Shawn Bates has been on the job at Sunflower Diversified Services for just a short time but he already knows “every day is a chance to do something different while making a difference.”
Bates is the new production manager at the non-profit agency that serves children and adults with intellectual disabilities and delays in central Kansas.
“Working with people with special needs is very rewarding,” Bates said. “Sunflower has a profound impact on people’s lives as they become more independent and confident in their abilities.”
In Bates’ new job, he oversees production and recycling operations that employ dozens of adult clients at Sunflower.
“Our recycling facilities and manufacturing plant provide rewarding jobs for people who take great pride in earning their own paychecks,” Bates said. “Their smiling faces warm my heart every day. This makes the job worth everything.”
Unfortunately, he noted, COVID-19 has caused an interruption in clients’ day-to-day employment.
“People have been staying home during this difficult time,” Bates said. “We want to ensure they are safe and healthy and ready to come back to work when everything gets back to a more normal schedule.
“We have a fantastic staff that has stepped up to assume many responsibilities that are not usually part of their day,” he added. “Their teamwork has helped fill in the gaps and they should be commended.”
For example, Barton County residents asked Sunflower to re-open the recycling drop-off site at 5523th 10th. “This great staff made it happen,” Bates noted.
Self-service hours are 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Materials can be placed in containers in front of the west garage door; Sunflower personnel will sort the recyclables.
“I want to thank not only the staff but local and area recyclers for keeping the business running during this public-health crisis,” Bates said. “We will get through this and come out stronger than ever.”
Manufacturing plant employees create welcome mats for customers, as well as wrap about 2,000 hoses per week for Flame Engineering in La Crosse.
Bates’ other responsibilities include job scheduling; inventory; oversight of equipment and plant facilities; quality assurance; customer service; and providing a safe work environment.
Bates grew up on a farm north of Lucas. He started his career as a production manager in a high-volume, injection-molding and blow-molding plant in St. Louis. He has studied various types of machine operations and process training and is a member of the Society of Plastic Engineers. He also has a background in facilities technology and management.
Sunflower serves infants, toddlers and adults in Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush and Stafford counties. It is in its 54th year.