April is Autism Acceptance Month, and Opportunity Partners is pleased to offer services that help people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) achieve goals, develop relationships and improve their communication skills. 

Opportunity Partners serves adults with ASD throughout its locations and residential services in the Twin Cities, and its Karlins Center in Plymouth offers specialized supports especially designed for adults with autism and similar disabilities. Karlins Center offers licensed day enrichment and community engagement options including volunteer opportunities, sensory and social skills building, and engaging activities like computer, music, cooking, games, art and more.  

Eddie West has attended OP at Karlins Center since 2013, where he’s enjoyed doing light packaging, working on puzzles, solving math problems, and going bowling or to local parks. Staff noted that while Eddie was extremely routine-based in the past, he has adapted very well to the changing routines that COVID-19 has brought about, including wearing a face covering. “He’s able to transition very well and needs less processing time,” added Margaret Schmitz, his support coordinator. 

Opportunity Partners is excited to participate in the AuSM’s state autism conference, “Inform, Influence, Innovate Together,” which will be held online April 21-24, and will feature dozens of breakout sessions, virtual exhibit booths, autism resources, and keynote speakers. 

According to the CDC, in 2020 approximately 1 in 54 children in the United States is diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. 

  • 1 in 34 boys identified with autism. 
  • 1 in 144 girls identified with autism. 
  • Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls. 
  • Autism affects all ethnic and socioeconomic groups. 

 

Jacob Williams, Support Coordinator

What do you do at OP?
I lead a full day class at the Bren Road location.

Share a mission moment!
We took a trip to the Como Zoo and everyone had so much fun watching the penguins swim and play!

What do you love about your job at OP?
I love spending time with great people and supporting them to have fun in class.

If you won the lottery, what’s the first thing you would do?
I would start an organization for justice.

What is your favorite indoor/outdoor activity?
I love playing cards and board games with friends and family.

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
How to stop procrastinating!

 

Liz Clark, Community Engagement Specialist

What do you do at OP?
I bring a small group out into the community every day. We go to museums, parks, libraries, and volunteer at Feed My Starving Children and Meals on Wheels.

Share a mission moment!
After being stuck inside for so long because of Covid-19, it is striking how excited everyone is to be able to get outside and safely see friends.

What do you love about your job at OP?
I get to be part of one of the most caring, inclusive communities I have ever known.

If you won the lottery, what’s the first thing you would do?
I would travel anywhere and everywhere (when it is safe), then save the rest.

What is your favorite indoor/outdoor activity?
I love food and music. Concerts, restaurants, ideally some combination of the two.

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
It’s tied between learning a new language or playing the guitar.

Anything else you would like to share?
I was born and raised in Hopkinton, MA (the start of the Boston Marathon)!

 

Tony Meyer, Assistant Program Manager

What do you do at OP?
I assist residents in all areas of daily living, while encouraging independence and community inclusion. I provide support to the Program Manager so that services are consistent. I also assist with scheduling and ensure policies and procedures are being followed at all times.

What do you love about your job at OP?
The flexibility and to help make a difference in people’s lives.

If you won the lottery, what’s the first thing you would do?
I would help out family.

What is your favorite indoor/outdoor activity?
Indoor – Movies/Gamer, Outdoor – Tubing on the lake

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
I would learn video game design!

Anything else you would like to share?
I know Sign Language and it is my favorite way to communicate with people.

 

Julie Magel, Employment Specialist

What do you do at OP?
I work with individuals who are employed out in the community. I visit and support them with setting employment goals, communication with their employers, trainings, and problem-solving in general with their employment needs or concerns.

Share a mission moment!
I worked with an individual who was on his last set of warnings by his employer. We built a plan to meet monthly with his manager to work on retaining his job. This helped the employer keep the individual working there and the individual was able to build a team relationship with his manager. I was able to support them both to have a positive work experience together.

What do you love about your job at OP?
I love my Vocational Services team! They work together and are cohesive with providing services to our Extended Employment/Job Development groups!

If you won the lottery, what’s the first thing you would do?
First thing I would do if I won the lottery is secure trusts for my children. I would like to take care of those that were there for me. After that, I would travel and donate to my favorite charities.

What is your favorite indoor/outdoor activity?
Since the pandemic, my family and I have really dove in to cooking by ordering Hello Fresh a couple times a month, preparing recipes, and doing family game night.

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
Scuba Diving

Anything else you would like to share?
I have two incredible children, Cassandra and Jacob. I could be anywhere in the world, but wherever they are, it’s home to me.

 

Your support means we can help Sam reach new goals! 

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month 

Sam joined Opportunity Partners in 2012 after a devastating car accident two years earlier that resulted in a brain injury. Sam was in the hospital for two months and in a rehabilitation center for six months, as she relearned how to do all her basic functions.   

“The accident damaged my vision and my right side is slower and harder to use,” Sam said. “It helps to use my walker to be safe. My family taught me how to be a strong and successful survivor. It’s important to make good decisions and choose properly.”  

At Opportunity Partners’ Bren Road Service Center, which offers specialized brain injury services, Sam works on the Production floor doing light packaging. Pre-COVID-19, she also participated in enrichment activities. “Being at OP is good because I have a job and I’m around good people,” Sam said. “My job helps me to focus properly. I like coming to OP since it helps me get out of the house and work at a job.”  

Earning money and having a purpose are important to Sam. “It makes me feel great doing something good,” she said, adding that her favorite work project is packaging camping mirrors.  

Sam looks forward to participating in enrichment activities again soon. “I liked seeing people out in the community, and I was able to learn something new,” she said. “I enjoyed when we toured different museums.”  

OP’s brain injury services help people rediscover the world after experiencing a brain injury. Whether it is mastering new skills, living more independently, or working individually or as part of team, individuals can increase their ability to lead a fulfilling life. Our goal is to transition people from our services back into the community and employment. To enhance these efforts, we have aligned our programs to build natural steps toward reaching that goal. 

OP typically supports more than 50 people with brain injury, although the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in fewer numbers of people currently being served.  

Learn more at https://opportunities.org/individuals/services-overview/brain-injury-services/ 

 

Brianna Dawson, SET Coordinator

What do you do at OP?
I work with persons served at a Boston Scientific in Maple Grove and hope to again soon at Arden Hills once Covid has passed.

Share a mission moment!
My mission is to help people served grow and work in the community with hopes of one day seeing them be able to work independently.

What do you love about your job at OP?
Seeing the growth and development in persons served along with them interact with people in the community.

If you won the lottery, what’s the first thing you would do?
Donate some and invest some for the future.

What is your favorite indoor/outdoor activity?
Learning about history and geography!

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
Speak many other languages well.

 

Joshua Haider, Application Support Specialist

What do you do at OP?
I move dots around on computer screens 😉 more specifically, I maintain our case management system and help our staff use it effectively. I troubleshoot issues and create new tools when we need them.

Share a mission moment!
I really enjoyed volunteering at our last Gala, and getting the audience hyped for the auction. It’s encouraging to see so many members of our community who support the people we serve and our staff who are dedicated to supporting them in living meaningful lives.

What do you love about your job at OP?
I like being the answer guy! Tech plays an important role in the background of what we do, and I love figuring out how to make tools and use data to help us improve the way we serve people. Even though I no longer support our people-served directly, I get to support our staff doing that important work.

If you won the lottery, what’s the first thing you would do?
If I was being practical, I’d pay for my wedding and house, then squirrel away some savings. But for fun, I’d get my fiancee a Tesla and a couple amazing steak dinners, and buy myself the Sennheiser HE90s – the best headphones in the world!

What is your favorite indoor/outdoor activity?
Rock climbing, weight lifting, and hiking in beautiful places. Can’t beat that.

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
Maybe not exactly something to learn, but I would love to be able to climb 5.14. Watch the “Dawn Wall” documentary if you want a better sense of what that means in terms of difficulty.

Anything else you would like to share about yourself?

I have, by my own admission, too many headphones. If you stop by my desk you’ll see several of them. They all sound different and I can’t ever decide which one to listen to- better have them all on hand, just in case!

 

Dawn Timmons, Direct Support Professional

What do you do at OP?
I support persons served in their homes, helping them to be as independent as possible, helping them to make goals, and supporting them in daily living.

Share a mission moment!
Late in the summer of 2020 a person’s served cat Lulu passed away, as her primary staff I was able to support her in her grief process and also in the preparation and purchase of her new cat Oreo. When she lost Lulu she was upset and was expressing feelings of loneliness, but the day that we went to pick up Oreo, she had the biggest smile on her face and her emotional state changed significantly. Being able to do that with her was just a reminder that every thing we do can have a huge impact on persons served.

What do you love about your job at OP?
The pride that people show and express when they set a goal and reach it. When we have worked together towards a specific goal and they make significant progress. I love that! Because it shows them that they are strong, powerful people and their desire to be as independent and safe as possible is being reached.

If you won the lottery, what’s the first thing you would do?
Buy a new car, purchase a house, send money to dog/cat rescues. Take care of debt and help others out financially.

What is your favorite indoor/outdoor activity?
Indoor (movies, puzzles, boardgames/card games) Outdoor (hiking, walking, road trips, nature)

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
I would love to learn the Polish language (I have been to Poland 4 times)

Anything else you would like to share about yourself?

My faith in Christ is of high priority to me and leads me in everything I do, even my work. I am affectionate and love to serve others and bring joy. I am also a musician and have played drums/percussion for over 20 years.

 

Emily McDonald, Finance Specialist

What do you do at OP?
I am responsible for billing for the work done on our production floors and the services that we provide to the people that we support.

Share a mission moment!
I never tire of seeing the pure joy and pride the people we support experience when they meet a personal goal or professional goal, whether they’ve been working on it for a few months or a few years.

What do you love about your job at OP?
I love how meaningful the work we do is. I never leave work wondering how I made a difference because the difference we make every day is evident. The pet policy at our sites is pretty fun, too!

If you won the lottery, what’s the first thing you would do?
I would donate a significant amount to a few organizations that I believe in, take a rock climbing trip to Patagonia with my fiancé, and save/invest the rest.

What is your favorite indoor/outdoor activity?
My favorite indoor and outdoor activity is rock climbing. I’m grateful that Minnesota has such an amazing climbing community.

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
I would love to learn Italian and Greek!

Anything else you would like to share about yourself?

Fun fact: The only OP setting I have not worked in is Employment Services. I have worked in our Day Programs, Group Homes, and Admin offices. Additionally, I volunteered at an OP Day Program twice a week during my last couple years of high school.

 

Latest Update
February 22, 2021

We hope this finds you doing well. At OP, our spirits are lifted as we’ve seen more people back to our day services. We wanted to reach out and share with you some of our latest updates related to OP services, health and safety protocols, upcoming events, and employment developments. As always, please reach out to our staff at any time – we are always happy to hear from you!
  • We are pleased to have held our first COVID-19 vaccine clinic for staff and some persons we serve residentially. In all, about 200 vaccines were given. We are working with Hennepin County Public Health to provide access to vaccinations for our day, employment and community living staff. For those served by OP who are living in their own or family homes, we encourage you to reach out to your clinic to learn about options and register with the Minnesota Department of Health’s Vaccine Connector.
  • We are excited to learn a number of individuals who attend OP day and employment locations have been able to access the vaccine. At this time, even with vaccinations ramping up, we are still required to follow health and safety protocols, including wearing facial coverings and practicing social distancing. People must be able to follow all protocols before returning to services, even if they have received the COVID-19 vaccine or have already recovered from COVID-19.
  • In a concerted effort to keep our air as clean as possible, we’ve added built-in filtration systems to Asplin Center, the Bren Service Center and Koch Campus, as well as portable filtration units at Karlins Center. We’ve also added filtration systems to our OP vehicles.
  • We have had no spread of COVID-19 in our day facilities. This is truly thanks to everyone closely following our health guidelines and safety protocols. As a reminder, if you or someone in your home is feeling sick, be sure to stay home. Please follow your medical provider’s advice on getting tested and/or isolating if you have been exposed to COVID-19 or have any symptoms.
  • We are excited to have welcomed 200 people back to day services in person! Our Asplin, Bren, Karlins and Koch Campus locations continue to operate just under 50 percent capacity at this time. We are following all state health guidelines, and are in close contact with our disability trade associations to ensure we are up to date on the latest information. Our transportation providers are still allowing only three riders per van and requiring that all passengers wear masks for the entire ride, which has slowed our ability to bring more people back. As we work through the challenges, we are so grateful for your flexibility and openness to change.
  • Our virtual services are serving about 100 individuals, and continue to be a great option for those who are either not ready to return in person, or want more connection with others who haven’t returned.
  • If you are ready to return to services – in-person or virtual – please call 952-930-4202 or email services@opportunities.org to let us know or have your questions answered.
  • Disability Services Day at the Capitol is Tuesday, March 9! We’ll be joining our disability services trade associations in a state-wide virtual rally and urging advocates to connect with their state legislators. Register and learn more.
  • OP’s Gala is going virtual! Our largest fundraiser of the year will be held online Thursday, May 13 and everyone is invited to attend for FREE! Presented by UnitedHealth Group, our Gala is an opportunity to celebrate success stories and join together to support OP after a very challenging year! Learn more.
  • Federal employment legislation – we are closely following the Raise the Wage Act, which has been included in President Biden’s Rescue America stimulus and recovery plan. The Act seeks to increase the federal minimum wage annually over the next four years and phase out the payment of special minimum wages for workers with disabilities. There are still many unknowns about when and how this legislation will impact people with disabilities who have valued the opportunity to work for wages comparable to their productivity. We will continue to follow and share updates as we learn more.
Thank you to our OP families and friends for remaining so encouraging throughout the uncertainty of the pandemic! And thanks again to our dedicated staff members who have kept everything running smoothly during this time. Please stay well!

Latest UpdatePrevious UpdatesFull Preparedness PlanLearn 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!

We love our staff, and they love OP! In fact, we recently asked staff what they love most about working at Opportunity Partners, and the responses filled our hearts with happiness!

“I never tire of seeing the pure joy and pride the people we support experience when they meet a personal goal or professional goal, whether they’ve been working on it for a few months or a few years,” said Emily McDonald, who got her start at OP as a volunteer when she was just in high school.

Later, Emily would go on to work in OP’s day programs, our residential group homes and now, as our finance specialist where she helps with billing. “I love how meaningful the work we do is,” she said. “I never leave work wondering how I made a difference because the difference we make every day is evident. The pet policy at our sites is pretty fun, too!”

For Dawn Timmons, who works as a direct support professional in OP’s community living program, she loves supporting people in their homes, helping them to be as independent as possible and achieve their goals. Last summer, Dawn supported a person served in the loss of her beloved pet cat. When the time was right, Dawn helped Carol adopt a new cat to help ease her loneliness. “The day that we went to pick up Oreo, Carol had the biggest smile on her face and her emotional state changed significantly,” Dawn said. “Being able to do that with Carol was just a reminder that everything we do can have a huge impact on persons served.”

Dawn enjoys seeing the people she supports when they make progress in achieving a goal. “I love that because it shows them that they are strong, powerful people and their desire to be as independent and safe as possible is being reached.”

She went on to say that her faith leads her in everything she does. “I love to serve others and bring joy. I am also a musician and have played drums/percussion for over 20 years.”

For Brianna Dawson, Supported Employment Team coordinator, she enjoys helping people to grow and work in the community with hopes of one day being able to work independently. She currently supports people who work at Boston Scientific in Maple Grove. “I love seeing the growth and development in person served, along with them interacting with others in the community,” she said.

In her spare time, Brianna enjoys learning about history and geography, and she would love to learn to speak other languages someday.

For Joshua Haider, an IT application support specialist, he loves figuring out how to make tools and use data to help OP improve the way they serve people. “Even though I no longer support our people-served directly, I get to support our staff doing that important work,” said Joshua, who got his start at OP in a direct care role before moving to IT.

Joshua enjoys rock climbing, weightlifting and hiking in beautiful places. He also has a huge selection of headphones. “They all sound different, and I can’t ever decide which one to listen to – better have them all on hand, just in case!”

Want to make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities? Check out our job openings at https://www.opportunities.org/careers/

Date: Thursday – May 13, 2021
Time: 7:00pm
Cost to Attend: Free!

We’re going virtual! Join us for our online Gala to benefit Opportunity Partners.

Mark your calendar for Thursday, May 13 at 7 pm as our annual Gala goes virtual for the first time! Tickets are FREE, and everyone is invited!

Emceed by KARE11 Chief Meteorologist Belinda Jensen, our most important fundraiser of the year will include mission moments, entertainment and a silent and premiere auction with Glen Fladeboe. Enhance your experience with our Gala in a Box, Gala for Two, and Gala for a Group! Registration open now!

Register Today!

Unable to attend the Gala?
You can make an absentee gift that counts toward the total raised at the Gala! Make a gift online.

If you have any questions, email events@opportunities.org or call 952-912-7442.


We are incredibly grateful for our many gala sponsors who are so generous with their support. 


We are stronger together!

Media Release

January 25, 2021

MINNETONKA – Twin Cities nonprofit disability services organization Opportunity Partners announces the election of Dan Hoke, U.S. Bank, and Ginny Kremer, Bremer Bank, to its Board of Directors. The mission of Opportunity Partners is to advance the quality of life for people with disabilities.  

Dan Hoke is Senior Vice President of retail distribution and ATMs for U.S. Bank. He has more than 20 years of service in leadership roles at U.S. Bank and its predecessor, First Bank System. He is a charter member and senior management advisor to the Disability Business Resource Group, and board member for U.S. Bank’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs. 

Ginny Kremer is Executive Vice President and Chief Risk Officer at Bremer Bank, responsible for rick management activities. Prior to joining Bremer in 2014, Ginny led enterprise risk and audit functions at MoneyGram International and U.S. Bancorp. She is a certified public accountant and certified risk professional. 

Officer transitions: Ben Knoll, Partners in Food Solutions, was named Chair. Patty Sagert, Rasmussen College, was named Vice Chair. John Kelly, UnitedHealth Group, is Treasurer. Saanii Hernandez remains Secretary. Outgoing Chair Greg Keane, Bush Foundation, will continue to serve as a Board member. 

Established in 1953, Opportunity Partners is a Twin Cities nonprofit organization advancing the quality of life for people with disabilities through employment and residential programs that serve 1,500 people each year. www.opportunities.org 

Contact: Julie Peters, info@opportunities.org, 952-930-4208 

Embracing the year ahead

I’d like to share with you my optimism for 2021, and reflect on the incredibly difficult 2020.

This past year we’ve confronted a global pandemic that has been devastating. We saw unacceptable racial injustices, with riots overshadowing peaceful protests and calls for justice. These events were an emotional drain for many of us. Yet despite a year of challenges, I am left with a sense of pride for OP, and for the resilience shown by our staff and the people we support.

Our dedicated team members have been creative in fulfilling our mission and supporting people in new ways. From developing virtual services, finding engaging ways to bring happiness while stuck in the house, to working long hours (sometimes in different roles), and enduring continuous change, we have learned to live and work in this new world. The OP team did all of this, while following strict safety protocols to keep each other and the people we serve safe.

Through it all, we’ve kept our mission at the forefront. We still expanded our apartment services to Minnetonka, integrated people into our services from a provider that closed, and launched the rebuild of our New Hope residence that burned down in 2019.

Thanks to everyone working together, generous contributions from our community, and financial assistance from state and federal governments, OP was able to end the year strong financially; stronger than we ever imagined in the spring of 2020. This will give us stable footing for rebuilding and expanding our services in 2021.

We are making key investments in several areas, including further expansion of the apartment programs, new case management software, and making needed investments in our most valuable resource – our staff.

Thank you for your support and encouragement in 2020, and I look forward to building a successful future in 2021. We are stronger together!

-Bill Schultz

How to get started

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