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Benefits With Friends: Open Avenues marks 46 years with fundraiser

by Carin Schoppmeyer | February 11, 2021 at 7:00 a.m.
Kacey Anderson counts and boxes ring snuggies, Monday, October 26, 2020 at Open Avenues in Rogers. Although Anderson prefers to keep her job at Open Avenues, many workers, in spite of a struggling economy, have been able to find jobs in the community. Since reopening in May, they have placed nine or ten said Mary Lou Gates, community employment coordinator. Most were placed at Walmart, Harps and Bekeart taking jobs as online shoppers, deli and maintenance workers and spool press operators. "We've made a lot of placements in community employment during this time, which I thought was going to be difficult, but it wasn't as difficult as originally expected," said Brenda Neal, executive director. Check out nwaonline.com/201027Daily/ for today's photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)

Brenda Neal, Open Avenues executive director, may have a future in rap music, or perhaps just rap music in her future. The nonprofit leader has committed to stream a live rap performance if the group can meet its fundraising goal of $4,600 from its online benefit (paypal.com/paypalme/openavenuesnwa) that launched Sunday and will conclude at 11:45 p.m. today. The online Open Avenues Birthday Bash is part of the group's "celebrating 46 years of supporting people with disabilities." Corey Bender, merchandising vice president of household chemicals at Walmart, is serving as the event's virtual party host.

Kelly Sampson, development director, says: "What better way to celebrate our birthday than with a socially distanced party and fundraiser? Reynolds Consumer Products is matching donations up to $4,600. If we meet our goal, Brenda Neal has reluctantly agreed to write and perform a rap song for our participants. And just for fun, we'll stream it live on Facebook. I don't think our donors will let us miss the goal with such a fun reward at the end."

The organization serves adults with disabilities and helps its clients live as independently as possible while being active participants in the community at large. The nonprofit organization provides employment and job skills training along with job placement services.

Sampson says Open Avenues has adapted as necessary since the beginning of the pandemic.

"We've only been able to bring back approximately 80% of our participants since we had to quarantine beginning in March. We did a slow phased-in reopening, bringing back a few people at a time to ensure we could maintain social distancing and enforce mask wearing. We still haven't been able to bring back some of our participants who require more hands-on care, and others have elected to stay home for their own safety."

-- CARIN SCHOPPMEYER

[email protected]

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Birthday Bash

Who: Open Avenues

What: The online fundraiser is part of the celebration as the group marks its 46th year.

When: Ends at 11:45 p.m. today

Where: paypal.com/paypalme/openavenuesnwa

Information: (479) 636-5082 or openavenues.org

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