Opportunity Knocks helps out community
Opportunity Knocks participant Lena Mongiardini (left) of River Forest and volunteer Teegan McFeely (right) of Elmwood Park design items for an upcoming golf outing while outside the River Forest Community Center on Friday, June 15, 2012. Opportunity Knoc
Golf outing/block party details
Opportunity Knocks, an organization devoted to helping teens and adults with developmental disorders, will hold one of its four annual fundraisers June 30, a golf outing at the Bloomingdale Golf Club followed by a block party in Forest Park.
The day will begin with an event registration and breakfast at 8 a.m. at the Bloomingdale Golf Club, followed by a double shotgun tee-off at nine. There will be an after round meal and award ceremony from two to four in the afternoon or whenever the golfing finishes Board President Phil Carmody said. Carmody said the organization expects to have about 144 golfers registered for the event.
One of the highlights of the event should be the helicopter drop, a game in which people can purchase golf balls that are then put in a bucket and flown up in a helicopter Carmody said.
The block party, located on Elgin Avenue just south of Madison in Forest Park, will begin that night at 7 p.m. The street will be closed for the party, which will include a band; How Far To Austin, beer truck, and pig roast by Steve Skrine of Skrine Chops.
Mike Carmody anticipates the fundraiser will draw a larger crowd this year because it will take place “closer to home” as opposed to solely at the golf course.
His brother Phil agreed.
“I’m pretty confident it will be well attended,” Carmody said.
Fees are $150 for a single golfer; pig roast with drinks is $40; or $40 for just food.
For details, go to www.opportunityknocksnow.org
Updated: July 23, 2012 7:06AM
New plants and flowers along Lake Street in River Forest are thanks in part to the participants of Opportunity Knocks.
The organization for special needs individuals is taking on more service projects, part of a plan to give back to the River Forest and Oak Park community that has helped them.
“The most rewarding thing is seeing the participants enjoying the program and getting something that they didn’t have before,” said Phil Carmody, who with his brother Mike launched the program in 2007.
When supplementing the programs with volunteers is not enough to keep the programs intimate, Opportunity Knocks takes various groups out into the communities to do service work as well as team up with local businesses on projects.
Mike Fair, President of the Auxiliary Board, a board charged with planning and running the organization’s events, said the organization has a give and take relationship with the local businesses and communities. When local businesses and the communities help the organization by devoting some of their resources, the organization tries to give back through service work.
With the organization’s growing enrollment, their four annual fundraisers have become increasingly important. The fundraisers, which occur quarterly and range from a Chili Cook-off in January to a fall softball tournament, account for about 75 percent of the organization’s financial backing, said Phil Carmody. The rest of the organization’s funds come from private foundations, grants and a small part from program fees and the Village of River Forest.
Opportunity Knocks operates out of the River Forest Community Center and is devoted to serving teens and adults with developmental disabilities. It began as an option for students graduating from Oak Park-River Forest High School’s Special Education Department.
The students have access to the high school’s resources until they turn 22, but after that, according to Board President Phil Carmody, they had few options. Executive Director Mike Carmody saw Opportunity Knocks as a way to provide the graduates with the resources they had become accustomed to, even after they were no longer enrolled at the high school.
The organization has continually broadened its programs and participant capacities since it was first visualized in 2007.
It has three main goals: the creation of an after-school program, the creation of a day program and the development of community living arrangements.
“We are at a point where we have [achieved] our full mission when we have all three of those things operating at once. Those three phases are the core,” Phil Carmody said.
The after-school program is in its third year. It occupies three rooms in the River Forest Community Center and is run by a combination of paid staff and volunteers. Because Opportunity Knocks is not mandated by the state, volunteers from the local communities are welcomed.
Next up, Opportunity Knocks is developing a day program to focus on participants ages 22 and older, Carmody said.
Program Coordinator Kim Meares said Opportunity Knocks has already interviewed other organizations offering day programs. In August, it will launch a “needs-based assessment” in the local communities that would allow the day program to be better suited to the prospective participants. The organization also plans to include focus groups as part of their preparation for their new program.
“We strive to talk to the local community to meet the specific needs of the participants,” Meares said.
Mike Carmody said the day program would emphasize job placement to participants with a special emphasis on vocational skills, secondary education, and general life lessons.
Community living, which is phase three of the organization’s development, has yet to be pursued.
Phil Carmody said the organization prides itself on its mostly one-to-one pairing of staff and volunteers to participants.
“The smaller ratios allow us to let everybody in. We don’t turn anybody away no matter the nature of the disability,” Phil Carmody said.
Both Phil and Mike Carmody said the most difficult and most rewarding aspect of running the organization is the ever-increasing growth.
As the program grows, it becomes more difficult to maintain the quality of the goals, Phil Carmody said. However, he felt the organization has successfully “gotten creative” in terms of its partnerships with the local communities and businesses.
Phil Carmody said it is rewarding to see the organization grow and develop but it is most important to see that the participants are happy where they are.