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Fundraiser Planned for New Non-Profit Organization

Opportunity Works Connecticut helps individuals with physical and intellectual disabilities.

Local residents will be able to enjoy mini-golf, the rock-climbing wall, food and raffles, and all while supporting a new non-profit in the area.

On Wednesday from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m., the will sponsor a miniature golf and rock-climbing wall fundraiser, with a portion of the proceeds to benefit Opportunity Works Connecticut, Inc.

“Somers Golf Center stepped up – they were happy to help,” said Bill Paluska, president of Opportunity Works Connecticut, Inc.

What is Opportunity Works Connecticut, Inc.?

“It's an organization that works with people with disabilities – intellectual, cognitive and physical,” said Paluska “We help locate jobs or create jobs for them. We basically put them to work, giving them a chance to get into the working community. A job and paycheck gives people a sense of purpose and accomplishment.”

Some of the jobs for clients age 18 and up include: newspaper production, retail work, woodworking/creating wooden toys, honey distribution, maintenance and landscaping services; public relations, sales and marketing, office support, custodial, computer work orchard/greenhouse jobs. Opportunity Works Connecticut has relationships with local businesses where the individuals they support can find work or obtain job training. 

Employers who have partnered with the organization include: Bee Haven Apiaries in Tolland, Windham Recreation Department and Husky Home Improvement in Tolland.

“We have other businesses willing to help, we just need the workers to send to them,” said Rene Lambert, executive director of OWC.

“We help find them jobs of their desire,” Paluska said.

For example, the organization's oldest client, a 63-year-old man, wants to run his own hot dog cart. OWC will help him through the licensing process to run that hot dog cart.

Opportunity Works Connecticut also works with high schools during the transitional phase, as special education students can attend high school until the age of 21. OWC helps these students explore what jobs they may want to pursue.

Being a new program and organization, Paluska says it's possible to design around the needs of an individual client.

Opportunity Works Connecticut has been a non-profit organization since 2009, however it took until July 2011 to get the doors open at its Willington location – on Route 32, in a 150-year-old thread mill. The organization had to fill out and file reams of paper to become both a 501(c)(3) and a vendor of the state, through the Connecticut Department of Developmental Service (DDS).

Paluska said while there are other non-profits in the state that assist young adults and adults with developmental disabilities, there was still a need for OWC.

“There are other non-profits that do what we do, but they don't go as far as we do,” he said.

OWC currently serves towns in both Tolland and Windham counties. These towns are: Andover, Ashford, Bolton, Brooklyn, Canterbury, Chaplin, Columbia, Coventry, Eastford, Ellington, Hampton, Hebron, Killingly, Mansfield, Plainfield, Pomfret, Putnam, Scotland, Somers, Stafford, Sterling, Thompson, Tolland, Union, Vernon, Willington, Windham and Woodstock.

“We're getting a lot of interest – a lot of people (out there) could use this service,” said Paluska. “It's just a matter of getting (ourselves) known.”

As a growing organization trying to get its name out, OWC has conducted a number of fundraisers, including a spaghetti dinner, a tag sale in Somers, selling honey and handmade items at the Woodstock Fair (last year and this year), and possibly a Fun Run in October.

For more information on Opportunity Works Connecticut, visit www.owct.org.

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