Opportunity Partners is open for business today

Opportunity Partners locations are open for business today – Wednesday, November 27. Please plan for delays and travel safely. If you have questions or concerns, please reach out to your OP contact person. Thank you, and have a nice Thanksgiving.

Thank you for Giving to the Max


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

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!

Philanthropy as a mindset

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!

 

Arby’s named Outstanding Disability Employer

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.

Celebrating success

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.

 

 

The Right Talent, Right Now

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.”

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

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.

 

Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week is Sept. 8-14

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!

Why we’re better together

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

Report to the Community now available

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.

Celebrating our amazing team

Together, we are better! We recently celebrated milestone anniversaries of 39 of our wonderful Opportunity Partners staff members.

With an amazing combined 365 years of service to the mission of OP, it is truly humbling to reflect on the dedication of these individuals who have committed 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 and even 30 years to OP!

Employees celebrating anniversaries were recognized at a July luncheon.

Representing all areas of the organization, including residential, day program, work skills and administration, these employees have touched nearly every part of our company. Some started as temporary workers and have advanced to management positions. Some started in the program area and transferred into new opportunities in finance or other administrative areas. All have given their time and talent to advance the quality of life for people with disabilities.

Here’s what they said at a luncheon on July 9 in their honor.


“It’s an honor and a privilege to work with our persons served. I love them.” – Mike Mueller, transportation (20 years)

“We all work together as a team to support people.” – Sam Dennis, residential ( 5 years)

“It’s been a fun 5 years. There’s been some great challenges.” – Putheavy Nop, production (5 years)

“I really enjoy it. (OP) makes my heart soar. It fills me up and makes me really happy.” – Kelly Laignel, employment and residential (5 years)

“I love working here. I never thought I’d be in finance but it’s pretty great,” – Sheena Schar, finance (10 years)

“I love OP. It has been a great 10 years.” – Nicki Hennessey, day programs (10 years)

“I’m really grateful for everyone who works here.” – Jennie Davis, day programs (20 years)

“I like to connect with the guys at the houses.” – Anastanciah Mose (10 years)


Do you want to make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities?

We have many job openings! Join our team.

Fire update

Our community is embracing us after the June 12 fire at OP’s Ensign Residence in New Hope. Our insurance adjusters have declared the house a total loss, and we are assessing whether to rebuild at the site or purchase a different home. Meanwhile, the residents have settled into longer-term housing and are just coming to grips with the loss of their home and possessions.

Link to CCX Media Story

Working together for success

OP provides important step in process

Our community is better when we all work together.

Cannon Equipment, a Marmon/Berkshire Hathaway Company, helps companies improve their operations and gain efficiencies by designing custom material handling carts, equipment, conveyance and aftermarket parts. Their commitment to community is strong.

Rick works on weighing bags of sand to fill test boxes.

Rick works on weighing bags of sand to fill test boxes.

Like Opportunity Partners, the people at Cannon Equipment are problem-solvers at heart. They needed to assemble “test pallets,” which are sent with each new conveyor system. The boxes require a specific weight of sand inside, and colored dots and bar codes on each box to be detected by the conveyor system. Cannon Equipment found it difficult to keep up with the demand for the box assembly so turned to OP to help solve their workforce challenge.

OP recommended a Vendor Managed Inventory program, which allows a seamless solution. OP handles the procurement of the materials and assembles the pallets to Cannon Equipment’s forecast.

This project is a great example of OP teamwork as each step allows people with varied skill levels to contribute. One day recently, Rick scooped sand into bags and weighed them, while Alex taped boxes. Meanwhile, Rebecca and Victor stuck dots and bar codes onto boxes and stacked them on a pallet. In all, OP has assembled more than 17,000 boxes since starting the job last summer.

John Evans, Cannon Equipment’s Director of HR, Health & Safety, said Opportunity Partners is a valuable partner. “This was a new project for us and we had our own employees putting the boxes together for the first few weeks, including our senior management on the weekends, before we began working with OP.”

He added that OP enables Cannon Equipment to have a reliable and timely supply of the testing boxes and frees up its own employees to concentrate on more complex assembly operations.

John said he would recommend Opportunity Partners to other companies. “OP has been very helpful, reliable, responsive, timely and cost-effective.”

Contact us today for help with packaging, shrink-wrapping, kitting, collating and labeling. Call 952-930-4201 or email partner@opportunities.org

Residence fire – thank you for your support

On June 12, OP’s Ensign residence in New Hope was heavily damaged by fire. We are so thankful that a resident and staff who were home were able to get out safely! Three gentlemen have been displaced from their home of 20 years, yet they are safe and staying with family and friends.

Our insurance adjusters have declared the house a total loss.

As we continue to work toward a new home for these residents, we know there will be significant gaps in uncovered costs. Your support will be critical.

Full story can be viewed on WCCO.

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