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Opportunity Link

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Economic Development, Homeless & Housing, Job Training, Microfinance, Rural Economic Development

Mission: Opportunity link, a non-profit organization, is committed to assisting 11 counties and 3 reservations and continues to assist the communities of northcentral montana achieve and sustain indpendence, prosperity, and a better way of life.

Programs: Coordinated regional planningopportunity link ("ol") strives to support local and regional approaches to build prosperity. Ol works to bring residents together to develop a shared vision for sustaining local livability while preserving natural assets and cultural identity of the region. We work to encourage and support coordinated local-to-regional-to-statewide decision-making and investment to expand economic opportunities, improve transportation, infrastructure, and communications systems, and improve the quality of life through scale-up or enhancement of existing programs, and development of new programs. Ol served as the designated lead agency for the hud sustainable communities grant (2012-2015) which culminated in a 20-year plan for the region to support regional prosperity, community vitality, physical systems, social systems, and natural assets. The northcentral montana regional plan sets forth a list of actionable goals and strategies developed through a consortium of regional representatives known as the vibrant futures project. Ol assists communities in our region to identify and access the resources and support needed to implement the goals and complete the action items contained in the plan that they have adopted into their growth policies and deemed essential to meet community development needs. Ol continues to support efforts to identify the relationships between affordable housing, transportation, access to local foods, employment, and business development that strengthen communities and the region as a whole. Ol continually strives to create new partnerships throughout the region that leads to the advancement of programming outcomes. Through leadership training and the dissemination of information, we work to keep all regional stakeholders connected, informed, and engaged in learning and advocacy that will result in increased investment in business and job creation. The hi-line arts trail project is a regional arts project funded through an our town grant from the national endowment for the arts and is focused on creative placemaking and artrepreneurship. The project will include a mobile and web application that encourages tourists and residents to take advantage of the existing art assets available in the communities across the region and supports new installations and events. Through assessments and planning processes with community stakeholders, opportunity link has launched the healthy eating and abundant living throughout the hi-line (health) initiative. This initiative seeks to increase food security, promote local foods, and provide links to education and other food related resources. Regional public transportationopportunity link invests in regional transit services by offering coordination, assessment, and financial support in order to mobilize low-income residents of north central montana. Transportation partners include blackfeet transit, fort belknap transit, glacier county transit, north central montana transit, northern transit interlocal, rocky boy's transit, and toole county transit. Ol manages north central montana transit, which offers daily, fixed route bus service between havre, fort belknap, and box elder, and between havre and great falls with support from the montana department of transportation (mdt). Estimated annual mileage is over 180,000 miles. Since the service was launched in 2009, our ridership has grown to an average of nearly 2,000 rides per month. A low-cost fare system was initiated in 2010, which is utilized to cover a small portion of our annual bus maintenance expenses. Rural residents have embraced regional intercity bus service as an alternative to isolation and unaffordable vehicle costs. The transit services provide the elderly, youth, disabled, and non-drivers with access to employment, education, and health care services. Building assetsopportunity link is committed to helping low-income rural residents build wealth assets. We collaborate with state and local agencies to expand availability of affordable home ownership in the region. Neighborworks great falls and neighborworks montana offer individual development accounts (idas) to low-income workers who save money for the down payment on their first home. Contributing partners include opportunity link, benefis hospital, kellogg foundation, montana legal services, the federal assets for independence program (afi), and montana board of housing. Ol works to encourage individuals, communities, and business stakeholders to be fully engaged and investing in collaborative projects that will create new businesses and jobs. Creating more opportunities for employment, microbusiness ownership, and value-added development projects to strengthen the economy of the region, provide economic growth, and attract new investments. As part of the montana vita (volunteer income tax assistance) partnership, our vita staff and volunteers reach out to serve community residents targeting low to moderate income families, elders, students, veterans, and disabled residents. We offer remote vita sites located throughout the region in communities that include havre, malta, fort belknap, and rocky boy. We continue to coordinate our community service volunteer program, which offers alternative restitution options for non-violent offenders. The program is supported by eight multi-jurisdictional court systems and allows participants to work off court fines while gaining supervised experience in construction or office skills. Growing resourcesol continues to increase capacities and identify effective approaches to increase the current production levels of fresh foods in the region. Assisting communities identify economic opportunities in the production of fresh foods and increasing the access to fresh foods to meet the nutritional needs of the regional residents. For more information about our projects, please visit www. Opportunitylinkmt. Org.

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