It wasn’t all that long ago that people with intellectual disabilities were institutionalized-isolated from their families and communities. These days, thankfully, attitudes are much different. A number of organizations are providing win-win situations: enabling people with intellectual disabilities to obtain training and fulfilling employment, while helping manufacturers assemble their products for pennies on the dollar.

Cara McCririck assembles sound isolation clips at Opportunity Village in Las Vegas.

It wasn’t all that long ago that people with intellectual disabilities were institutionalized-isolated from their families and communities. Education, vocational training, employment and integration into society simply weren’t done.

These days, thankfully, attitudes are much different. A number of organizations are providing win-win situations: enabling people with intellectual disabilities to obtain training and fulfilling employment, while helping manufacturers assemble their products for pennies on the dollar.

One such organization is Opportunity Village (Las Vegas), a nonprofit employing people who have intellectual disabilities, enhancing their lives and the lives of their family. A facility of the Association for Retarded Citizens, Opportunity Village was founded in 1954 by a small group of local families seeking to improve the lives of their children with intellectual disabilities. Since then, Opportunity Village has grown to become Nevada’s largest private, nonprofit community rehabilitation program, serving more than 350 people annually through vocational training, community job placement, advocacy, and social recreation programs.

Employees of Opportunity Village help businesses from coast-to-coast assemble their products, saving them money and freeing up valuable time.

For example, PAC International Inc. (Las Vegas) makes sound isolation clips for building construction. The clips are placed between drywall and studs or joists to prevent noise-producing vibrations from traveling room to room. Each device consists of a clip, a fastener, a washer and rubber vibration-dampening component. Originally, the company assembled the clips out of the country-until they found Opportunity Village.

“Opportunity Village has delivered consistent production results, allowing us to focus on the most important part of our business-our customers,” says Elzo Gernhart, vice president of PAC International. “Opportunity Village is reliable and cost-effective.”

Viracon Inc. (Owatonna, MN), a window and glass manufacturer, was assembling its product at a plant in the Midwest even though its distribution was headquartered in Utah. According to Viracon’s senior buyer Rabecca Shamblen, having Opportunity Village complete the work was a logical choice because the freight charge was cheaper.

“Not many people know we can offer valuable services to businesses nationwide,” says Laura D’Amore, sales and marketing manager for Opportunity Village. “We can handle most assembly and packaging jobs; people just need to give us a chance.”

Although it’s a nonprofit, Opportunity Village operates like a for-profit business. It has a large warehouse and loading area where contracts come in, are inventoried, assembled, packaged and then distributed. A three-step quality assurance process ensures customers’ products are being checked at the assembly tables, on the pallet, and lastly, in the warehouse prior to shipment. According to D’Amore, quality is a crucial step to providing assembly services.

“Why pay a $10- to $15-per-hour employee to assemble your product when we can provide the same quality for a fraction of the price?” asks D’Amore. “We are competent, able and willing to do what is needed to get more contracts in our Work Center. We have many of the same services for-profit manufacturing plants have; we just have the added benefit of helping people in the community.”

Opportunity Village also builds adaptive devices to help employees complete contracts accurately and quickly. For example, project supervisors constructed a jig for the Sound Isolation Clip. The jig helped workers assembled the clip correctly, allowed them to quickly count the units, and expedited processing time.

Opportunity Village handles a wide array of contracts, from stuffing small bags to assembling large components and kits. Satisfied Opportunity Village customers include Cox Communications, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Harrah’s Entertainment, MGM/Mirage, Nevada Power, Southwest Gas, and the Las Vegas Valley Water District.

For more information on Opportunity Village’s business-to-business services, call 702-880-4022, send an e-mail to damorel@opportunityvillage.org, or click here.