Although technically a staff member, Dianna Hamilton has been making an impact at Opportunity Partners as a volunteer for 20 years! She started at OP in 1996 and in 1998 became a Volunteer Coordinator Instructor. Her job is to teach and train the people we support throughout their volunteer journey. She will coordinate and often accompany groups to volunteer at local organizations like the Animal Humane Society and Arc’s Value Village.
“It is quite meaningful giving the people we serve a connection in the community with the different volunteer sites,” Dianna says. “It presents them with a purpose!”
A member of the human services field since high school, Dianna has always loved giving back to the community. And her impact has been mutually beneficial. “I consider volunteerism a win-win situation! My first volunteer site at Golden Valley Animal Humane Society started in 2000 and we are still partners with them after many years!”
Dianna says that her favorite part about her job is seeing the coaching process unfold with each individual and eventually seeing her volunteers become independent!
When she’s not at OP, Diana enjoys spending time with her husband Jim and therapy dog Haylee! She owns two classic cars and goes to car shows during the summer.
It’s been said that “volunteerism is currency that appreciates”; the more volunteer service provided over time, the more its value continues to grow. No one understands this better than Jane Gorence, Finance teacher at Metro State University and long-time volunteer at OP. Jane has been involved in the disability community since 1976 when her niece, Lisa, was born with Down Syndrome.
Each week for the past four years, Jane has contributed 3.5 hours of volunteer service in our Learning Options classes at Koch Campus, which she views as having much greater personal value than could ever be counted or quantified. The experience has repeatedly reminded her that “we get back many times over what little we give”.
Through volunteering, Jane shares her personal passions for activities like gardening – helping plan and maintain the raised beds of flowers and vegetables in our Gunderson Garden – and finds immense fulfillment in building relationships with both the people we support and our staff. She’s noted that “as time passes, my relationships with people are growing deeper. At OP, I believe I’m helping the organization and at the same time, the disability community”.
From Jane’s perspective, the greatest value of her volunteer service is the joy that’s brought to her life and the lives of others. “Dorky but true – the most meaningful aspect of volunteering is happiness. I never leave OP except in a good mood. Volunteering at OP is the punctuation mark in the otherwise run-on sentence of my life. It enriches me while I contribute in this small way to the larger community. What more could a volunteer want?”
When she’s not teaching or volunteering, Jane is a bond trader. She also loves spending time with her husband and two kids – Greg and Elizabeth – and enjoys reading and doing yoga.
While many volunteer positions at Opportunity Partners involve interacting directly with the individuals we serve, there are also options for people who prefer to work “behind the scenes” through administrative support, which is equally as impactful! No one demonstrates this better than long-time volunteer, Tim Hibscher.
Over the past three years, Tim has been dedicated to helping OP’s Advancement Team with database development, data entry, and data tracking – critical functions that save time and streamline processes.
This is a huge benefit to Tim as well in his job at Lyngblomsten Care Center in St. Paul, where he acts as an administrative support staff. “As I volunteer, I look forward to continually learning to enhance my knowledge of familiar applications, as well as new ones specific to Opportunity Partners.”
But Tim identifies the biggest benefit of his volunteer service as the connection he’s developed with the disability community. “Although I have a disability myself, I really didn’t know any other people with disabilities prior to volunteering with Opportunity Partners and really had no connection to the disability community. Not only do I feel I have that connection now, but I know I do.”
Because of his meaningful experience both personally and professionally, Tim says he would “definitely recommend volunteering with Opportunity Partners to others, because it is such a fantastic organization and the people there are amazing!”
When Tim isn’t working or volunteering, he likes to “exercise, study nutrition, and spend time in the sun whenever possible” which he gets to do when visiting his dad in Hawaii, where he enjoys scuba diving and snorkeling in the ocean.
Jessica, Operations Manager at USA Security Inc., has been volunteering with us for nearly two years. She first learned about OP when her company took on a contract for our security systems and had an opportunity to attend a previous year’s Gala event. Impressed with the services we provide and inspired by the people we support, she was driven to get more engaged. She notes that participation in the Gala Committee is one of the most meaningful aspects of her volunteer service, because “knowing that I am able to help get donations, send out invitations, and give my input to help make this event so successful is a huge reward in itself” and “seeing the outpouring of support from those that attend is very heartwarming.”
But Jessica’s favorite part of serving at OP has been getting to know Barb, long-time resident of our Jorgensen House group home. Jessica and her ten year old daughter, Jada, often spend time with Barb together, doing fun things like taking trips to the Science Museum, going out to lunch, or chatting over coffee. Jessica recognizes the profound impact of facilitating an opportunity for “someone who doesn’t have any family in the area to do things they normally wouldn’t get to do. To make them feel like they have someone outside of the organization.” Helping people with disabilities achieve real inclusion in their communities is one of our core goals as an organization, and Jessica’s volunteer service contributes to Barb’s deepened sense of belonging.
Jessica stated that she derives a “great sense of meaning” from “knowing that even if I spend an hour with someone, that it could make their day, week, or even month.” Overall, Jessica’s volunteer service has helped her feel like she’s a part of “a whole community of people who believe in this organization”, which brings her “so much joy.”
As demonstrated by Jessica, our volunteers truly embody OP’s values of impact, choice, heart, and partnership – living these values through the service they provide. Our organization is better because of their generous in-kind contributions, and the lives of the people we support are enriched.
Helping people with disabilities achieve meaningful inclusion in our communities increases interaction between individuals of all abilities and moves us toward a more accepting society. Opportunity Partners’ advocacy volunteers, like Ryan McCaughtry, help people with disabilities learn and practice the skills necessary to realize their empowerment and make a difference.
Ryan, 24, began working alongside people with disabilities at the nonprofit organization Hammer, where he was an assistant program manager at a group home. Later, at the suggestion of a friend, he signed up to volunteer at Opportunity Partners helping lead its Committee of Advocacy & Leadership (COAL) meetings. “I’m an introvert so volunteering has helped me grow as a person,” Ryan said. “It’s been growth in me and in them.” He also believes volunteering is one way he makes the community a better place. “It’s the right thing to do,” he said. “I don’t think people with disabilities are always respected or regarded as equals. The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) was a first step but there’s so much more to do.”
Ryan said he appreciates what he has learned about people with disabilities. “People with disabilities are people!” he said. “They have amazing personalities and volunteering with them has been really rewarding for me.” He strongly encourages others to volunteer. “We can bring different perspectives,” he said. “We show awareness and unity when we come together.” In his spare time, Ryan likes experimenting with art (he has a degree in Photography & Art History), listening to music and hiking.