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Sunflower honors direct support professionals during special week
Three veteran employees of Sunflower Diversified Services were among the many honored recently in observance of Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week. From left: Diane Ramos has served for 34 years; Penny Rhodes for 28; and Lisa Sterba for 22.

The people who offer personal care and guidance to Sunflower Diversified Services clients have been recognized for the work they do behind the scenes.

Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week, Sept. 9-15, shines a light on the invaluable role these Sunflower employees play in clients’ lives, said Sarah Krom, chief operating officer.

Sunflower, a non-profit agency, serves people with developmental disabilities and delays in Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush and Stafford counties.

“Our direct support professionals offer their expertise to our clients in their homes and at work every day,” Krom said. “Some of our clients need 24-hour-a-day support, while others might need help a few hours a day or just a few hours a week.

“But whatever the level of need, Sunflower staff members receive comprehensive training designed for the specific needs of individuals,” Krom added. “This training also involves working with an experienced colleague during initial home visits. We spend a lot of time and money on this because our clients deserve the best.”

Direct support responsibilities include: conducting safety and security checks; providing companionship; accompanying clients on community outings; taking clients to medical and other appointments; employment training; and providing hands-on support.

In some cases, they care for people who are medically fragile and require intensive physical care. They do this in cooperation with Sunflower’s medical department and local health-care professionals.

“In every situation, the goal is the same – meeting the needs of our clients while offering them options about where to live and work, and how to spend their leisure time,” Krom said. “Our direct care professionals provide avenues that lead to the highest level of independence possible.

“This, in turn, leads to productive and rewarding lives for our clients,” she added. “The confidence and self-respect they achieve means everything to them.”

Amanda Urban, director of adult services, noted that some applicants for the job might be a bit apprehensive at first. But the initial and ongoing training alleviates that apprehension in a majority of cases.

“New staff members soon learn that clients look forward to their visits,” Urban said. “The personal rewards for each employee are extremely gratifying. Our direct care employees are the backbone of the services we offer.”

Urban also noted that Sunflower offers flexible hours for full-time and part-time work. “If someone wants to make this a full-time career, we can accommodate. However, those looking for part-time work or maybe a second job can find a home at Sunflower.

“The best part of direct support employment is watching people grow and building relationships with them,” Urban added. “Our clients are given options and then make their own lifestyle decisions. If you have a passion for supporting and serving people in this way, direct care is worth considering.”

Sunflower currently has openings.

The agency serves infants, toddlers and adults in Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush and Stafford counties. It is in its 52nd year.