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Activities back on track at Sunflower Diversified Services

David Brack, left, and Robbie Davis, participate in the recent Special Olympics Torch Run. Donnie Lewis is in the background at right. Clients at Sunflower Diversified Services are returning to regular activities in this post-pandemic climate.

After almost two years of changing schedules and curtailing activities, clients and staff at Sunflower Diversified Services are back to a regular routine and enjoying a few new ventures.

Covid had brought a number of out-of-the-ordinary challenges to Sunflower, which serves people with developmental disabilities and delays in central Kansas.

“Life was put on pause for everyone but sometimes it was even more difficult for the people we serve,” said Amanda Urban, compliance and quality assurance director. “Structure and predictability, which are extremely important to clients, were lacking during the pandemic

“For example, we had to rotate work hours at the manufacturing plant to maintain our physical distance from one another. Residential services continued throughout the pandemic too – just on staggered schedules.”

In addition, Urban noted, the pandemic was difficult for many individuals because they don’t have family members nearby. “Our staff did their best to fill the gaps but we realize we cannot replace family.”

Today, the future looks much brighter. The manufacturing plant and other areas at Sunflower are back to normal, with more opportunities for employment, leisure and community involvement.

For instance, the number of packaging/assembly jobs has increased and the Aktion Club is back to serving its community. The club’s newest effort is participation in the Adopt-a-Highway program.

Sarah Stromski, advocacy training and activities manager, said the Aktion Club has adopted two miles on U.S. 281, from mile markers 101 to 103, just south of Great Bend.

“The catalyst was Earth Day, April 22,” Stromski noted. “We wanted to tackle a project to help the environment and improve quality of life. This seemed like a good fit.”

The 17-20 club members pick up litter on both sides of the highway after gathering trash bags and safety vests from the local Kansas Department of Transportation office. All participants took safety classes.

The Kiwanis Club sponsors the Aktion Club; Sunflower’s group, which started in 2005, was the second to be chartered in Kansas.

“We are thrilled to revive our club,” Stromski said. “It is important to continue our Aktion legacy by getting out and supporting our community.”

Stromski was promoted to her current position just about the time the pandemic started; this led to a number of learning curves.

“When I started, everything was coming to a halt,” she recalled. “I had to learn through the not-normal. Then, I had to learn what was normal. But it was worth it. I love teaching classes and organizing activities.”

The Aktion Club is once again involved in its many annual parades and is gearing up for Party in the Park in August. Other volunteer efforts entail the Dream Center, senior boxes, second-grade education bags, Advocacy Day and the upcoming Self-Advocate Coalition of Kansas conference.

Recent client activities also include: attending wrestling tournaments in Hoisington and Larned; dancing at the Great Bend Recreation Commission; swimming; eating at restaurants; shopping; and attending a comedy show at the Crest Theatre. A visit to the Sternberg Museum at Hays is in the works.

Sunflower serves infants, toddlers and adults in Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush and Stafford counties. It is in its 57th year.

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