“Everyone belongs in the community” was the belief of Bill Frost, a member of the Opportunity Connections board of directors who died in March 2012.
Bill’s sentiment is one of the guiding principles for Opportunity Connections. The people being supported have various conditions such as autism, Downs syndrome, and cerebral palsy, to name a few. Sometimes individuals also have co-occurring mental conditions.
The Opportunity Connections Board and staff will be celebrating Bill Frost’s life with a memorial plaque to be placed in the Opportunity Connections Hood River community office at 1102 12th Street. A ceremony for this placement will take place in conjunction with their first Kick off for the new Gorge Day of Giving, Aug. 8, 2013 at 3 p.m., to emphasize the dedication the organization has toward this vision.
Throughout the summer months and into the fall, Opportunity Connections is asking for donations to continue the work of supporting people with intellectual and physical disabilities in the community.
“Your support will allow us to create more jobs in Oregon,” said Rita Rathkey, executive director. “It’s going to take more staffing, cars and gas money to get the people we support working and actively engaged in their own communities.”
Donations may be made online at www.opportunity
connections.org/give or by check to Opportunity Connections, 2940 Thomsen Road, Hood River, OR 97031. The nonprofit, formerly Columbia Gorge Center, has been supporting people with disabilities in the Mid Columbia since 1967. They currently employ over 75 people from all over the gorge including Washington State.
While the state of Oregon does advocate for people with disabilities to be provided services in the community, the funding for that support is built on the historical “sheltered work shop” model and does not allow for the individualized support needed for community employment or access.
For Oregon, this is becoming a critical issue, the Disability Rights Organization has sued the state on the principle that the sheltered workshops are in violation of the individual’s right to integration within the community. The Department of Justice has joined that lawsuit against the state of Oregon.
Opportunity Connections, as an organization, is moving in the direction of increased integration. The organization has developed several new programs.
Project Connect has three basic tenets 1) life experiences, 2) work, and 3) community involvement. There are also mini-programs within Project Connect; Art Connect and Community Connect.
Art Connect strives to give the individual a means of expression and growth through fine art activities.
Community Connect allows them to take just a couple people at a time into their own community for volunteering at other non-profits or specific activities of interest.
Opportunity Connections also collaborates with Oregon Vocational Rehabilitation Services to move more people into community employment. Additionally, Opportunity Connections maintains commercial businesses that provide jobs to individuals: Gorge Security Shred, a janitorial service, along with bulk mailing, and a few assembly lines.
Questions regarding Opportunity Connections can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.