Opportunity Services Work Team at University of Minnesota Middlebrook Hall

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An Opportunity Services work team has been on-site at Middlebrook Hall at the University of Minnesota since September 2015. Last week they had a special visitor stop by: Senator John Hoffman! As a member of the Health, Housing and Human Services Committee, Senator Hoffman is a great supporter of people with disabilities, especially those working in community employment. Senator Hoffman got to know Grant, one of the OS work team members through Grant’s self-advocacy efforts at the Minnesota Capitol. Grant lives at Mary T Inc. where they have assisted him to participate in self-advocacy days at the Capitol for over 10 years. About 6 years ago, Grant became even more active at the Capitol and began taking time to meet personally with legislators to discuss disability employment and access in the community. Grant put his own self-advocacy skills to the test when he stuck up for his ability to live on his own at the Supported Apartments at Mary T Inc. Because of his newfound confidence, Grant was able to move into the Supported Apartments and has been successfully living on his own for over 3 years now! Grant’s social skills have blossomed and he is more self-determined now than ever before. Next on his list: gaining independent employment at Middlebrook Hall! Currently Grant rides with the OS work team to and from his apartment, but he’s working on his Metro Mobility Application that would allow him to utilize his own transportation by the time the work team starts up again next fall at Middlebrook.

The Opportunity Services work team of 4-5 clients and a job coach has been at Middlebrook Hall since September 2015. Middlebrook Hall is the largest dorm on campus and is one of Aramark’s many dining locations at the University of Minnesota. Opportunity Services has collaborated with the University of Minnesota and Aramark since 2014. In fact the OS work teams and clients can be found working in several dining halls around campus! Lance Loomis, Opportunity Services job coach, started the Opportunity Services work team at Middlebrook last September. The work team has a variety of tasks throughout each shift including: wiping down tables, filling the water station, stocking supplies, cleaning counters and checking on odds and ends in the food line. Grant also works in the dish room where he washes dirty dishes and sorts and puts away the clean ones. The clients on the work team really enjoy the variety of tasks performed each day and interacting with the University of Minnesota students and Aramark employees. “My role at Middlebrook is to encourage our clients throughout their shift. Middlebrook Dining Hall truly embodies the Mission, Vision and Values of Opportunity Services,” says Lance. “We are out in the community participating as functioning members of the Aramark and University of Minnesota team.”

Michael Manning, Food Service Director at Middlebrook Hall had experience hiring people with disabilities before collaborating with this OS work team. Previously Michael worked with Aramark at the University of Mississippi where he hired a few autistic employees as well as collaborating with the local high school to allow students and teachers to work together to build work skills. “The greatest attribute of the Opportunity Services work team is their positive attitude, willingness and energy. Both staff and students alike enjoy having them around- that happiness is contagious!” says Michael. “For the students it also provides a sense of community- the Opportunity Services clients take the time to get to know everyone in the dining hall and make them feel welcome each and every day.” The job isn’t always easy, as Middlebrook feeds around 1,500-1,800 students each day, but the Opportunity Services clients make all the difference! We’re grateful to have this opportunity to work at the University of Minnesota community.