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, working long hours (sometimes in different roles), and enduring continuous change, as we 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

Thanks to KSTP 5 Reporter Kirsten Swanson for doing a story with us about the roll out of the COVID vaccine for people with disabilities.

Read the full article on KSTP.

Cyndi Lesher, Opportunity Partners Board of Directors

By Cyndi Lesher, OP Board of Directors

Cyndi Lesher, Opportunity Partners Board of Directors

I’ve been involved with Opportunity Partners in one way or another for 48 years! For me, it’s personal, a privilege and a priority.

It’s personal. I started my career as a vocational rehabilitation counselor working at Minneapolis Rehab Center. I referred clients to Opportunity Partners (then called Opportunity Workshop) because it was the best organization for people with disabilities. I also met Dennis, a vocational evaluator there who also referred clients to Opportunity Workshop. I later married him. So, I started my career working in rehab, met my husband and discovered my favorite nonprofit all about the same time. It’s been a love affair with Dennis and Opportunity Partners ever since — 48 years and going strong!

It’s a privilege because I believe so strongly in Opportunity Partners’ mission. What could be more important than impacting and improving the quality of life for people with disabilities? We are all, most simply, human. We all want to feel valued, contribute in whatever way we can, love, be loved and feel we matter.

Anyway and anytime I can be part of that, I’m privileged to do so. That’s why I give my time, money and expertise. I’ve been a volunteer, a Board of Directors member, Board chair and Opportunity Partners advocate. It’s a privilege.

And, it’s a priority for me and my family because of the high impact work we do. I have a direct opportunity to participate in life-changing work. Remember, philanthropy is not just about giving money. It’s also about giving time, energy, attending events and being an advocate for Opportunity Partners’ mission. If not ME, if not YOU, then who?

If you’d like to support Opportunity Partners, consider making a gift before December 31. Gifts can also be made any time online through opportunities.org/donate/. Thank you for your generosity!

In addition to serving as an Opportunity Partners Board of Directors member and chair of the organization’s Advancement Committee, Cyndi is the retired CEO of NSP, an Xcel Energy Co.

A version of this blog was originally published in 2018.

Opportunity Partners President & CEO Bill Schultz was recently featured on the Legacy Builders podcast with hosts Ted and Lisa Snyder, highlighting his move from for-profit leadership to nonprofit impact. Listen in at LegacyBuildersINTL.com. He had the chance to share about the amazing people OP serves!

Bill Schultz photo

Bill Schultz photoAugust 2020 – Bill Schultz has been named President & CEO of nonprofit disability services organization Opportunity Partners, after serving briefly as Interim President & CEO.

Bill joined Opportunity Partners in 2015 as Executive Vice President of Business Development and Operations, overseeing all business services operations at the organization including contract packaging and assembly and community Supported Employment Teams.

He came to Opportunity Partners with more than 20 years of experience in a variety of business leadership positions, and was drawn to the organization for its strong mission and history of making a difference in the community.

Established in 1953, Opportunity Partners serves 1,500 adults with disabilities each year through employment, enrichment and residential options.

You helped us raise much-needed funds to support our mission of advancing the quality of life for people with disabilities! We are so grateful to have raised nearly $30,000 on Give to the Max Day on November 19.

If you missed Greg’s story of healing and determination, you can read it here.

The generous support of our community means even more people can experience the dignity of work, the comforts of home, and opportunities to enjoy life surrounded by family, friends, co-workers and a community that cares. Because of you, we can continue to be here for those who need us most.

Together, we are better!

October 20, 2020

Last year, a group home for three vulnerable adults on the 2700 block of Ensign Avenue North made local headlines when it erupted into flames. The cause of the fire remains unknown.

“I heard a big bang from outside,” remembered Adventor Trye, an Opportunity Partners staff member who was waiting for one resident, Ken, to get ready so the two could go on an outing. “It was apparently from the garage, so I went there and I saw a big fire blazing there already.”

Trye helped Ken escape from the fire that day, and ran back into the flames to make sure no other residents were inside. Thankfully, none were.

Trye met with Opportunity Partners CEO Bill Schultz and Denali Custom Homes founder David Bieker for a groundbreaking at the home Oct. 13. After a year and a half, the home is finally being rebuilt so it can once again serve as a place vulnerable adults can live as independently as their disabilities allow. The reconstruction was made possible by a new partnership between Denali and Opportunity Partners.

Read the article on the Sun Post website.

CCX Media Story Photo

October 13, 2020

For more than a year, Adventor Trye has avoided the area around Ensign Avenue N in New Hope. It’s the location where a group home burned on June 2, 2019 and Trye pulled a man out of the home who would not come on his own. Trye still has scars from the incident and it still bothers him to think about it. However, he’s happy to be back at the location for the groundbreaking of a new group home for people with disabilities.

“This is my second time coming here after the incident,” said Trye. “It makes me feel happy that life was saved, because we have a priority in life to save others. If you see a life saved, be thankful to God.”

The staff from Opportunity Partners, who operated the home, are grateful to Trye.

Read more on CCX Media website.

Generosity Fuels Rebuild of New Hope Group Home

October 12, 2020

More than a year after a devastating group home fire, some Twin Cities businesses are stepping up to build a better home.

Last year a fire broke out on the 2700 block of Ensign Avenue in New Hope. Three people with special needs were left homeless.

“We heard a loud sound in the garage and when I went there, there was a fire,” said Adventor Trye.

Once a week, Trye would show up at a group home to help a special needs resident named Ken. During a June morning last year, a fire spread from the garage to the house. Adventor heroically got Ken outside safely, as flames and smoke took over.

“My car was over here. Fire already got to it,” Trye said.

But afterwards, all Trye could think about was that the men living there had just lost everything.

Read the full story on WCCO’s website.


We are so grateful for our generous Gala sponsors in 2020 like Spotlight on sponsor Thiel, Anderson, Kukla, P.L.L.P., even though we weren’t able to meet this year. Our next Gala is scheduled for May 2021.

Thiel, Anderson, Kukla firm logoCan you tell us a little about your business?

I am a partner at a small law firm that serves clients in estate planning, guardianships, residential and commercial real estate transactions and small business management. Our estate planning has a particular emphasis on the issues that are critical to people with special needs, including complex planning for Medical Assistance and Social Security eligibility. Despite our small size, our firm has been in continuous business in the Twin Cities since 1886 and we have been serving the special needs community as a primary focus for nearly 40 years.

Joe Kukla, esq. Thiel, Anderson & Kukla, PLLP

Joe Kukla, esq. Thiel, Anderson & Kukla, PLLP

What moves you to support Opportunity Partners? And how did you first learn about Opportunity Partners?

My initial connection to OP was through my youngest brother, who has developmental disabilities and has been a person served by OP for about 10 years. I supported OP as a family member by attending events and contributing as I could. When I joined my current law firm, there was already an established history of our partners supporting OP as board members and advocates, which I have continued by serving on the board of directors since 2016. I support OP because the organization makes such a positive impact on the lives of people with disabilities. It truly enhances the quality of life of its persons served by providing purpose, community and support 365 days a year, and I want to support that effort myself as much as possible.

How can people learn more about you? (social media, website, etc)

We have a website at www.thielfirm.com. I am also on LinkedIn. You may also find me around town doing free workshops and seminars, as I routinely present on legal topics related to special needs for organizations like PACER, Fraser, Arc of MN and the Down Syndrome Association of MN, among others.




At OP, we know that celebrating our skills and talents is so important to the people we serve. Join us as we show off the talents of our entire OP community!

This year, we had a critical need to raise $300,000 from our annual Gala, which was unfortunately cancelled. But with our incredible sponsors, donors and friends, we’ve raised $270,000 toward that goal. We’re now just $30,000 away and excited to announce a $5,000 matching gift!

We had to cancel our annual talent shows this year as well, and we think now is the perfect time to show off the amazing talents we all have – including our persons served. From singing our hearts out to growing a beautiful garden, talents come in all forms. And for over 65 years, Opportunity Partners has celebrated talents, provided opportunities and grown the confidence of so many.

Because of you, we can continue to provide the important services so people with disabilities can truly thrive.

Help us reach our goal of raising $300,000.
Check out the many talents of OP below!
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Thank you to our generous sponsors for 2020!


We are so grateful for our generous Gala sponsors in 2020 like Stairway Partners, LLC., even though we weren’t able to meet this year. Our next Gala is scheduled for May 2021.

Can you tell us a little about your business?

Stairway Partners is an SEC-registered Investment Advisor providing comprehensive investment advice and industry-leading portfolio management solutions with offices in Chicago and Minneapolis. Our firm was created to provide institutions and individual investors with transparent and cost-effective stewardship of their assets. Our sophisticated investment capabilities and a steadfast commitment to the industry’s best practices have allowed us to serve as a valued advisor and trusted fiduciary to clients throughout the United States.

Jamie Jackson, CFA
Managing Principal

What moves you to support Opportunity Partners? And how did you first learn about Opportunity Partners?

I am proud to support OP because I believe that it is important to share my own good fortune and expertise with people in the community that need a helping hand.

How can people learn more about you? (social media, website, etc)

Visit stairwaypartners.com for more information.


We are so grateful for our generous Gala sponsors in 2020 like Kraus-Anderson, even though we weren’t able to meet this year. Our next Gala is scheduled for May 2021.

Can you tell us a little about your business?

Kraus-Anderson is a family of companies providing a variety of services related to the built environment. Our services include construction management, facilities assessment, real estate development, property management and leasing, financial services, and risk management expertise. Our professionals work with a wide variety of clients and business partners, including public schools, healthcare, office, multifamily housing, government, retail and many more, addressing their needs and becoming valued consultants to clients as they strategically plan for growth. Headquartered in the Twin Cities, we operate regional offices in Duluth, Bemidji, Rochester, MN; Madison, WI and Bismarck, ND. KA’s strongest presence is in the Upper Midwest, and we also serve our clients coast to coast to deliver their construction needs. Our employees hold Valuing People as one of our core principles, and each day they live our Core Purpose of Together, Strengthening the Communities We Serve. These deeply held beliefs are well aligned with the work of Opportunity Partners.

Diane Toll, Director, Human Resources

What moves you to support Opportunity Partners? And how did you first learn about Opportunity Partners?

We first learned about Opportunity Partners through an employee of ours (who was a parent of a person served by Opportunity Partners). I was sharing with the employee that we were specifically seeking ways to diversify our workforce and he told me about Opportunity Partners. I reached out to Opportunity Partners to learn more and that led to our hiring a person from OP to come work for our organization, which led to additional hires and a partnership with Opportunity Partners since 2006.

How can people learn more about you? (social media, website, etc)

Check out the KA blog, KA’s Build Me Up! Podcast; or go to our website at krausanderson.com. We are also active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube.


Dear Friends of Opportunity Partners,

The first half of 2020 has been incredibly challenging for us all as we’ve navigated the unknowns of a pandemic, as well as economic and emotional unrest throughout our communities.

Through this time, all of us at Opportunity Partners have been encouraged by your ongoing support as we meet our mission of advancing the quality of life for people with disabilities.

Thanks to our hard working staff, dedicated families and our caring community, OP experienced a strong and successful year in 2019, which positioned us well to meet the new challenges of 2020. Our 2019 Report to the Community highlights that year’s successes and milestones made possible because of you.

With your help, we know we will continue to be here for you and our community now and in the future.

We are stronger together!

With gratitude,

Greg Keane
Board of Directors Chair

View 2019 Report to the Community


July 28, 2020

Thank you to CCX Media for sharing a story about our day programs reopening slowly and carefully! See the joy that working brings to individuals including Laura!

Read the full story here: ccxmedia.org/news/pandemic-causes-hardships-for-workers-with-developmental-disabilities/

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