Recognizing Autism Awareness Month

April 24, 2017

By Jackie Helm, Service Coordinator

You may have seen that April is Autism Awareness Month. Autism Speaks is hosting their Light it up Blue campaign, landmarks across the world turned blue to create awareness, and Sesame Street debuted Julia, a character on the Autism Spectrum. Opportunity Partners, along with these organizations and others across the world, are happy to celebrate! Today I am happy to share the stories of three incredible individuals we support at Opportunity Partners – Karlins Center.

Eva may be one of the oldest people at Karlins Center, but she is young at heart. Eva enjoys watching The Wizard of Oz, lacing activities, cooking, Legos, drinking tea, community outings and puzzles. She has been with OP since 2004; over the years, she has developed trusting relationships with others and now advocates for herself. She also has learned how to share with her peers and has discovered the joy of friendship. Eva is kind, vibrant and energetic woman.

Corbin is a friendly young woman whose smile lights up a room. She enjoys sorting objects by color, movement activities, community outings, Barney and full house. Currently Corbin’s favorite community outings are Como Zoo, local parks and The Humane Society. Corbin has also been with us since 2004 and over years, she has increased her vocabulary, learned how to identify colors, began to advocate for the things she wants and needs and has begun to develop friendships with others.

Last year, Eric began showing an interest in community employment. Shortly after meeting with the OP job development team, he was o¬ffered a job at a Holiday Stationstore in Plymouth. Eric began his job earlier this year as a sales associate/food specialist. He works three times a week, taking care of the coffee and soda station. Eric’s manager describes him as a quick learner who consistently does his job well. The employees at Holiday state that Eric fits in perfectly and they are happy that he is part of the team. Working at Holiday has given Eric the confidence to develop positive relationships at work and at OP. He says that he loves his job at Holiday and enjoys earning his own money to buy items like movies and snacks.

We at Karlins-Center are so proud of Eva, Corbin and Eric’s accomplishments. It has been amazing watching their development and we cannot wait to see what happens next.

You can learn more about Autism Awareness Month on the Autism Society’s website.

Posted in Blog, Blog show on home

Service redesign and how you can help!

April 10, 2017

By Armando Camacho, President & CEO

As a nonprofit organization that supports more than 2,000 people with disabilities each year, we begin 2017 with feelings of excitement, opportunity and, admittedly, a bit of apprehension.

Disability service sector initiatives like the Minnesota Olmstead Plan and Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (W.I.O.A.) mean providers like Opportunity Partners are taking a close look at how we deliver services. With goals of greater community integration and inclusion, and increased choices for people with disabilities, we welcome these sector changes as an opportunity to better achieve our mission.

Of course, change brings challenges. We face shrinking funding, shortages and turnover among direct care staff, and automation and overseas labor that affect the work opportunities we can provide to people we serve.

We can bury our head in the sand and ignore what is happening, or even dig in our heels and refuse to change. Instead, we’ve chosen to roll up our sleeves and lead changes that will support our mission of advancing the quality of life for people with disabilities while also providing choices for people.

We know that a successful future for organizations like ours will depend on a multi-pronged approach that draws upon the strengths and resources of everyone to put in place new models of employment services. The good news is I believe Opportunity Partners is uniquely positioned to lead such efforts due to our status as one of the Twin Cities’ largest disability service providers and our strong record of innovation over 60+ years.

What is happening at Opportunity Partners?

  • We will be expanding our My Career Path employment program that we launched at Koch Campus and our Anoka Service Center, supporting people who want to pursue competitive, community employment. At the same time, we remain committed to offering center-based or pay-for-productivity work.
  • We are looking at how to expand our number of community Supported Employment Teams (SETs) and how to evolve them into a pathway to competitive employment for more people and less of a final destination.
  • We are improving how we can better engage the people we serve, particularly at our largest center – the Koch Campus – for times when we don’t have work. This will involve more community enrichment activities and a flexible team of staff who can move with people seamlessly throughout the day.
  • This is the first of what will be ongoing communication with you about our change efforts – thank you in advance for your support and involvement!

How you can help:

  • Join family advocacy efforts! The Minnesota Families and Advocates Coalition is meeting regularly to discuss disability service sector changes and work together to preserve services for their loved ones. Join their mailing list at
  • Help with our staffing shortages! We typically have about 60 open positions at any given time. Learn more at
  • Connect us with businesses! Do you know companies that need packaging, assembly or janitorial services or that are eager to hire workers with disabilities? Our Business Services team is ready to help at or 952-930-4201.
  • Provide us feedback! Let us know how we can make services better, together. You can reach us at
    Share your email with us! We can invest more in programs and services when we can use email instead of U.S. mail for future updates. Share your email at

As we strive to advance the quality of life for people with disabilities, it is so important that we all work together on innovative solutions and new opportunities!

Posted in Blog

OP welcomes two more board members

April 7, 2017

Twin Cities nonprofit organization Opportunity Partners announces the election of Bryan Chambers and Mary Fenske to its Board of Directors. Opportunity Partners advances the quality of life for people with disabilities through employment and residential programs that serve more than 2,000 people each year.

Bryan Chambers is the Business Acquisition Manager for Wells Fargo Business Banking. He manages a team of Business Development Officers who are responsible for acquiring new customers across Minnesota. He has been in the financial services industry with Wells Fargo for more than 12 years. He received his BS in Business Finance from the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire.

Mary Fenske is a consultant with Advocating Change Together (ACT). She first started with ACT as a field organizer for Self-Advocacy Minnesota. She currently works on developing and promoting the Olmstead Academy that teaches people with disabilities about Minnesota’s Olmstead Plan. Her focus has been ensuring the rights of people with disabilities and making sure their voices are heard.


Posted in News, News on home, Press Releases

OP makes MN Healthcare News

March 29, 2017

“Opportunity Partners, a Twin Cities area nonprofit organization, each year helps more than 2,000 people with disabilities…succeed on the job, live more independently, and lead lives filled with purpose and meaning.”

President & CEO Armando Camacho recently published an article in Minnesota Healthcare News. In the healthcare magazine’s “Perspectives” section, he talks about Opportunity Partners’ successes, partnerships, services and advocacy efforts. Read more.

Posted in News, Press Releases

Not alone in brain injury

March 27, 2017

By Casey Budke, Assistant Manager of Brain Injury Services

We’ve been promoting March as Brain Injury Awareness Month along with others nationwide, and today we’re proud to share the stories of two incredible people in our Brain Injury program right here in the Twin Cities. Currently, we support over 100 people in our two Brain Injury programs.

Lenia, 44, was in a car accident over 20 years ago and has a brain injury as a result. She has been with Opportunity Partners ever since. She enjoys drinking, tea, cooking, exercising at the gym, listening to music, and taking classes at OP. Some of her favorites are Leisure Rec and Nutrition and Fitness. During Nutrition and Fitness, Lenia and her class go to the local gym. She works on leg strength with her ankle weights three times a week. Although Lenia’s staff says, “we’re now more of a social butterfly” at the gym. Lenia wants people to know that life goes on after brain injury and hopes that her life can be an inspiration to others.

Brad, 50, also sustained his brain injury in a car accident. He says he was driving and lost control of the car. In his free time, Brad likes to go on walks and bowl. He is in a bowling league that recently came in first place! He comes to Opportunity Partners five times a week. He often helps his peers at Opportunity Partners and likes to think of himself as a “second teacher.” “I love it here. I really do,” he says.

According to, over 12 million Americans live with an acquired brain injury. Moreover, every 13 seconds, someone in the U.S. sustains a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Assault, a car accident, or falls could cause TBIs. There are at least 5.3 million Americans that live with a disability as a result of a TBI. The purpose of Brain Injury Awareness Month is to bring recognition to these facts and let people with a brain injury know that they are not alone.

Join in on the conversation on social media with the hashtag, #NotAloneInBrainInjury. We would love to hear from you!

Posted in Blog

OP job fair on March 28

Opportunity Partners is hosting a job fair! Come learn how you can make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities. Job offers could be given on the spot.

Tuesday, March 28, 4 – 7 p.m.
Stuart Wells Room
Greater Twin Cities United Way
404 South 8th Street, Minneapolis (downtown)

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.

Posted in News

Legislative activities kick into high gear

minnesota state capitol

March 13, 2017

By Julie Peters, Communications Director

As organizations like Opportunity Partners embrace mounting pressures for system change and innovation on multiple fronts and an ongoing workforce shortage, now is the time to let lawmakers know our services are critical!

Rob and his staff Eli rally at last year’s Day at the Capitol

Join us as we rally together! ARRM/MOHR Day at the Capitol is Tuesday, March 14. Join hundreds of other disability advocates for a 10 am rally in the State Capitol rotunda followed by meetings with legislators. Learn more about this important day.

The Day at the Capitol is a great opportunity to meet your State Senator and Representative – after all, they work for you! Find out who your lawmakers are using this tool.

Opportunity Partners is again this year partnering with the Best Life Alliance, a Minnesota coalition advocating for Home & Community-Based Services that support people with disabilities and employ direct care workers. The alliance formed in 2014 and was successful in advocating for and receiving a 5 percent rate increase for providers that year; however, even with that increase, rates for our services have not kept pace with rising costs and staff turnover has reached a critical level.

What’s in Best Life Alliance’s 2017 bill? SF 669/ HF 873

  • Consecutive 4 percent wage increases for more than 80,000 direct care workers statewide (effective July 1, 2017 and July 1, 2018).
  • Development of a long-term solution for funding health insurance for direct care workers by July 1, 2019.

minnesota state capitolYou can follow Best Life Alliance updates and access resources via this link.

Opportunity Partners is also an active member of ARRM, a disability trade association working to ensure Minnesota’s public policy and regulatory environment promotes the independence, health and safety of people with disabilities. In 2017, ARRM and its members will focus on passing reforms to help address the significant workforce shortages in our industry. Learn more about ARRM’s legislative agenda here.

As a member of the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation & Rehabilitation (MOHR), Opportunity Partners shares in the belief that people with disabilities should have access to effective and high quality employment and day services of their choice. We’re partnering with MOHR to advocate for legislation that addresses the workforce shortage and ensures employment and day service sustainability. You can learn more about MOHR’s efforts online.

Your support of Opportunity Partners and your advocacy efforts and commitment to people we serve are key to successful outcomes at the legislature. As always, thank you for your advocacy!

Contact us to ask questions or join our efforts!

Posted in Blog

Join us for Day at the Capitol

Join Opportunity Partners and 1,000 disability champions, including self-advocates, families and direct care workers as we rally at ARRM/MOHR Day at the Capitol on Tuesday, March 14. The rally starts at 10 am in the Capitol Rotunda. Learn more.

For more information on advocacy and involvement at OP, visit our page.

Posted in News

Showing heart every day

February 27, 2017

By Nick Elsen, Director of Residential Services

Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) make up the heart of our organization. The impact our caregivers make each and every day in advancing the quality of life for people with disabilities means they are among the most crucial members of our programs and services.

Whenever the people we support are having a difficult day, DSPs are there. When someone needs help taking daily medicine, getting dressed for the weather or making a healthy and tasty dinner, DSPs are there. And when someone may not have family to celebrate with during the holidays, DSPs are there to provide caring and family-like support.

Unfortunately, like disability service organizations across the state and nation, Opportunity Partners needs more DSPs to join our team. In fact, we have 70 open positions across our organization. 70! That is almost unbelievable and underscores the need to address the serious staff shortages that are harming Home and Community-Based Services like ours.

Eli helps Allan with paperwork at the bank

To highlight the incredible work of our employees and to recruit more caring and talented staff, we created a series of career testimonial videos. The theme of these videos is “A Day in the Life” and chronicles exactly that – what a day in the life at Opportunity Partners is like. Take a look at a day in the life of Eli Grobel. Eli is an Assistant Program Manager at OP’s Fremont House. In the video, he is seen helping Fremont’s residents with errands, assisting them to manage their money and helping them plan their vacations.

“It’s a really unique thing to work in someone’s home. You get to see their good days and their bad days and everything in between,” Eli says.

You can join Eli and hundreds of other people on March 14 in the State Capitol Rotunda at 10 a.m. for a rally in support of Home and Community-Based Services. The ARRM/MOHR Day at the Capitol will focus on the urgent need to address the workforce shortage in Minnesota’s community-based services. Best Life Alliance, a statewide coalition advocating for community-based services that support Minnesotans with disabilities, will discuss its 2017 legislation which includes two components:

  • Consecutive 4 percent wage increases for direct care workers (effective July 1, 2017 and July 1, 2018).
  • Improvement of health insurance for direct care workers by increasing provider rates to cover the cost of single employee healthcare coverage by July 1, 2019.

Learn more about Best Life Alliance and ways to get involved.

If you or someone you know is looking for a way to make a difference in the lives of others and to share your heart with us, check out our job openings.

Posted in Blog

Encouraging advocacy one person at a time

February 13, 2017

Q&A with Lead Service Coordinator, Rebekah Wold. Rebekah recently took on the responsibility of running the Committee of Advocacy and Leadership (COAL) at Koch Campus.

Rebekah with self-advocate and COAL member Bonnie

Why do you like working as a Direct Support Professional (DSP)?
My favorite part is encouraging people to make their own choices about their life. It’s great to see someone work through an issue and make a decision that will make his or her life better.

Why is it important for you to help the people we serve?
Diversity is vital. My life has been enriched by spending time and getting to know the people we serve. I want the greater community to have the same opportunity I’ve had to see the beauty and strength in our diversity. This desire drives me to support the people we serve.

How do you get people involved with advocacy efforts?
Many people have joined COAL so they have a place to connect with one another and get plugged into the community. My work consists of creating a space where everyone feels comfortable sharing and people can leave the meeting feeling encouraged. I’m looking forward to a year of seeing people grow to support each other more! I’m also excited to talk to our legislators and let them know what they can do to support the people we serve!

What has been your favorite memory here?
I get to regularly enjoy an outing with a woman on my caseload. We go out to drink coffee and talk about our lives. She is a creative and daring chef, and recently shared that she made a salad consisting of onions, lettuce, peanuts, Swiss cheese, Caesar dressing and peaches

Tell us more about yourself.
I have a pet cat and a pet rock. My cat is named Grace; she is 16 and enjoys sleeping by the fire and eating dairy products. My rock is named Ted; he is 3.2 billion years old and also enjoys the warmth of the fire. I love walking in nature, baking bread, hosting dinner parties, reading the news and painting.

Rebekah and dozens of other OP ambassadors will be rallying at ARRM/MOHR Day at the Capitol on March 14. Learn more.


Posted in Blog

Opening Minds. Changing Lives. Together.

You can help us Redefine Ability in 2017 by:

  1. Making a gift to support our critical work
  2. Liking us on Facebook and sharing our message with others
  3. Sharing your Redefine Ability story with us

With your partnership, so much is possible.


At age 33, Vince Fiorilli still has dreams he wants to accomplish – like enrolling in an online college to pursue his passion for writing poetry.

For now, he is redefining his ability by dabbling in poetry on his own and earning money for college by working at McDonald’s in Eden Prairie.

Landing an independent job was a big step for Vince, who has lived with the effects of a traumatic brain injury most of his life.

Although Vince says his brain injury meant he had to give up his goal of joining the military, he hasn’t let it stop him from leading a fulfilling life complete with work, friends and hobbies.

“I like to write poems, hang out with friends and help people,” he said, adding that someday he would like to volunteer with seniors or people disabilities.

Last April, McDonald’s hired Vince as a dining room attendant. As his managers began to recognize his potential as a hard working and reliable employee, the opportunities for additional training expanded.

He has learned to cook fries, take orders and operate the register, stock the ice and condiments, and run rood to customers. He is thriving as a valuable member of the team, filling in where needed and evening earning Employee of the Month!

Posted in Uncategorized

Opportunity Partners Gala – May 20, 2017

 Join us for our annual gala to benefit Opportunity Partners.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Opportunity Partners-Koch Campus
5500 Opportunity Court
Minnetonka, MN 55343

Purchase Tickets

For more information contact us at or 952-912-7442.

Thank you to our sponsors


Posted in Events, Events show on home

Parents united with and for our children

January 30, 2017

By Nancy Wagner, Parent and Opportunity Partners Board of Directors

As a mom of an adult son with Down Syndrome, I care about Matt’s future and the future of all people with disabilities. Changes are happening around us – some good and some that concern me – and I want to be sure that Matt and I have our voices heard.

The Wagner family at the Opportunity Partners gala

Let me tell you about Matt.

Matt is a person, just like anyone else.
Matt loves to work at Opportunity Partners.
Matt enjoys bowling with his friends on the weekends.
Matt loves living on his own through an apartment supported by Hammer.
Matt keeps me up to date on current events.
Matt likes to go to the Mall of America and Caribou.
Matt is my son, and I will always be his champion.

It’s because of Matt that I am involved with MNFAC, the Minnesota Families and Advocates Coalition – a grassroots statewide initiative helping parents learn how to advocate, what to do and where to start. We are families working together to promote advocacy, self-advocacy and awareness in our community.

Please join me at the next MNFAC meeting where we’ll discuss Disability Waiver Rate Setting (DWRS) and “Advocacy 101” – leaning how to effectively advocate for our loved ones – as well as an update on Best Life Alliance and their campaign to increase wages in the direct care workforce.

Meeting Details:
Tuesday January 31, 2017
7-9 p.m.
Hennepin County Brookdale Library
6125 Shingle Creek Pkwy
Brookdale Room ABC
Brooklyn Center, MN 55430

All are welcome – please RSVP.

Can’t make the meeting? Stay up to date by following MNFAC on Facebook.

Posted in Blog

2017 Spaghetti Dinner

You are invited to the 2017 Spaghetti Dinner sponsored by the Hopkins Noontime Lions Club! Come enjoy spaghetti with meatballs or meatless sauce, salad, bread, dessert and a beverage. Takeout is also available.

When: Thursday, March 2, 2017, 4:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Where: 5500 Opportunity Court, Minnetonka
Cost: Adults: $8, Children Under 12: $5, Families of 5 or more: $35

Learn more.

Posted in Events

Opportunity Partners welcomes new board members in 2017

January 20, 2017

Twin Cities nonprofit organization Opportunity Partners announces the election of Sarah Bridges, Joe Kukla and Leslie Neugent to its Board of Directors. Opportunity Partners advances the quality of life for people with disabilities through employment and residential programs that serve more than 2,000 people each year.

Sarah Bridges is a psychologist, executive coach and consultant, speaker, writer and thought leader on management. She is the owner of Bridges Consulting and has advised senior executives at Fortune 500 companies. Sarah received her B.A. in psychology from Wesleyan University and her Ph.D. in Neuropsychology from the University of Minnesota.


Joe Kukla is partner at Thiel, Anderson & Kukla, LLP. He specializes in disability planning and guardianships. Joe is also a certified coach with the Special Olympics Minnesota. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Madison with degrees in political science and criminal justice. He received his Juris Doctor from the New England School of Law.


Leslie Neugent is a minister at Wayzata Community Church. She leads a ministry and worship service called Parables for people with special needs and their families. She received a B.S in Communications from Northwestern University and a Masters in Advertising from the Medill School of Journalism.

Posted in News, Press Releases

How to get started

An Opportunity Partners representative is ready to answer your questions, set up a tour, or discuss the many ways we can partner with you. Get started today