It might be easier for Sarah Krom to list the jobs she has NOT tackled at Sunflower Diversified Services. Her list of titles during more than three decades at the non-profit agency is long; and now she can add another to the list.
Krom is the new chief operating officer (COO) at Sunflower, which serves infants, toddlers and adults with developmental disabilities and delays in Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush and Stafford counties.
“The 34 years I have devoted to Sunflower give me a solid base of experience in virtually every department,” Krom said. “This allows me to rely on historical perspectives and broad views of how our team can work cohesively to provide quality services.
“Decky Makings, the previous COO, and other current and former administrators have shared their talents and guidance over the years,” she continued. “I have a strong foundation to build on because of them.”
Krom, a Great Bend High School graduate, has held managerial positions in residential, transportation, employment, community habilitation, production, recycling, human resources and medical supports. She also has worked in production sales, community employment, case management and strategic planning.
In addition, Krom has represented Sunflower in state and local developmental-disability affairs; advocated for clients and Sunflower at the local, state and national levels; and provided oversight of the facilities.
“The only areas I haven’t been directly involved in are fiscal management, the Early Education Center and Incredible Years Preschool,” Krom noted.
When Krom signed on at Sunflower on Aug. 1, 1984, she was on the overnight staff at a group home. She was attracted to Sunflower because of her mother.
“Mom and others had noticed that I had been drawn to offering support to vulnerable and disadvantaged people,” Krom recalled. “She was a Sunflower supporter for many years and challenged me to seek employment here.
“As the years have gone by, Sunflower clients have become a significant part of my life,” she added. “It is so rewarding to contribute to the quality of life for the people we serve.”
In the early days, Sunflower was able to offer only two options for adults who were leaving their family homes - an institution or Sunflower group-living situations of five or more people.
“Fortunately, things have changed drastically,” she commented. “Now we offer living situations based on each person’s need for support. They are renters and homeowners in the communities of their choice.”
Day-service opportunities were always in sheltered environments and employment was typically a single manufacturing task.
“Again, fortunately, we now offer community work sites, a variety of manufacturing tasks and integrated employment with job coaches,” Krom said. “Case management used to involve a client being assigned to someone who determined what was best for that client. Today, clients choose from many work options. We are in tune with their wants and needs.”
As COO, Krom is working to improve efficiencies and identify growth opportunities. “I also want to ensure the right person is in the right job,” she said. “This will allow us to enhance services, and improve the work culture and benefits for our staff. Our managers, administrators and staff believe in the ‘Sunflower Difference’ and want to make this a career path.
“All of us are dedicated to allowing individuals with disabilities and delays to be actively involved in decisions that affect their lives. Our clients have the right to make choices and the responsibility to live with the results of those choices. It is not the cheapest way to support people but it is the right way.”
As a non-profit agency, Sunflower receives state and local tax dollars but they don’t come close to meeting all the needs, Krom emphasized. “This is why we count on private donations and the success of our annual fundraisers. We cannot do all of this without the community’s support.”
Sunflower is in its 52nd year.