Blaine parks hires Opportunity Services clients

Matt works on cleaning hand dryers in a bathroom at Lakeside Commons Park in Blaine. Photos by Eric Hagen

Opportunity Services has partnered with the city of Blaine this summer to assist with park cleaning.

Marc Shippee is Blaine’s park supervisor and city forester. When he got a call from a staff member at Opportunity Services he was happy to help. He has seen first-hand the difference this organization had made for his sister, who has worked for the non-profit organization that gives disabled adults a chance to work.

By hiring four part-time workers through Opportunity Services, Shippee was able to free up one of his full-time parks department employees to spend more time mowing grass and cleaning up at other Blaine parks.

“People who want to work are getting an opportunity to work,” Shippee said. “We’re not doing any charity work. They are doing the essential work that needs to get done.”

A team of four Opportunity Services clients are cleaning bathrooms and changing rooms and emptying trash cans at Lakeside Commons Park, Aquatore Park, the Blaine Baseball Complex and the National Sports Center throughout the summer. The team includes Amin, Matt, Rakeen and Thomas.

“I just like to keep busy,” Thomas said.

They work at the University of Minnesota’s dormitory dining halls for most of the year, busing and cleaning tables, washing dishes and re-stocking food. But with most students home for the summer, Opportunity Services needed to find them another job.

For Matt, what he loves most is “meeting the people on the job and doing new things on the job.”

Standing nearby Matt while waiting for someone to get done using to use the bathroom so they could resume cleaning, Rakeem said with a chuckle, “I try to keep him on task.”

Working at the Lakeside Commons Park beach is one of their favorite spots, according to Hannah Weiss, public relations manager for Opportunity Services. Matt looked out at the water and said, “I swim like a dolphin.”

Amin’s hands moved with a blur as he polished the mirrors and sink in a Lakeside Commons Park bathroom. Not surprisingly, his talent at the University of Minnesota’s dining halls is washing dishes and cleaning up tables.

“I like to clean. I like to make everything look good,” he said.

Opportunity Services has more than 40 years of experience in job placement for disabled adults. It currently partners with more than 100 communities or businesses who have jobs to be filled. Most of its work is done in Minnesota, but it also does job placements in three Florida communities and one in Massachusetts.

When a client seeks help in finding a job, Opportunity Services interviews them to find out what they would like to do.

“We pride ourselves in individual care,” Weiss said. “There’s no cookie-cutter place you will be or job you will be on.”

Melissa Hodge, an Opportunity Services learning and job coach, said, “I tell them to do their best with the job. Be all they can be. It’s a very fun job.”

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