Opportunity Village Celebrates 60 Yrs: Receives $10M Donation

In Christine on The Scene by Christine McKellar

OV donation checkHarber Family Donates $10 Million to Opportunity Village

Opportunity Village commemorated their 60-year anniversary Thursday, May 15, at an outdoor ceremony followed by an indoor reception at Sunset Springs Ranch (formerly the 51-acre estate, Casa de Shenandoah, owned by entertainer Wayne Newton). On hand forOV children and me the unveiling of the 60th Anniversary Logo designed by R&R Partners, and two artistic renderings of the village, were Executive Director, Ed Guthrie, Associate Executive Director, Linda Smith, and former Las Vegas Review Journal publisher Bob Brown, who recently joined Opportunity Village as President of the Opportunity Village Foundation. Mayor Carolyn Goodman presented the charitable foundation’s key staff with a proclamation declaring 2014 as “Opportunity Village Year” in Las Vegas.

pool and fountain at ranceA $35 million challenge donation by the Engelstad Family Foundation was greeted with applause from guests, who applauded even more enthusiastically when Lacy and Dorothy Harber, the owners of Sunset Springs Ranch, presented a donation check of $10 million  to the not-for-profit organization in order to get the challenge ball rolling.

With genuine Texas bonhomie, both the Harbers spoke about how blessed they felt to be able to make such a donation. Lacy Harber jokedLas Vegas ranch area about his age when he announced that 98% of the couple’s multi-million-dollar (some reports say billion dollar) estate would be donated to charity upon their demise. The Harbers pledged that the sumptuous Sunset Springs Ranch property would be used often for similar charitable events in the future.

Opportunity Village is dedicated to helping people with severe intellectual and related disabilities find new friends, realize future career paths, and seek independence and community integration through vocational training, community employment, day services, advocacy, arts and social recreation.

In the twenty years since Executive Director Ed Guthrie moved from Upstate New York to Las Vegas to head the administrative team of Opportunity Village, he and his staff have helped literally tens of thousands of children and adults become contributing citizens in the Las Vegas valley.

“We decided a long time ago that we are here not just for the individuals but also for their families. Staff people come and go, but the family is there for the long term. We want to make sure we can support the family so they can support their son or daughter with disabilities.”

A far cry from the scope of the tiny group of parents who founded the organization in 1954, the Opportunity Village of today operates three employment center campuses, a Thrift Store, and a vehicle donation program.  Hundreds of adults are trained and placed in jobs throughout the community for assembly and packaging, mass mailings and other business-to-business services.

“We have a lot of good people,” said Guthrie. “If I had to try to manage all of this by myself, we’d be miserable. The trick is to hire good people that are motivated. All of us hold ourselves accountable.”

Guthrie ended the brief interview with an anecdote. “One of our newest people is Bob Brown. A young man named Reggie works as  one of the custodians at our Engelstad campus. Bob walked into the men’s room as Reggie was cleaning. Reggie asked, ‘what are you doing here?’ Bob said, ‘I work for you.’ Reggie said, ‘Fine. Can you clean that counter over there?’”

Obviously, Opportunity Village fosters not only independence and responsibility in its citizens; it creates a sense of security and self-assuredness in them as well. – Christine McKellar

For more information on Opportunity Village, sponsorships and volunteer opportunities, please visit: http://www.opportunityvillage.org/