We are so grateful for all who have reached out to see how the recent events have impacted the people served at OP. Although our day services have temporarily closed (60 percent of our annual revenue), we continue to provide support to 400 individuals at home and in select community jobs. As many families are increasingly separated from their loved ones at this time, it is imperative that we continue to provide vital supports. We also must be ready to serve the community that counts on OP in the future.

Watch this special message from President & CEO Armando Camacho. 

We’ll share more stories from around OP in the coming weeks, and watch for ways you can help. We are better together!

Donate Today 

 

Latest Update
March 31, 2020

Your help needed – homemade masks and donations

Opportunity Partners’ on-site day programs remain closed, impacting 750 people with disabilities who are now home all day and 200 of our staff who are currently furloughed or working reduced hours during this global health crisis.

However, we continue to provide vital care to nearly 400 people in our group homes and other residential programs, as well as in our job support programs. We’re helping people stay safe at home, guiding those who need to apply for unemployment, and coaching individuals still employed in essential services. We also have a dedicated crew of OP staff working safely to complete packaging projects for businesses deemed critical.

Many of you have asked how you can help.

With our day programs comprising 60 percent of OP’s annual revenue, our continued closure could be financially devastating to OP and organizations like ours. We need donations now to keep OP financially viable as we move forward, and to ensure we are ready to serve the disability community when it is safe to fully open again.

Make a donation today

OP is also seeking alternative facemasks to be worn by our direct care staff. The Minnesota Department of Health has provided guidance on homemade or manufactured facemasks that are not U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved, but could be worn by asymptomatic staff who have not had exposures known to COVID-19 and in other circumstances. They can also be worn by workers who do not have direct care responsibilities.

OP hopes to collect 400-500 alternative facemasks from our community. Learn more from the Minnesota Department of Health, including protocols for when we can use the masks and instructions to sew homemade masks. We’ve heard elastic may be in short supply, so here are instructions for masks without elastic.

If you are willing to make homemade masks, please email info@opportunities.org for next steps.

We are all in this together, and we are committed to serving our community in the best ways that we can now and into the future. Stay strong, everyone!

 

Latest UpdatePrevious UpdatesLearn more about COVID-19


Previous Updates:


If you would like to learn more about COVID-19, please see the following web sites:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

Minnesota Department of Health: https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/index.html

As always, if you have questions please contact your OP representative or email info@opportunities.org. Thank you!

According to the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance, 100,000 Minnesotans live with a disability due to a brain injury. Opportunity Partners’ specialized brain injury services help people rediscover their world. Whether it is mastering new skills, living more independently, or working successfully, our goal is to transition people back into living a fulfilling life.


Meet a few of our participants!

Barb is a hard worker and committed to success. Barb sustained a brain injury at age 15 as the result of a rare illness. Now 56, Barb attends our brain injury program three days per week where she gains work and coping skills in a supportive environment. “The staff are very loving people,” she remarked, adding that someday she hopes to acquire her dream job as an activities assistant in a nursing home. “I’m not going to give up,” she said. “I might make some mistakes but I’ll keep going.”

Rick, 52, is always willing to try new activities and go out of his comfort zone. Rick sustained a brain injury as the result of a car accident. He attends our brain injury program three days per week, where staff have seen great progress over the last year. He’s expanding his horizons, going bowling, out to coffee shops and volunteering in the community as part of his enrichment classes at OP. “I have friends here,” he said. “I like the atmosphere, and I have fun.”


Opportunity Partners offers one of the only structured day programs in the Twin Cities for people with brain injury. We also offer pre-vocational and vocational programs.

Learn more about our brain injury services here.

 

Hopkins Noontime Lions Club Spaghetti Dinner

16th Annual Benefit for Opportunity Partners

Fill your plate with pasta and help support people with disabilities living and working in the community at the Hopkins Noontime Lions Club spaghetti dinner benefiting nonprofit organization Opportunity Partners. The event is on Thursday, March 5 from 4:30-7:30 p.m. at Opportunity Partners-Koch Campus, 5500 Opportunity Court, Minnetonka.

The cost of the dinner is $8 for adults, $5 for children under 12, and $35 for families or groups of 5 or more. Tickets are available at the door.

The menu includes spaghetti with meatballs or meatless sauce, salad, bread, dessert and a beverage. Take-out is also available.

For more information about the event, contact Grace at 952-912-7442 or events@opportunities.org.

 

We’ve been planning our upcoming Gala for May 2 for many months. We are now faced with rescheduling the traditional event for October 2, which we count on to raise critical support, at time of great need for OP.

We simply cannot wait until the fall to raise support for the people we serve.

We are so grateful for all those who have reached out to see how the recent events have impacted the people served at OP. Although our Day Service programming has temporarily shut down (60 percent of our revenue), we continue to care for individuals living in our homes and apartments. As many families and guardians are increasingly unable to visit their loved ones in residential settings, it is imperative that OP staff continue to provide vital supports. Costs have increased as we gather medical, protective, and cleaning supplies, to ensure safety of our people served and staff, and yet we need to be ready to serve the community that counts on OP in the future.

Therefore, we are looking forward to keeping our original May 2 date as an online day of support for OP.

Over the next several weeks we will be in touch about how you can engage in this urgent opportunity to support people we serve (you can give now here!). Please watch your email for stories of hope and for ways to get involved!

Make a donation today 

Thank you for supporting our mission of advancing the quality of life for people with disabilities.


You made a difference! Thank you for giving from your heart on Give to the Max Day. You helped us exceed our goal, with $33,200 raised. Thanks to you, we can continue to be champions for inclusion in our community. Together, we are better!

Give to the Max Day is November 14th! You can support your favorite nonprofit organizations, including Opportunity Partners. Help us raise $30,000 for our mission of advancing the quality of life for people with disabilities. Your support means we can continue to do so much more. You can schedule your gift starting on November 1st. We are grateful for the generous Opportunity Partners family who will match your gift, dollar-for-dollar.

Don’t miss this opportunity to have an even greater impact – make your gift and have it doubled, up to $10,000. Consider making your gift on Minnesota’s largest day of charitable giving – Give to the Max Day!

By Kate Harahan, Opportunity Partners Board of Directors.

When I think about why I support Opportunity Partners, it is all about a constant theme in my life – being an advocate. For as long as I can remember, my life has been about supporting and believing in people who have unique needs.

This goes all the way back to 3rd grade and Bobby K. He lived with Down syndrome – and was my very best friend … and gave the greatest hugs of all time.

In 2009, being an advocate came back in full force, when at the age of 20, I was working full time and attending school full time. I thought I could take on the world. I feel asleep at the wheel and was in a car crash that resulted in the amputation of my right leg, a lengthy hospital stay and a lifetime of recovery.

So many aspects of life that I never thought to be thankful for became a major struggle or impossible overnight. Most importantly, I had to learn how to become an advocate for myself while navigating my new normal and a life of living with a permanent physical disability.

In 2011, my father, in his early 50’s was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. I certainly didn’t anticipate being an advocate for a parent especially in my mid-twenties!

I remember the first time he wanted to go for a walk alone, I told him “not a chance!” and as I was saying it, I realized what was coming out of my mouth. I was taking away his freedom and how unfair for me to try to put him in a bubble because I was scared. All he needed me to do was support him and advocate for him to live a life that he desires, regardless of his new diagnosis.

These are just a few examples of why the people Opportunity Partners serves and the OP community resonate with me personally. I realize our connection with the disability community is often different, yet our experiences can be oddly similar, and that is why being an advocate is important.

For me and my family, philanthropy is not transactional. It is a mindset and a way of life. It’s about being an advocate for what you believe in and donating your time and money to the causes that are in our hearts. I can say without hesitation, Opportunity Partners has a big place in my heart and I hope that it does in yours too.

If you’d like to support Opportunity Partners, consider making a gift online. Thank you for your generosity!

 

Group at Arby's

Group at Arby'sArby’s in the Twin Cities was named an Outstanding Disability Employer by the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation (MOHR) during National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October. Opportunity Partners, who nominated Arby’s, supports employees at Arby’s restaurants in Plymouth, Minnetonka, St. Louis Park and St. Paul.

“Arby’s welcomes people with disabilities as employees right away, working to integrate them in their workplace culture,” said Ben Kopnick, Opportunity Partners “Together Works Better” coordinator. Managers and staff work to put people into positions where they are most likely to succeed, he explains.

Opportunity Partners is also a key element in this equation. “They are here frequently in the beginning, helping out as needed and making sure that the new team member not only fits our needs, but that we fit their needs as well,” said Rexanne Mullihan, area supervisor for Arby’s Restaurant Group.

Staff from the service organization stop in to monitor employees’ progress and keep in touch with Mullihan. “The support has been awesome,” she said.

Kopnick said Arby’s communicates well and does so consistently. “This ensures the highest possible level of support for the employee,” he explains. The restaurants also add their own “natural supports” to help employees with disabilities. Staff show kindness and empathy, and workers supported by Opportunity Partners know who to ask when they need something. Additionally, through the successes and difficulties, situations are handled in an appropriate and professional manner, Kopnick said.

Mullihan said job placements from Opportunity Partners clean tables in dining rooms, greet and thank guests and engage them in conversation as they become more comfortable. Beverage, condiment and napkin areas are cleaned. Team members from the nonprofit also fill orders, work with slicers and fryers. One individual took on more duties to become a proficient order taker during lunchtime on weekdays.

“Together Works Better” is a grant-based program created by Opportunity Partners that provides onsite support through peer mentorships and supplemental taxi transportation for workers. This causes faster integration into the workplace, with the majority of support in the first 90 days of employment, Kopnick explains.

The restaurants challenge their employees by adding job responsibilities and promoting them when merited, Kopnick said. “This allows them to push themselves and grow their skillsets.” Employees placed at Arby’s by Opportunity Partners are quite satisfied.

“Dining room ambassadors” take pride in helping clean the dining area, said Kopnick. There’s enjoyment in interacting with customers, learning new skills and getting paid for it. People with disabilities are in visible roles at the restaurants, which further illustrates their value to the organization, he explains.

MOHR represents more than 100 disability service providers across the state. Its mission is to advocate and support its nonprofit members in providing meaningful services to persons with disabilities and communities served. Members are committed to respect for each individual, a person-centered approach and expanding work opportunities.

Read more in the Sun Sailor newspaper.

OP’s annual Success Celebration, held on September 15 at the Hyland Hills Chalet in Bloomington, recognized “Out of This World Success” with awards in the categories of Impact, Choice, Heart, Partnership and Spirit.

Armando pictured with Success Celebration winners Warren (Spirit ), Alan (Partnership) and Torin (Impact).

Whether landing a new job, increasing independence at home, advocating for one’s beliefs, or achieving a major goal, these successes all enhance quality of life.

Impact Award – for creating positive influence through volunteering, education and work.

Torin earned the Impact Award for his achievements in competitive, integrated employment.

After taking classes and gaining work skills on the Best Buy Supported Employment Team, he made the choice to enroll in employment services and began his journey to independent employment. He explored a variety of opportunities before zeroing in on Home Depot as his employment goal. He wanted a job where he could help people and that was close to home.  He identified the lot attendant position at the Richfield Home Depot as a good match for his skills and goals.

With a little support, he completed the application, nailed it on his interview and accepted the position he wanted. Recently, Torin was credited by a parent as being an inspiration to a peer by sharing job experiences and encouraging his peer to participate in our employment program called Together Works Better. Recently, when asked if he would like to be a peer mentor for an employment exploration participant, Torin said yes without hesitation. In the words of the mentee, “Torin had a lot of information for me. Torin was helpful about employment. He was very kind and patient about answering the questions that I asked.  I feel more confident.”

Choice Award – for building a self-directed life.

Emily earned the Choice Award for committing to a budget. A few months ago, Emily’s staff helped her figure out a budget. The staff didn’t hear anything about it for a while until she asked Emily one day about it. Emily told staff she had been following the budget, hadn’t over-drafted her checking account, and had managed to save $600! She even told staff that she has now become addicted to saving!

Emily is working hard to plan for future emergencies and events and is excited to be able to provide for her family. Emily’s choice to manage her finances is paying off in big ways. 

Heart Award – for promoting the dignity and worth of others.

Ken C. earned the Heart Award for being such a hard worker and a good person. In June, Opportunity Partners’ Ensign House – Ken’s home- was destroyed in a fire. He has experienced several moves since then, including staying at an extended stay hotel and finally a group home being leased from another organization, while Opportunity Partners is working on a permanent housing solution for Ken and his housemates. In spite of this tragic situation, Ken has still been coming to work daily and working hard. He is also helpful to staff and to the people who work around him. Ken was nominated in the Heart category because of the courage he has displayed while dealing with the disruption, and for giving it his all in spite of such trying circumstances.

Partnership Award – fostering relationships to enrich one’s life or the community.

Alan earned the Partnership Award for his growth in independence. Over the last year Alan has worked hard to make his own choices and create opportunities for growth for himself. The key to this growth has come from learning how to manage his Metro Mobility rides independently. In the past, Alan depended on staff at OP and at home to manage his rides and activities for him. Since learning how to set up demand rides, Alan is active every weekend and has started inviting other persons served by OP to movies, restaurants and shopping.

He has created a social group that regularly meets up to get coffee or watch movies. Alan has become more independent over the last year and takes a great amount of pride in planning activities.

Spirit Award – personifying Opportunity Partners’ mission, vision and values in daily life.

Warren earned the Spirit Award for keeping a positive attitude during times of change. He’s maintaining relationships, advocating for himself, and promoting other’s value and worth as well.

Last fall, Warren discovered that after 20 years of living in a home with two other men, he would have to move out. Opportunity Partners had provided in-home staff for Warren and his roommates every morning and evening, seven days a week. Warren was accustomed to and relied on having staff readily available. Fortunately, Warren and one of his roommate’s teams were able to find an apartment for the two of them to continue living together. When they transitioned to this apartment, Warren adapted to not having staff available every day. He has become more independent and self-sufficient.

Warren has handled all of these changes and more with an upbeat and enthusiastic nature. He is a wonderful communicator and advocates for himself on a daily basis. He is also an avid volunteer for events throughout the year, and has not let all the changes slow him down.

Special thanks to the OP Person Served Recognition Committee for all their hard work in planning the Success Celebration. They include: Hannah Woodie, Emily McDonald, Jesse Millard-Dernell, Shari Mason, Heather Brueske, Colette Durr, Katie Sullivan and Joshua Haider.

 

 

October’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) aims to educate about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. This year’s theme is “The Right Talent, Right Now.”

Finding the “Right Talent, Right Now” is more important today than ever before with workforce shortages across many industries ranging from disability services and health care to manufacturing, food and retail. Meanwhile, nationwide the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is said to be more than twice the rate of the general population.

We help businesses by recommending candidates with disabilities for direct hires or providing supervised teams of workers. We have people ready and eager to work. We provide the training and ongoing support as needed. Throughout October, we’ll be sharing stories of inclusion and celebrating the abilities of all workers.


Darren handles his cashiering duties at Target with skill, moving customers through the line with speed and accuracy. His talents have been recognized by his supervisors, and in January he was promoted to be a trainer of new cashiers. He has been a loyal Target employee for 13 years!  Over the years he has worked in the deli, as a cart attendant, and as a stocker before moving up to cashier. He has an excellent memory, knowing most of the produce codes which means he doesn’t have to take the time to look at the label before entering in the code. This speeds up his line, which customers appreciate. Way to go, Darren!

For Danielle, finding a job that aligns with her personal goals and values fills her heart with happiness. Danielle recently celebrated one year at KinderCare child care center, where she works as a classroom instructor. “I’ve always felt this is the field I need to be in,” Danielle said. “I relate well to the families, and the kids are great.” Opportunity Partners helped set the stage for success by offering Danielle job readiness training and skills for independence. After starting as a classroom assistant at KinderCare, Danielle worked hard to pass the necessary classes to obtain certification to be an independent classroom instructor. “I’m very proud of myself,” she said. “I’m also very blessed and grateful.” Congratulations, Danielle!

Torin wanted a job close to home where he could help people and make a difference. With Opportunity Partners’ support, he landed a position as a lot attendant at Home Depot, which proved to be a great match for his skills and goals. Torin also stepped up to mentor a peer who was exploring employment opportunities, demonstrating kindness and patience as he answered questions about his job experiences. His achievements recently earned him an Impact Award from Opportunity Partners! Great job, Torin!

“I love working here,” said Trisha, happy to work for an organization that values teamwork and inclusion. Opportunity Partners has collaborated with Silvercrest Properties for more than 15 years. The senior housing management company has hired 10 employees from OP throughout the years at several locations, including Park Shore Campus, Village Shore Campus and others. Trisha’s duties include dining room and dish room support, helping operations run smoothly. We are so grateful for dedicated employees like Trisha!

Nicole works four days a week at various Opportunity Partners Supported Employment Team sites, including Life Fitness and Medtronic CRMD. “I like that I get to work at multiple sites so I am able to have variety in my days,” Nicole said. Her staff describe her as a go-getter, who is punctual and has great attendance. Nicole also is a strong support for her peers on the job, using her skills to help train others. Sounds like a model employee! Great job, Nicole!

The history of NDEAM traces back to 1945 when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October each year “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” In 1962, the word “physically” was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

“Every day, individuals with disabilities add significant value and talent to our workforce and economy,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta. “Individuals with disabilities offer employers diverse perspectives on how to tackle challenges and achieve success. Individuals with disabilities have the right talent, right now.”

The purpose of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is to educate about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. This year’s theme is “The Right Talent, Right Now.”

The history of NDEAM traces back to 1945 when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October each year “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” In 1962, the word “physically” was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

“Every day, individuals with disabilities add significant value and talent to our workforce and economy,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta. “Individuals with disabilities offer employers diverse perspectives on how to tackle challenges and achieve success. Individuals with disabilities have the right talent, right now.”

Throughout October, OP will share stories of inclusion and celebrate the abilities of all.

 

We’ll be celebrating our DSPs all week, introducing you to just a few of our superstars and recognizing the work they do to support people with disabilities. Thank you, DSPs! 


Meet Patrick Gambill-Read, who has worked for OP for three years. As an in-home services lead, he says, “I like the variety of being able to work in more than one setting, the opportunity to work 1:1 … and the joys and challenges that come from supporting people toward more independent living in their community.” Thank you, Patrick!


Connie Phonesavanh has worked for the last year as a life skills instructor at OP-Karlins Center. “I love building a rapport with the people served and knowing that they care about your life outside of work. It is the simple things they do and say that makes me smile.”  Thank you, Connie!


Nick Jensen has worked for OP nine years, supporting people in competitive employment at businesses throughout the Twin Cities Metropolitan area. “I love getting to know the people on my caseload and helping people discover the joy of independence and job satisfaction.” Thank you, Nick!


Dianna Hamilton has 23 years of service to OP! She discovers new community volunteer sites for her classes at OP-Asplin Center and supports people as they experience the satisfaction of helping others. “I strongly believe in helping the people we serve to become as independent as possible in whatever it may be and to keep progressing, stretching them in growth, giving them a purpose, learning more about themselves, and being the best advocates they can be.” Thank you, Dianna!


Jackie Helm is celebrating six years with OP, supporting individuals at our Karlins Center. “Through various activities and community outings, I am able to get a better understanding of what brings individuals joy as well as what they hope to achieve in the future. I also enjoy bringing my dog to work. It’s fun watching people light up when they realize he is here for a visit.” Thank you, Jackie!

We recently held a professional photo shoot at Opportunity Partners to capture new images for use in our marketing and communications efforts. We gathered a group of enthusiastic persons served and staff, and everyone had a great time, posing and laughing together.

Staff and persons served enjoyed a morning of photos and laughter.

In between photos, we asked participants what they enjoy about Opportunity Partners and how they think we meet our mission of advancing their quality of life. Here’s what they said:

“I like my staff; they make me laugh,” said Jack. “I make new friends here.” For two years, Jack has been working at a local movie theater with support from Opportunity Partners. “I’ve been Employee of the Month,” he added.

For Yohan, he looks back at his 10 years at Opportunity Partners with a smile. “It’s amazing,” he said. “I like to see my staff and mingling with people. They call me a social butterfly.” He recently started a new job stocking at a Hopkins grocery store.

For Dayna, Opportunity Partners has helped her accept change in her life. “I’ve grown, I’ve matured,” she said. “I’m still learning as a person with a disability.” She’s exploring looking for community work, with OP’s help.

Ari said OP expands her social network. “I like my friends, I like my staff,” she said. “OP makes me feel happy inside.” Ari especially enjoys her OP outings to places like book stores and museums around town.

For Amber, she couldn’t wait to start at Opportunity Partners after hearing about it from a friend. “I heard OP was a good place. I like meeting new friends here. My service coordinator helped me find a community job at Boston Scientific.”

Aaron said he appreciates his staff who are “tough but fair.” He also enjoys working. “I like to be motivated by work.”

Christi said OP has broadened her world. “I am learning about my community more and seeing what’s out in front of you.”

Even after we wrapped up the successful photo shoot and went back to our daily routines, our smiles remained. We can’t wait to share the photos with you over the coming months. Together, we are better!

By Julie Peters, Communications Director

You help us make an impact, provide choice, lead with heart and create partnerships! Our Report to the Community showcases success stories and milestones from 2018, and how you helped us support nearly 1,500 people with disabilities throughout our community.

With your help, anything is possible as we work together to advance the quality of life for people with disabilities. Together, we are better! Read more here.

How to get started

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