Mauro Lara may have stumbled into the nonprofit world by accident, but it was by choice that he stayed.
Lara was recently named Opportunity Village’s new associate executive director and chief operations officer.
“I was very encouraged by how warmly and welcoming everybody has been in this organization,” Lara said. “My favorite part has been dealing with the positive experiences and positive relationships.”
Opportunity Village, a nonprofit organization that helps people with disabilities, has been voted Best Community Organization for several years in the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Best of Las Vegas poll.
“Through my research and experience so far, it is, in fact, a very well-earned description of what we are and what we mean to the community,” Lara said.
Lara worked in Sacramento, Calif., as a manager of operations at Pride Industries, one of the nation’s largest employers of people with disabilities. He made the switch to Opportunity Village because he was familiar with Ed Guthrie, its executive director, and with the reputation of the organization.
“I had reached the pinnacle of what I could do at Pride Industries, and I discovered that Opportunity Village’s philosophies and my philosophies match very closely,” Lara said. “I wanted to bring my experience to the organization and be able to take it to the next level.”
As a COO, Lara oversees the organization’s program services, a department that provides disabled clients, or OVIPs, with the training and education needed to obtain jobs.
“Opportunity Village is the largest employer of people with disabilities in Nevada. As a result, we have a very significant responsibility,” he said. “I have to make sure that everyone has the resources, the tools and the training to be successful at what they do.”
The services provided to OVIP Godfrey Radshaw, 32, has made him successful so far.
Radshaw sought out Opportunity Village after being disabled during his deployment to the Middle East with the U.S. Air Force. He is now an employee.
“I came to Opportunity Village for the assessment and vocation program,” Radshaw said. “I must have impressed somebody, because they asked me to stay.”
Radshaw also graduated with an associate degree in business from the College of Southern Nevada and is attending the University of Nevada, Las Vegas for a bachelor’s degree in finance.
Lara also manages the organization’s inside operations that train OVIPs to provide contracted businesses with common services, including paper shredding, baking cookies and cleaning cable boxes and remotes.
“We want to create a sense of pride, purpose and a paycheck,” Lara said.
OVIP Jody Yap, 37, works in the employment resource center and puts together the coffee and condiment kits found in several local hotels.
“I love it,” she said. “I get to hang out with my friends and work.”
Opportunity Village recently opened its new campus at 4180 W. Craig Road in North Las Vegas, creating a location in nearly every quadrant of the valley.
“My first day of work was about two days before north campus had its grand opening,” Lara said. “I was very, very fortunate to be able to participate in it.”
There is a campus in Henderson at 451 E. Lake Mead Blvd. and two in Las Vegas at 6050 S. Buffalo Drive and 6300 W. Oakey Blvd.
The Buffalo Drive location, known as the Engelstad Campus, is expecting to build a residential area and park in the coming years.
The organization will try to raise $60 million to fund the projects, which coincide with the organization’s 60th anniversary next year.
“It is very gratifying,” Lara said. “I get up in the morning knowing I have an impact in the lives of people, and I look forward to it every day.”
Contact Southwest/Spring Valley View reporter Caitlyn Belcher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0403.