take Willie Ayers long to make the leap from an entry-level job to a management
position at Sunflower Diversified Services.
Ayers started as a truck driver for a business-recycling route a little over a year ago. Today he is production manager at Sunflower, a non-profit agency that serves people with intellectual disabilities and delays in central Kansas.
“I was fortunate enough to be given this new opportunity,” Ayers said. “I like what we do here and love working with our clients. We are giving them the chance to be productive in a rewarding job, while earning their own paychecks.”
The production manager job entails a wide range of responsibilities. These include: overseeing the recycling operations and manufacturing plant; scheduling; taking inventory; and ensuring the equipment and plant facilities are operating smoothly.
In addition, Ayers is responsible for quality assurance, customer service and helping provide a safe work environment.
“My passion for many years was to be a mechanic,” Ayers commented. “Then I saw the ad for the recycling truck driver and it sounded like something I wanted to do.
“Truthfully, I love my work here at Sunflower,” he continued. “The clients are great. If you are having a bad day for some reason, at least one client will change your thinking and turn it into a good day.”
Ayers and Sunflower crews spend many hours each week responding to the community’s recycling needs. These include the business pick-up routes and the processing plant near the airport, along with the two drop-off sites in Great Bend.
These sites are located at the main recycling center, 5523 10th, and the parking lot at 18th and Williams where a trailer is available.
“All these services fall under the recycling umbrella,” Ayers noted. “It is great that quite a few clients are employed throughout our recycling operation.”
Ayers moved to Great Bend about a year ago from California where he was a mechanic.
Sarah Krom, Sunflower chief operating officer, said “Willie knows the job from the ground up. As a route driver, he worked with business customers and clients to meet the goals of our industrial and business pick-up services.
“Willie also appreciates the unique skills of our staff and clients. He collaborates with his colleagues to bring new ideas to enhance services and meet Sunflower’s goals.”
Sunflower serves infants, toddlers and adults in Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush and Stafford counties. It is in its 53rd year.