SEEDS of Change: The Opportunity Tree Launches Transformative Employment Services. November 30, 2023


SEEDS of Change: The Opportunity Tree Launches Transformative Employment Services

December 14, 2023

Phoenix, Arizona – The Opportunity Tree, a leading organization in supporting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, is proud to announce the launch of SEEDS (Supported Employment: Expect. Develop. Support.). This initiative, with the help from a grant from Maricopa County, champions competitive integrated employment, aligns with the principles of Employment First, and represents an advancement in the organization’s approach to empowering people with disabilities.

In a bold move, The Opportunity Tree has ceased its subminimum wage sheltered workshops and allowed its 14c certificate to expire on September 30, 2023. This decision underscores the organization’s commitment to embracing an Employment First philosophy, ensuring that competitive integrated employment is the primary and preferred option for all the agency’s 250 Members.  

“As we unveil the SEEDS program, The Opportunity Tree embarks on redefining what employment means for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Moving away from the subminimum wage model is a testament to our belief in the incredible potential of every individual we serve. We are proud to lead the way in creating a workforce that is as diverse and dynamic as the community we are a part of,” says Lorie Sandaine, Interim Director of Employment Services.

Key Highlights of the SEEDS Program:

  • Expect: embracing the Employment First philosophy, prioritizing employment as the primary goal for Members by recognizing that every Member has unique capabilities and contributions to make in the workforce.
  • Develop: focusing on building each Member’s skills and confidence for the workplace, including not just the technical skills needed for a job but also the skills that enable Members to effectively navigate workplace environments.
  • Support: providing ongoing support to ensure that Members not only secure their roles but also excel in them.

SEEDS, currently in effect, offers comprehensive employment services, including skill development and workplace support. Members can expect to find employment opportunities in various employers across Arizona, supported by The Opportunity Tree’s network and partnerships.

As The Opportunity Tree embarks on this new chapter, the proposed Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act looms on the federal legislative horizon, symbolizing a crucial need for resources and support for Arizona providers transitioning to these new standards.

“As we launch SEEDS, it’s a pivotal moment not just for The Opportunity Tree, but for the broader landscape of employment for individuals with significant disabilities. As we navigate this change, the allocation of adequate resources will be crucial for providers across Arizona to successfully transition, ensuring that every individual can engage in and contribute to the workforce. The Opportunity Tree is committed to leading by example, showing that with the right framework and support, transformation in employment practices is not only possible but also enriches our communities and economies,” states Kelli O’Toole, CEO of The Opportunity Tree.

With the launch of SEEDS and the anticipation of positive legislative changes, The Opportunity Tree is set to make a lasting impact, enriching not only the lives of its Members but also the community at large.


For more information about SEEDS and The Opportunity Tree, please contact:

Kelli O’Toole, CEO –


About The Opportunity Tree:

The Opportunity Tree is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that serves a vital role in supporting adults and youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities across Arizona. Spanning across four Arizona communities– Avondale, Phoenix, Casa Grande, and the City of Maricopa, The Opportunity Tree’s impact is both extensive and profound. The organization is a key part of the lives of over 250 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, with a notable number of Members being part of the agency for over 30 years. Each year, The Opportunity Tree connects over 1,000 individuals to essential services, supporting them at different stages of life and prides itself on offering dynamic, innovative support systems and creating a community where every life stage is acknowledged, and every individual is valued and supported.


About Transformation for Competitive Integrated Employment Act:

This bill addresses employment standards for individuals with disabilities and directs the Department of Labor to award grants to states and certain eligible entities to assist them in transforming their business and program models to support individuals with disabilities by:

  • providing competitive integrated employment
  • assisting individuals with disabilities in finding and retaining work in such employment
  • providing integrated employment and integrated community participation and wraparound services for such individuals
  • ensuring that such services comply with federal regulations for individuals receiving home and community-based services.

H.R.1263 – 118th Congress (2023-2024): Transformation to Competitive Integrated Employment Act | | Library of Congress

Our Locations


3146 E. Windsor Ave.

Phoenix, AZ 85008

Casa Grande

209 W. 1st St.

Casa Grande, AZ 85122


328 W. Western Ave.

Avondale, AZ 85323


19756 North Maricopa Rd.

Suites #108 & 109

Maricopa, AZ 85139

Campus Hours: 

Monday – Friday – 8 AM – 6 PM

The Opportunity Tree is closed on federal holidays. 

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