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As retirement nears, Sunflower CEO reflects on his time

As Jon Prescott plans for his upcoming retirement as chief executive officer of Sunflower Diversified Services, he is gratified about many of the non-profit agency’s successes. But three highlights stand out.

One of these is “discovering the artistic gifts that people with special needs demonstrate at Beautiful Minds Art Studio. Their ability to create clay pieces, abstract paintings, candles and sketches is nothing short of amazing.”

Prescott noted that if Sunflower hadn’t converted a storage area in the Westside Market building, 5523 10th, “we would have never discovered these God-given talents.”

The opening of The UPS Store is another highlight for Prescott; it also is located at 5523 10th Street. A UPS Store division approved Sunflower as one of only three non-profit franchises in North America.

“This store has provided a developmental environment where clients can enjoy a great employment option,” Prescott said. “They receive training and support on the job so they can serve the public and earn a paycheck.”

UPS Store employees interact with customers each day and prepare boxes for shipment. They learn to meet customers’ needs and dress for success, Prescott noted.

A third highlight during the last five years “has been watching our leadership team develop and grow new job opportunities at our manufacturing plant. Clients learn new skills, which leads to more productivity and independence.”

Ferguson Production Inc. and Oversize Warning Products are two relatively new contracts that provide assembly and packaging jobs. Sunflower’s confidential shredding service at the plant also has grown over the years.

“Our staff deserves much credit for making all these successes happen,” Prescott said. “They have the heart for serving God by helping people with disabilities. None of them are doing this to get rich. Their reward will come when they become rich in Heaven. They are amazing people.

“I will miss all of these new friends – staff and clients alike,” he continued. “It is all about people supporting people and seeing the love everyone has for each other. I am not finished serving others and am looking for more ways to give back to our communities.”

The future Prescott’s advice for the new CEO is to “keep growing, keep innovating, and keep improving our developmental services.”

One of his priorities would have been to create a credentialing program that recognizes Direct Support Professionals “for all they have learned and all they do in the field. We should do the same for clients so they too can be recognized for their diligence in reaching new developmental heights that didn’t seem possible in the past.”

The other priority would be to build a new school for children who have a medical diagnosis of autism. “Our autism team is professional and well-respected,” Prescott said. “But they need help. Central Kansas has a critical need to serve and support children with autism and their families.”

Prescott also noted he is impressed with Sunflower’s Board of Directors, which also is looking to the future.

“They are being prudent in their search of a quality, heart-driven CEO,” he explained. “The board completely understands the importance of finding a leader who will continue our legacy of support for children and adults far into the future.

“It has truly been a blessing to serve people with disabilities and delays from cradle to retirement,” he added. “I am so proud to be part of this one-of-a-kind entity in central Kansas. Our non-profit agency has been providing services for almost 56 years and will continue to do so in the years to come.”

Sunflower serves infants, toddlers and adults in Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush and Stafford counties.

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