Opportunity Connections holds annual dinner

Fundraiser supports programs for disabled members of the community

Creative Community – Executive Director Rita Rathkey, left, joins counselor Katie Maple in displaying one client’s hand-knit scarves and hats. Adding this new Heights location to its Pine Grove facility, Opportunity Connections is creating an in-town presence to help its disabled adult clients develop work and community networks.

Photo by Julie Raefield-Gobbo.
Creative Community – Executive Director Rita Rathkey, left, joins counselor Katie Maple in displaying one client’s hand-knit scarves and hats. Adding this new Heights location to its Pine Grove facility, Opportunity Connections is creating an in-town presence to help its disabled adult clients develop work and community networks.

Opportunity Connections celebrates its 46th anniversary Thursday by hosting the annual spaghetti dinner from 5:30-8 p.m. at the Mid-Columbia Senior Center, 1112 W. Ninth, in The Dalles.

The dinner will include silent auction, music and dancing, and prize drawings.

Tickets are available to purchase at Waucoma Bookstore or at the door; they are $9 for adults and $4.50 for children under 12.

For more information about the event call 541-386-3520 or visit opportunityconnections.org.

Opportunity Connections is a private, nonprofit organization based in The Dalles and Hood River — including a new facility on the Heights at 1102 12th St., in addition to the sheltered work location in Pine Grove.

Executive Director Rita Rathkey said the Heights site is evolving into a gathering place for clients and the community. The building also houses Community Action Program offices.

Since 1967 Opportunity Connections has helped find community employment for people with a variety of disabilities. It works with employers to make part-time positions available that are beneficial to both the client and the employer.

Opportunity Connections has a vocational program called Project Connection which builds skills to employability. Its residential service offers 24-hour support in a group home or while the person is living independently.

Local businesses provide opportunities for people with disabilities in the community through programs such as Gorge Security Shred, OC Janitorial, assembly work and bulk mail services.

Opportunity Connections has also announced two new programs, including an online directory to support and connect other nonprofits in the five counties of the mid-Columba Gorge.

The directory is at GorgeLink.com and is already populated with more than 100 organizations, according to the website editor, Katie Maple. Opportunity Connections also has created a Facebook page which lists the immediate needs for any of the organizations in the directory.

Nonprofits that would like to be added to the directory or who have an immediate need for their Facebook page, can contact Opportunity Connections through the website or email kmaple@opportunityconnections.com.

Maple said Opportunity Connections is operating the free service because its nonprofit mission includes removing barriers for people with disabilities and supporting them in their own communities.

“Part of this effort is building community awareness and a connected support system,” Maple said. “We appreciate the array of services that other nonprofits provide toward our mission and want to help support those services in any way we can.”

Since most nonprofits do not have marketing people on staff and have a great need to reach more people with fewer resources, the GorgeLink.com directory will act as a “one-stop shopping center” for helping and giving.

The listing provided for each organization not only gives contact information, but links to websites and Facebook pages, a brief description of what they do, as well as a list of things that everyone can do to help out that organization.

To go along with the directory, Opportunity Connections has created a Facebook page where only the immediate volunteer and donation needs of the organizations will be posted. OC will also be providing marketing for the website.

Opportunity Connections has also started a companion website called GorgeLinkFaith.com that lists all the faith groups in the five counties. When completed, the directory listings will include contact information, what they believe, as well as what they do for their community and how you can help them.

Maple said, “Individual people are the best resource for giving; but they want to give where it means the most to them. These directories will open up more options for giving.”

“It’s a win-win situation when we effectively assist and interact with our customers and co-workers with disabilities,” Maple said. “Really, we all want the same thing. Just to be treated with a little respect.”

For details on this and other Opportunity Connections programs, contact the Hood River site at 541-386-3520.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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