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Sunflower Diversified Services awarded grant from another Sunflower
biz slt sunflower grant
Cody Harris, a Sunflower Diversified Services staff member, teaches Jessica Hixson how to tie bales in the agencys recycling operation. Sunflower recently received a grant that will help increase efficiency. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

             The known savings to Sunflower Diversified Services (SDS) will be almost $13,000 a year but Executive Director Jim Johnson predicts other possible cost reductions, as well as benefits that can’t be figured with a calculator.

          SDS serves infants, toddlers and adults with developmental disabilities and delays in central Kansas. The non-profit agency recently was awarded a $25,000 grant from the Sunflower Foundation: Health Care for Kansans, a philanthropic organization based in Topeka.

          (SDS and this foundation have no ties to one another; the name similarity is coincidental.)

          The grant will pay for most of a computer-system upgrade, at a cost of $33,062.

          “We realize people may wonder how a computer upgrade will help our clients and their families, but there will be a number of benefits,” Johnson said. “For example, the numerous man hours necessary for the current system can be re-directed to more personal support services and therapies.”

          The new system will streamline payroll recordkeeping; client attendance and productivity reports required by funding agencies; and scheduling software that allows more efficient management at SDS’s multiple independent living sites.

          “The number of hours involved in these tasks will be reduced drastically,” Johnson said. “All savings will be used in direct services to individuals, particularly in areas where funding has been cut. We wanted to enhance technology so we can spend more time supporting personal growth and independence.”

          SDS clients who work in the manufacturing plant and recycling operations will see a new benefit in the future. The payroll-system upgrade will help the agency meet the goal of distributing paychecks twice a month instead of once.

          “That may not seem important at first glance,” Johnson said. “But more frequent pay should increase work incentives because the rewards will be more immediate. It also means improved skills and increased overall earnings. All this, in turn, increases each person’s ability to live more independently.

          “We focus on supported-living options because all individuals have the right to make their own decisions to the greatest extent possible,” he added. “We are here to support those decisions.”

          SDS consistently pays more than $200,000 in wages annually to disabled workers at the plant and in its recycling ventures.

          Nearly 90 percent of SDS clients live in homes or apartments they rent from community landlords. This is different than the standard approach taken by other agencies and private businesses.

          “Many other entities emphasize group-home living,” Johnson explained. “Yes, SDS still maintains two group settings for people who choose that lifestyle. But as our numbers show, a large majority of people want the independence afforded by living alone or with one roommate.”

The recent grant is one result of the board of directors spending many hours in strategic-planning sessions to discover ways to increase efficiency.

Staff members Crystal Jones, Connie Pounds and Ladeska “Decky” Makings were especially important to the grant-application process, Johnson said, noting his appreciation to everyone involved.

          “And we cannot tell you how grateful we are to the Sunflower Foundation: Health Care for Kansans,” Johnson stressed. “This is a wonderful philanthropic entity whose mission is to be a catalyst for improving the health of the people in our state.”

          Management Information Technology Corp. (MITC) will provide software, technical assistance and some hardware. The system will eliminate required annual and monthly processing fees, which now come to $12,700 per year. And to top it off, the agency will save as many as 10 reams of paper each month.

          MITC specializes in systems designed for programs that serve people with developmental disabilities and delays.

          SDS, which is in its 48thyear, serves people in Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush and Stafford counties.