showcase her skills while connecting with the community. “I like the people and managers and customers,” she said. “I see people I know from church and the community.”
Rochelle has been a proud Lunds & Byerlys employee for 20 years, first at the St. Louis Park store and now at the 50th Street Edina location. She attributes her amazing longevity to liking her job and the people she encounters each day, from co-workers to customers.
She works a variety of tasks from carrying out and bagging groceries to cleaning in her 23-26 hours each week. She even placed third in a bagging contest at her store.
“I like this job because I meet new people,” Rochelle said. “I’m dedicated. I give the customers what they want.” When she’s not working, Rochelle enjoys traveling and softball. Congratulations, Rochelle, on your hard work and dedication!
We would also like to salute Lunds & Byerlys for being such a strong partner of ours over the years. Many individuals served by Opportunity Partners have experienced employment success at Lunds and Byerlys across the Twin Cities. Thank you, Lunds & Byerlys!
For many folks at Opportunity Partners – Karlins Center, being independently employed in the community is a dream. Nearly 11 months ago, Greg was the first to turn that dream into reality by getting a job as a Dining Room Attendant at McDonald’s. Service Coordinator Vicki Knott calls him a trailblazer, “We are very proud of him. He’s handled this like a champ.”
Before landing his job at McDonald’s, Greg had worked on several Supported Employment Teams (SETs) as well as on the production floor at Karlins. He worked with Opportunity Partners Job Developer, Carol Glazer to put in an application. Minutes after his interview started, he was hired! He now works four hours, two days a week.
At first, Greg’s only responsibility was cleaning the dining room tables. After proving himself to his managers, they gave him more responsibilities, including working the fryer!
Greg says his favorite part about his job is being able to make his own money. It helps him pay for rent in his apartment that he lives in on his own! One day, Greg hopes he can move into a bigger apartment, maybe with roommates.
Being the first person at Karlins to get an independent job is a big deal! Greg says that he hopes he can be an inspiration to others adding, “I want people to know that it’s amazing and that other people can do it as well as I can.”
In his free time, Greg enjoys bowling, watching reality television, talking to his parents on the phone and staying involved with church.
Several years ago, David was motivated and passionate about getting an independent, community job. He started working with Opportunity Partners’ Job Development team. David put in a lot of hard work toward developing his resume and practicing interviewing. Eventually he landed a job at Cub Foods doing maintenance.
Before getting his independent job, he took part in the janitorial Certified Learning Platform (now called Career Learning Pathways). There he fine-tuned his cleaning skills and learned how to use industrial cleaning equipment. At Cub, he is part of the janitorial staff, answering maintenance calls for the whole store. David has worked in janitorial at Cub for over two years and loves it so much, he does not plan on transferring any time soon.
David works eight hours, three days a week. Working independently has helped David become more independent at home. He currently lives in his own apartment, a place he has called home for over three years. David says it feels good to be independently employed. “Being able to make my own money is phenomenal,” he says. “I’m paying my bills, paying my rent and keeping my lights on.” He plans on going to the Minnesota Twins spring training in Florida next summer.
“I want to tell people looking to get a job to be yourself, be polite and be respectful,” David says. “That will get you really far, far enough to get a job.”
September 28, 2017
Opportunity Partners has launched its own brand of Fire Starters for bonfires and fireplaces – just in time for cool fall nights ahead.
Now available on Amazon, Fire Starters are sold under the label OP Social Enterprises™ – a division of Opportunity Partners that is operated as a social enterprise for the benefit of a good cause. People with disabilities package the product at various locations around the Twin Cities.
For years, workers at Opportunity Partners have packaged a similar item under other labels but this is the first time the organization has branded one as its own. The organization purchases the wood, wax and other materials and ships them to a disability organization in northern Minnesota, where the sticks are produced and sent back to the Twin Cities to be packaged and labeled. OP Social Enterprises™ Fire Starters are sold in 5, 20 and 100 count packs for $5.49, $9.49 and $29.99.
In addition to being made in Minnesota, the sticks are non-toxic, waterproof, burn completely and all proceeds benefit people with disabilities.
The goal of the endeavor is more about mission than money, said Bill Schultz, Executive Vice President of Business Development and Operations. “By providing training and employment opportunities like this, more people with disabilities can develop their work skills and graduate to independent jobs in the community,” Schultz said. “That helps us meet our mission of advancing the quality of life for people with disabilities.”
Beyond Amazon, OP Social Enterprises™ hopes to collaborate with other retailers and organizations to market the Fire Starters. The Three Rivers Park District purchased 500 packs, labeled with the park logo and shared with campers throughout its parks. Learn more.
September 25, 2017
By Alyssa Millet, SET Instructor
My name is Alyssa Millett. I’m a SET Instructor and I’ve been with OP for a year and a half. At the Bon Appetit dish room, they scrub dishes, they unload it, they load the dishes, they take the food off the plate on the conveyor belt, they learn how to communicate with the customers when they bring out the cups and replenish the silverware and they communicate with the cooks and we go to the staff meetings.
I teach people served basic skill sets so they can go get an independent job, such as appropriate attendance, appropriate work attire, how to communicate with co-workers. The most rewarding part about my job is at the end of the day when they say thank you. I love it. They appreciate what we do for them and I appreciate what they do for us. When they get that independent job and they step toward their goal, they’re so appreciative and overwhelmed, it makes me overwhelmed. It’s genuinely rewarding.
What I enjoy most is the humor. It’s never a dull day. There’s always laughter and you can’t enjoy your day without laughter.
Working with someone when they get an independent job is super exciting because they come to you first and they’re like, “I got the job!!!” and it’s super exciting. Seeing that happiness and knowing that you helped them get there fills your heart.
In honor of the important work our DSPs do each and every day, here are some extraordinary DSPs we are fortunate enough to have at Opportunity Partners.
Shannon has worked at Golden Opportunity as a Learning Options Instructor for three years. He came to Opportunity Partners after having worked previously in the disability sector. Shannon says his favorite thing about his job is the relationships he has built with the people served over the years and their shared experiences. “I have always had a passion for helping people, and in a DSP role, I get that opportunity. As a DSP, you make connections that last a lifetime.”
When asked about Shannon, Program Manager Heather Ofstehage says, “Shannon is compassionate, genuine, and person centered. He cares so much for the individuals we support! Shannon is a great team player, always helping out whenever and wherever needed. He is flexible and happily rearranges his schedule to accommodate last minute changes. Shannon is dependable and has a strong work ethic! Thanks for all you do Shannon!”
Casey started at Opportunity Partners within the Independent Living Skills program as a Service Coordinator over five years ago. From then she transferred to the prevocational program in Brain Injury Services. She is now an Assistant Program Manager in Mendota Heights. Casey has been working with people with disabilities since she was in college and it has been a passion of hers for a long time.
She says, “I love seeing the people we support achieve their goals. I love visiting with the people we support about their days and seeing the excitement on their face when they have a great day. I also enjoy supporting people through rough days and being a consistent staff member that they can count on. I love hearing funny stories and jokes from the people served – it always seems to brighten my day.”
Shirel has been with Opportunity Partners for 15 years! She is currently a Transportation Assistant in our Anoka Day Training and Habilitation program. Before becoming a Direct Support Professional, she did not know much about what a DSP does, but now she says she cannot imagine doing anything else. Her uncle had cerebral palsy and told Shirel that she would be great at taking care of others with disabilities. Therefore, when it was suggested she work at Opportunity Partners, she did! Shirel says her favorite thing about her job is, “improving people’s lives and trying to always put a smile on their face.”
Amanda is currently an Assistant Program Manager at hoMEbase – Westside. She has been with Opportunity Partners for a little over five years. She has always wanted to help people and make a difference, so when a friend of hers told her about Opportunity Partners, she knew she had to apply!
Amanda says, “I love working with the people served. They make me laugh every day. I don’t always know what to expect but I love it! My job is rarely boring. Seeing all the successes in the lives of the people I support is amazing, both the little everyday successes and the big ones! It is a joy to be able to walk with people in their daily lives in the difficult times and the easier times. I love having fun at work and the people served make my job fun!”
Jordan has been with Opportunity Partners for nearly two years. He started in our residential program at Pleasant House in Richfield before moving to the Koch Campus as a Service Coordinator. Working with people with disabilities was something that Jordan started while he was in college. He says, “I was not sure how it would go at first, but I knew I loved it after the first day.” Jordan appreciates that his skills as a Direct Support Professional are valued and that contributes to his love of the work.
“The people I work with both on my caseload and the co-workers that I work with every day are my favorite things about my job. Every day there is something different to look forward to when coming into work. I have built relationships with my caseload and co-workers to the point where we feel supported and comfortable to work side by side as a team and know that we are always there to help each other when needed.”
August 29, 2017
By Nate Meissner, Vocational Services Intake Coordinator, Manager of Evaluation & Transitions
“The reason a lot of people do not recognize opportunity is because it usually goes around wearing overalls looking like hard work” – Thomas Edison
Why do we work?
This is a question my guidance counselor asked me back when iPods had black and white screens. I responded, “It’s how we get our money,” which, for the record, I still believe is a very good reason to work. I ask this same question to the students who participate in Opportunity Partners’ work experience program. Most respond the same way I did when I was their age. However, sometimes I get an answer more noteworthy than my own. One student responded that we work because “it’s how we make things better.”
I sometimes ponder her answer when I meet new students and they explain their employment goals. How can they make things better for themselves first and then for the rest of us?
In our work experience program, students get the opportunity to work for a month at a job site that interests them. Most students are eager to try new experiences so they can determine their vocation. However, occasionally, I meet students who are searching for jobs that must directly correlate with their favorite things and most innate passions. They would like to design video games (but no coding work, please), groom horses (but no cleaning work, please), or take care of people (but no senior care, please). Many of their career goals simply do not exist, but this doesn’t mean they should not pursue their passions and also make things better. It just means we have to redefine passion.
Terri Trespicio proclaims, “Passion is not a job, a sport, or a hobby. It is the full force of your attention and energy that you give to whatever’s right in front of you, and if you are so busy looking for this passion you could miss opportunities that change your life”. Stop searching for your passion
Making things better is work, and most of the time its hard work, but it is worth the effort. I have a lot of hopes and goals for my students. My main goal is for them to experience the significance of work in all of its fluctuations. I hope they come to an understanding that each job brings value to our world in its own distinctive way. Acknowledging the inherent value within every job is far more liberating than searching for the perfect job, because no job will be perfect until our focus is.
This does not mean students should be pushed into careers they have no interest in. It just means we have to encourage each other to take risks, do difficult things, get our hands dirty, fail, and above all be willing to attempt endeavors that might not be the perfect fit. We need to experience the value of the overalls instead of relentlessly pursuing the tailor-made suit. This is the first step in making things better. (And you get paid too).
August 14, 2017
By Tiana Daun, Digital Strategy & Communications Specialist
Over a year ago, Opportunity Partners adopted a pet policy, in hopes of boosting staff retention. A study done by the University of Kentucky* cites that workplace pets reduce stress levels and positively influence employees’ health, job satisfaction and organizational issues like productivity and employee morale. The study also claims that pets make working environments more comfortable and create positive impressions of organizations.
Dozens of OP employees bring their pet into work with them (some pets come in every day), and from what we can see – the University of Kentucky was right! See what our employees have to say about our pet policy:
“Mikko should be on the OP payroll for all of the roles he plays at my group homes. He attends medical appointments, helps the residents fall asleep, and helps with anxiety – so much that instead of choosing to take anxiety medicine, a resident will choose to have Mikko sit on her lap. Mikko, Mingo, Rico, or Pekko – he answers to all of them and always shows up for his shifts.” – Lori Arnold, Program Manager
“I really like bringing Adrian because she acts as a stress reliever. At Koch we will say we need a ‘dog break’ when things get stressful! I also love seeing her interact with the people served. She always brings a smile to their face!” – Amy Beyer, Training and Development Specialist
“I love bringing in my cats! The look on people’s faces when they see the kittens is priceless. It brings a little bit of home into work and is a stress reliever for me and others.” – Andrea Nemitz, Service Coordinator Support Staff
“Jasper is an amazing stress reliever for the people we serve. When people are having a bad day, they come to my office for a ‘Jasper fix.’ He certainly lives up to his name, which means, ‘sustains and supports during stressful times’ (according to PetMD).” – Elise Dahl, Service Coordinator
“I get way more visitors to my desk when I bring Pemberley in, which creates good vibes all around! She’s a very easy-going cat and brings my work energy to a calm and relaxed pace.” – Kayleigh Karppinen, HR Generalist
“Being able to have my dog makes me feel better in knowing he isn’t stuck at home all by himself, and seeing how happy he makes the persons served and other employees here when they get to see him is a real joy.” – Matt Thiede, SET Site Supervisor
“I love being able to bring my dogs into work with me. It’s stress relieving for me and great socialization for them. There are many smiles and waves from the people we serve and fellow staff when walking around. It’s a great way to make connections and bring extra positivity to the day.” – Heather Brooks, Graphic & Web Design Specialist
Our 2017 Gala drew more than 400 guests and raised nearly $300,000. Your generous contributions help us carry out our mission of advancing the quality of life for people with disabilities.
We purchased a new residence on Pleasant Avenue in Richfield to replace our Webster house. The new home is larger and more accessible for the four residents.