OP to receive award from state disability organization

Opportunity Partners-Asplin Center, a day program serving people with disabilities in Plymouth, is receiving a Life Enrichment Award from the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation (MOHR) for an art program that provides therapy, increases pride, confidence and engagement among the people with disabilities it serves.

JT Buell pictured with his artwork

JT Buell pictured with his artwork

Presentation of the Life Enrichment Award is scheduled for Thursday, May 30 at 5 p.m. during the annual art show at Opportunity Partners-Asplin Center, 10000 51st Avenue North in Plymouth. The event runs from 4 to 7 p.m.

“Community-based providers are at the center of Minnesota’s effort to help people with disabilities to live fuller lives,” said MOHR President Julie Johnson. “Excellent programs give people options to engage and thrive in their communities.” The MOHR organization represents more than 100 such day programs across the state.

“People who thought they weren’t good at art, or perhaps were afraid to try it, have turned into artists,” said Julie Peters, communications director for Opportunity Partners. Asplin Center has had art instruction for years, but a new revival took place in 2016, after a remodeling drove the need for a more professional and inviting look on the inside walls, she explains.

Paintings and photographs from the individuals with disabilities at Asplin are chosen and hung throughout the building and a spring art show brings people in to admire the work, Peters said. “Some individuals have carried their newfound interest in art to their homes and community, as well.” Asplin Center serves 142 people.

A donation for art supplies and frames from a family served by Asplin sparked the art renewal. As artwork started going up on the walls, Peters said people got even more excited and things escalated. Art and photography classes went from two or three days a week to five, she said.

There’s a “person-centered” focus for the participants with disabilities, who choose the types of projects to take on. Peters said the instructor teaches skills such as shadowing, and artists share their own interests in picking out the type of project they would like to do to incorporate that skill. There are helpful social aspects, as well. “The individuals we serve are able to discuss the various elements and techniques used,” said Peters. “Art is a conversation starter!”

Johnson said Minnesota has always been a leader in the provision of services for people with disabilities, and MOHR members like Opportunity Partners play a crucial role. “We are connected as a community, and service providers are mission-driven by staff members who care deeply for the people they serve. That’s how individual lives are enriched.”

Asplin Center artists have taken their work offsite for display at a local library and at community art shows. Their designs also appear at other Opportunity Partners locations and the nonprofit prints art reproductions on notecards to distribute. An individual named Faith was very resistant to drawing. With coaching and practice, her skills improved, Peters explains. One of Faith’s drawings was featured on the Disability Services Day at the Capitol buttons worn by hundreds at the annual event in St. Paul.

The nonprofit’s state association and award organizer, MOHR, has a mission 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 opportunities. More information is available at mohrmn.org.

Living our values with my 88-year-old grandpa

At Opportunity Partners, I often talk about our values of Impact, Choice, Heart and Partnership as we work to advance the quality of life for people with disabilities.

Armando and Anselmo Camacho

Armando and Anselmo Camacho

However, I seldom talk about how these same values play out in our personal lives. I believe that when we recognize and embrace these values in all areas of our lives, it helps bring us even closer to these values in our work at OP.

Some of you may know that I came to Minnesota from Puerto Rico with my grandparents when I was 6 years old. My grandparents, who raised me, hoped for a better life for us here. I was fortunate to have many opportunities for education and employment as I grew into adulthood.

Four years ago, my grandma died, and my grandpa was struggling with health issues of his own. He gave up his apartment, and I helped find him an assisted living environment.

But recently, my grandpa, 88, had become increasingly unsatisfied here. His primary language is Spanish, and he struggled to communicate with frequently changing staff and often seemed confused due to his dementia.

However, one thing was clear: he said he wanted to return to his homeland of Puerto Rico to live closer to his sister and other relatives there.

At first, I did not think this would be possible. But then I began to consider how I might help my grandpa achieve this dream. In February, I bought my grandpa a one-way plane ticket and I traveled with him to get him resettled in Puerto Rico – in a place within walking distance to his sister.

As I worked through this major life change with my grandpa, the OP values of Impact, Choice, Heart and Partnership came to mind.

Impact – While my grandpa lived in the assisted living center, the staff around him worked to make a difference in his life. The senior care field faces similar challenges as the disability services sector in terms of staff wages, high turnover and budget constraints. I saw how the staff did the best they could in spite of these challenges, just as we do at OP.

Choice – At OP, we strive to help people lead self-directed lives as much as possible. We try to balance choice with the need for health and safety. In my grandpa’s case, his choice to move back to Puerto Rico was top in his mind. My job was to make sure my grandpa understood his decision fully, and that I found him a care center there that would meet his needs.

Heart – We strive to promote the dignity and worth of each other in our work at OP. For my grandpa, my desire to help him move back home centered around his dignity and worth. I did what I could to make it happen and to help make the transition smooth for him.

Partnership – Our work at OP depends on relationships, collaboration and advocacy. Likewise, for my grandpa, we have many medical and social service partners both here and in Puerto Rico that are working with us to coordinate his care and ensure his needs are met. As we say at OP – together, we are better!

In all, this experience with my grandpa has heightened my attention to the values of Impact, Choice, Heart and Partnership and why they are so important – not only at Opportunity Partners – but in all areas of our lives. And how the support of people like you – our OP “family” – makes all of our work possible.

Written by Armando Camacho, President & CEO, Opportunity Partners

Join us for the Asplin Center Art Show

Fire Work by JT Buell
Fire Work by JT Buell

Fire Work by JT Buell

Thursday, May 30, 2019 | 4:00–7:00 p.m.

Opportunity Partners – Asplin Center
10000 51st Avenue N. Plymouth, MN 55442

Join us for a group showing of art by our talented artists supported at Opportunity Partners–Asplin Center.

Brief award presentation by Minnesota Organization for Habilitation & Rehabilitation (MOHR) at 5:00 p.m.

For more information: Email Beth Honer at bhoner@opportunities.org or call (763) 550-1541.

Kraus-Anderson shares successes

During April’s Autism Awareness Month, Kraus-Anderson interviewed two of their employees about their experiences.


Jake O’Connor and Krystal Burton working on job closeouts.

Both individuals received job placement assistance through Opportunity Partners, and we are pleased to share their insights in this month’s blog post.

Thank you to Kraus-Anderson for their leadership over the years in hiring employees with diverse skills and abilities.

Read the full story here. 

Thank you for attending the gala!

We hope you enjoyed the evening and left inspired by the amazing stories and generous giving.

Your gifts truly have a significant impact on persons served by Opportunity Partners! View Sam’s story, a short video featured at the event.

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View more photos on our Facebook page.

Together, we can make a difference!

2019 Spaghetti Dinner

plate of spaghetti

You are invited to the 15th Annual Spaghetti Dinner sponsored by the Hopkins Noontime Lions Club!

Come enjoy spaghetti with meatballs or meatless sauce, salad, bread, dessert and a beverage. Takeout is also available.

When: Thursday, March 7, 2019, 4:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Where: 5500 Opportunity Court, Minnetonka
Cost: Adults: $8, Children Under 12: $5, Families of 5 or more: $35

OP rallies at Capitol for improved funding

About 40 persons served and staff representing Opportunity Partners headed to the State Capitol on March 12 for the annual Disability Services Day. They were among an estimated 1,000 individuals, employees, families and advocates who gathered to rally, meet with legislators and speak out for changes in the sector.

More competitive wages for Direct Support Professionals to help with the severe workforce shortage, more sustainable funding for the future and many other issues were among the topics discussed.

Attendees waved signs stating “DSP – Darn Skilled Professionals,” “Support your Supports,” “Value Talent,” and “No More Cuts!”

Individuals served by OP’s hoMEbase apartment program in Coon Rapids met with Sen. Jerry Newton (District 37) to discuss the high turnover of staff due to low wages in the field.

One of the people served, Jessica, also told Sen. Newton about her challenges with prompt transportation to get to standing appointments each week. She has found some taxis to be unreliable, and said it causes stress on staff because they are already supporting other people who then have to adjust their schedules at the last minute because the taxi did not show up.

Katie Bronson, Assistant Program Manager at hoMEbase, said visiting the Capitol was a great experience for the individuals she supports.

“They all said they look forward to going next year and speaking up about better funding for the services they are provided on a daily basis,” Katie said.

Individuals from OP’s Asplin Center in Plymouth met with Rep. Ginny Klevorn (District 44A), sharing stories about their experiences with services. Becky talked about not making enough money, and Craig discussed his concern over the past 7 percent cut and high staff turnover.

In all, individuals enjoyed experiencing the high energy of the Capitol and look forward to continuing to talk with lawmakers about the importance of Home and Community-based Services for people with disabilities.

The House, Senate, Governor and Best Life Alliance have all put forward legislative proposals that:

  • Implement a Competitive Workforce Factor to address the 17 percent wage disparity between disability services wages and wages of occupations competing for the same workers.
  • Adjust the timing of the scheduled rate adjustments to every two years to better keep pace with actual economic conditions.

Learn more about disability services legislation being discussed at the Capitol.

Winning button design from OP-Asplin

Congratulations to Faith Hanson, who attends Opportunity Partners-Asplin Center, for submitting a winning button design in a contest put on by trade association ARRM. Faith’s design was one of two that were chosen for the buttons given to hundreds of advocates at Disability Services Day at the Capitol on March 12.

Faith did a great job creating a colorful and inclusive design! The other winning design was submitted by Quinn Metcalf of MRCI.

Each year, Asplin Center hosts an art show for persons served, families and staff to showcase the beautiful art and photography from individuals who practice their skills in classes at Asplin Center.

Read more about the button artwork in ARRM’s blog post.

Staff making a difference

Together, we are better.

We love our staff! Earlier this month, we held our annual employee recognition event at our Asplin Center in Plymouth to celebrate our amazing staff, enjoy a delicious buffet, give away more than 100 prizes, and acknowledge four employees with special awards. Thank you to all of our staff who are making a difference each day in advancing the quality of life for people with disabilities.

This year, instead of one Employee of the Year, we gave out awards based on our organizational values of Impact, Choice, Heart and Partnership. Each winner received a glass award and a check for $250.

Holly Schuffenhauer and President & CEO Armando Camacho

Holly Schuffenhauer and President & CEO Armando Camacho

President & CEO Armando Camacho, Christine Wagner, Rebekah Wold and Jonathan Solie

President & CEO Armando Camacho, Christine Wagner, Rebekah Wold and Jonathan Solie

Impact Award – Generating solutions that make a difference. The Impact Award was presented to Jonathan Solie, Associate Director of Service Innovation.

  • Jonathan has worked in many different roles including an instructor in the Brain Injury program and manager for the BI and the Spectrum programs. He consistently strives for excellence and creates a climate of continuous improvement while also mentoring other managers and staff to lead and inspire others. He has left a lasting impact on every person he has encountered and will continue to do so in his new role.
  • Jonathan encourages his staff to pursue their career goals and helps ensure his staff have the resources they need to succeed.
  • Because of his expertise with Brain Injury, Jonathan has come up with tools and resources to help persons served meet their goals. His intuition and wisdom have helped staff create better dialogues with persons served about whatever issue or situation they are dealing with.

Choice Award – Creating opportunities for people to lead self-directed lives. The Choice Award was presented to Holly Schuffenhauer.

  • Holly is a direct support professional in our Anoka Semi Independent Living Services (SILS).
  • Holly encourages the people she works with to self-direct their programs and learn. An example is when she took over the planning a weekly group activity. She talked to the people served and asked them about their ideas. She then had them work together to create a calendar for the activity. Now they figure out plans and activities with minimal staff assistance.
  • Holly encourages people to explore and challenge themselves without stepping in and doing it for them. This method of working with our people pushes them to direct their choices and learn in real world settings.

Heart Award – promoting the dignity and worth of each other. The Heart Award was presented to Christine Wagner.

  • Christine is currently the Program Manager for Gunderson and Morgan residences.
  • She tirelessly provides alternative ways to think around a problem or situation, keeping an open mind and being proactive so that everyone around her has time to adjust to anything that comes our way in the house. She has led by example when it comes to being person-centered. She is always willing to listen and encourages options for our residents. She always encourages staff and the residents to advocate for themselves.
  • She is very aware of the feelings and emotions of everyone she comes in contact with. She breeds the atmosphere of celebrating success and taking interest in everyone that comes into the house. She is the heart of Morgan house.

Partnership Award – facilitating change through relationships, collaboration and advocacy. The Partnership Award was presented to Rebekah Wold.

  • Rebekah works as a Lead Service Coordinator at Koch Campus.
  • She has been facilitating the person-served Advocacy group, COAL, at Koch Campus. The group works on building relationships, collaborating with other community groups, and promoting self-advocacy.
  • She has an awesome attitude and makes time to work with COAL on special activities like a yearly food drive. COAL is important in changing our culture at OP and ensuring the self-advocacy movement continues to grow. Rebekah has such a gift for supporting this group in their endeavors. She’s a special woman.

Congratulations to all of our amazing staff! Want to join our team? Check out our job listings at opportunities.org/careers/current-openings/



Valentine’s Day Dance

Brought to you by COAL, Committee of Advocacy & Leadership.

What: Valentine’s Day Dance with refreshments and appetizers

When: Friday, February 15 | 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Where: Opportunity Partners Koch Campus Cafeteria
5500 Opportunity Court Minnetonka, MN 55343

Cost: $5.00 at the door

Note: Staff escorts are required to support self-advocates per their individual needs.

With questions, contact Samantha Kam at skam@opportunities.org





Opportunity Partners closed on Thursday, April 11

Due to the snow and expected road conditions today, all Opportunity Partners day/program locations are closed today, Thursday, April 11. Community job sites may be open; individuals should check in with their staff or supervisor regarding their specific situation.

Thank you and stay safe!

A Promise of We

Together, we are better. 

A popular quote from the late U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone is “We all do better when we all do better.”

Yes, yes, yes!

At Opportunity Partners, we’re kicking off 2019 with the phrase “A Promise of We.” What is “A Promise of We”? To us, a Promise of We means that together, we can make a difference.

Together, we are better.

After all, Opportunity Partners has been around since 1953 and we’ve always collaborated with people with disabilities, families, staff, donors, businesses, volunteers, and our entire community to meet our mission of advancing the quality of life for people with disabilities. We must continue to work together to keep moving forward.

We cannot progress with an “us versus them” mentality. We are in this together. We all do better when we all do better.

That is the Promise of We.

Looking ahead to a strong 2019
2018 was a year of transformation for Opportunity Partners. Budget cuts and regulatory changes meant we needed to make some difficult decisions around some of our programs that were no longer financially sustainable. Sunsetting programs affects real people and is never easy. However, I’m pleased that although we closed some of our smaller programs, a number of the impacted individuals were able to transfer into other Opportunity Partners programs. We vow to keep working hard to make our programs the very best they can be, and I thank you for your support during these changes.

Legislative session now underway
The 2019 Minnesota Legislative session began on January 8. Our primary goal this year in working with the nonpartisan disability advocacy group Best Life Alliance is to enact reforms that will help address the severe workforce shortage and stabilize rates for disability services. You can help by contacting your legislators to urge them to prioritize services for people with disabilities. Learn more by emailing info@opportunities.org. We’ll be at the Capitol on March 12 for a rally and meetings with lawmakers. Join us if you can!

Mark your calendar – April 27
Our annual Opportunity Partners Gala is Saturday, April 27. This is the fifth year that we’ve held our largest fundraiser at our Koch Campus in Minnetonka, and I urge you to attend this very special event. It is amazing to see the transformation of our production floor to a stunning event venue and to hear some incredibly inspiring success stories. I hope you can attend and support us at this very important event. Learn more at opportunities.org/gala.

Written by Armando Camacho, President & CEO, Opportunity Partners

Rally with us on March 12

Join us for Disability Services Day at the Capitol, when more than 1,000 direct care staff, self-advocates, families and community members converge on the Minnesota State Capitol to urge lawmakers to prioritize disability services. Attendees from across the state will attend a 10 a.m. rally, followed by meetings with legislators.

This year’s legislative agenda being introduced by the disability advocacy group Best Life Alliance seeks to stabilize rates for disability services and take steps to address the severe workforce shortage in our industry. View the Best Life Alliance hand out.

Learn more about the issues on the Advocacy tab at arrm.org. Join our advocacy efforts by contacting info@opportunities.org or 952-930-4208.

You are an important part of our success

Because of you, we are celebrating 65 years of success and looking forward to a strong future of advancing the quality of life for people with disabilities. We can do so much more, thanks to you!

Heather thanks you. Because of you, Heather gives back to her community in so many ways. Your support provides us the resources we need to help many people, including Heather. Heather never lets her disability slow her down. Her strong work ethic shows as she builds her resume with jobs at Opportunity Partners and in the community. As a proud member of COAL, our self-advocacy group, she participates in food drives and anti-bullying efforts. She also improves our community by volunteering at her church and at a senior care center.

Ginny thanks you. Ginny has a smile for everyone she meets. Your support means we can continue to help people like Ginny who have experienced a brain injury in their lives. Ginny shows compassion and positivity toward others in a way that touches our hearts. Her optimistic spirit and amazing sense of humor lifts up those around her. When she sees her peers struggling, Ginny takes the time to ask what is wrong and lends a listening ear and her comforting presence. Ginny is making a difference each day with her kind and caring personality.

Mark and his mom Patricia thank you. Thanks to your support, Mark has found Opportunity Partners to be a safe and welcoming place to call his village. Mark cannot read, write or speak. Opportunity Partners gives him a place to work in a safe, consistent and supervised environment and to take classes focused on life skills. “Opportunity Partners has provided Mark a community in which he can grow, learn and contribute,” his mom Patricia said. “Mark looks forward to going each day and I feel blessed that they support adults like Mark with special needs.”

This holiday season, you can help us continue to change even more lives. Your gift supports people like Heather, Ginny and Mark. Your gift supports community. Here are just a few examples of what your gift can do:

  • $50 pays for a cooking activity at one of our residences
  • $100 covers one semester of art supplies for a Learning Options class
  • $250 provides cultural opportunities, such as fees for a music class
  • $500 helps with technology skills, such as taking a computer class to build work skills
  • $1,000 provides groceries for one month at one of our residences
  • $2,500 increases independent living by helping with costs to install new technology in one of our residences

Our fiscal year ends on December 31. Make a difference today by making a gift online.

Together, we are better.

Written by Brie Geurink, CFRE, Vice President of Advancement

A Season of Gratitude

As we enter the holiday season, we are so thankful for the wonderful people we serve, their families, our caring, hard-working staff, and everyone who supports Opportunity Partners.

To reflect on gratitude at OP, we asked people we serve to let us know what they are thankful for. Here are some of their responses! (some posts were edited for length and clarity).

“I am thankful for my family that adopted me out of the orphanage in Ukraine. I am also thankful for our military and for trying to fight for our freedoms. I am also thankful for all the hard work that Opportunity Partners does every day.” – Julia

“I am thankful for my nephew, makes me happy and family, money.” – Kayla

“My family, kind people, simple pleasures like hockey games, ice cream and pop machines, and my Opportunity Partners team and friends.” – Mark

“Family, friends, pets, job, food, playing video games and watching movies, going bowling, eating.” – Derek

“ … Family and friends and Arby’s … I cannot wait for Thanksgiving day.” – Michelle

“For having good friends, for my family and my sisters, being alive, good health, for my staff.” – Bill

“I am thankful for my family and friends. I am thankful for Gretchen because she’s like a sister to me. I am thankful for my dad … I am thankful for life because I can’t wait to move out of my house and my parents are letting me do it and making it happen.”
– Laura

“Mom, dad, my brother, aunt and uncle.” – Pat

“I am thankful for Culver’s and family and friends.” – Jake

“I am thankful for dog, music, Jon, mom.” – Kirsten

“I am thankful for my family and friends. I’m thankful for my cousin John. I’m also thankful that God has blessed me in so many different ways.” – David

“I’m thankful for a place to live and food to eat and a community to socialize with.” – Yohan

“I’m thankful to travel to Cleveland with family.” – Zach

“Kids and friends.” – Brandon

“Learning and friends at Opportunity Partners.” – Raymond

“Family because I love them.” – Bobby

“I am thankful for my house, my family, my friends …” – Lacy

“Good weather, good health, making new friends, my family, day program, my job at General Mills.” – Jessica

“My magic boxes and my karate stuff …” – Josh

“Friends they’re nice and helpful.” – Matt

“Family, my health, Thanksgiving turkey, stuffing, roommate, nature, TV, music.” – Bonnie

“For staff, bring me to church concerts, spending time with my family …” – Jessica



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