Open Avenues makes leadership change


Rogers-based nonprofit Open Avenues announced Thursday (June 17) the retirement of executive director Brenda Neal and that Jacob Sheatsley has been appointed to succeed Neal.

The nonprofit that employs those with disabilities has been under Neal’s leadership for nearly 31 years. Neal is set to retire June 30.

“Brenda has left her imprint upon hundreds of lives through her work at Open Avenues,” said board chairman Trent Rogers. “Her passion for helping people with disabilities experience the dignity of work shines through in everything she’s done here. I’d like to personally thank her, on behalf of the entire Board of Directors, for her contributions to changing lives for the better.

“After a careful selection process, the board is proud to appoint Jacob Sheatsley to the role of executive director,” Rogers added. “Jacob brings with him a fresh perspective and will be a great addition to the team. The board warmly welcomes him to this position.”

Sheatsley has started to work with Neal to help ensure a smooth transition. He has more than two decades of nonprofit and business leadership experience and has worked with international and regional organizations, focusing on social issues ranging from food system equity to sustainable development and affordable housing.

“I am honored and humbled to accept this role,” Sheatsley said. “I look forward to building from the foundation that Brenda and the team at OA have created. You can truly feel the genuine and direct nature of this organization’s mission.”

The nonprofit serves those with disabilities in Northwest Arkansas and provides job opportunities, skills training, socialization, job coaching and transportation services.

“I began my career 47 years ago and was so fortunate to spend the last 31 of it here at Open Avenues,” Neal said. “Although it was always challenging, it was the most rewarding career I could have hoped for. Through it all, I did my very best to improve the lives of people with disabilities and that won’t change with retirement. I pledge to be a life-long advocate for differently-abled individuals. I was privileged to be a part of a team of employees and board members who have made Open Avenues an organization we can all be proud of. I’m excited for OA’s future and the impact it will continue to make in Northwest Arkansas.”

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