A Great Bend native wanted to continue his career of serving people and was waiting for the just the right opportunity. And then it came along.
Jon Prescott, a 1975 graduate of Great Bend High School, is the new executive director of Sunflower Diversified Services, a non-profit agency.
Sunflower serves infants, toddlers and adults with developmental disabilities and delays in Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush and Stafford counties.
“As I was learning more and more about Sunflower during the interview process, it became apparent this would be a great opportunity to give back, to serve people,” Prescott recalled. “This was more of a consideration for me than any other ‘normal’ motivations to accept a job.
“It is pretty amazing when you think about all that Sunflower does for clients, their families and the community,” he added.
During much of Prescott’s career, he served people at CPI Qualified Plan Consultants, and he has a history of volunteering for non-profit entities. At CPI, he was director of relationship management and strategic initiatives, chief marketing officer and president over a 27-year period.
Prescott then worked for Envisage Information Systems, a large independent software development company, for four years. He lived in Great Bend most of his life; he now lives in Ellinwood. He graduated from Fort Hays State University in 1981 with a degree in marketing and finance.
Prescott is a current member of the Star of Hope Board of Directors; Star of Hope helps orphaned children in 15 countries. He also has served on the Big Brothers/Big Sisters board; was president of the Hoisington Jaycees and the Jaycees state director; and was trustee of First Baptist Church.
“Throughout my career, I have been serving people, whether planning for their financial security or helping find homes and sponsors for orphaned children,” Prescott said. “I bring this experience to Sunflower.
“I hope to grow the business side of our agency, while having an open heart for the clients we serve,” he continued. “Sunflower’s philosophy of providing options for independent living remains the same. This is what our services and staff are all about.”
One of Prescott’s early messages to clients and families is “I am an open-door guy. People can talk with me anytime.
“The same goes for this great staff,” he added. “I want them to know I care about them. In my organizational structure, I am at the bottom. I will do whatever I can to lift them up and help them succeed. I will help remove roadblocks, provide training, whatever I can do.”
A big priority for the executive director is to tell Sunflower’s story directly to Kansas legislators. Cuts in funding for people with disabilities have direct results on Sunflower’s clients who depend on Medicaid and other programs.
“This means we have to rely more on donor support,” Prescott commented. “But these are tough economic times because our two biggest industries - oil and agriculture - are down.
“I am sensitive to this and understand business cycles,” he added. “But I want to touch the hearts of legislators. We need to increase funds, not reduce them.”
Prescott plans to keep the road hot between here and Topeka where “I will do all I can to help them understand what our clients are faced with. I have a passion to work on these issues.”
In upcoming weeks, Prescott will have the ear of Jim Johnson, former executive director, who retired last year after 42 years of service.
“I am extremely excited that Jim will be my coach during the transition,” Prescott said. “He left a wonderful legacy and I have big shoes to fill.
“When you think about Sunflower being here for 51 years, it says a lot about the agency’s integrity, leadership and focus on clients. A lot of agencies and businesses don’t enjoy this kind of success and longevity. Jim played a huge role in this.”
Prescott also noted that Sunflower has a strong board of directors and Foundation trustees board. “These are amazing, giving people,” he said.
Scott Donovan, vice chairman of Sunflower’s board, said Prescott is a “great fit for Sunflower because of his ability to work with someone not against someone. He is a true people person.
“I know that when Jon gets involved in something, he puts his heart, soul and an incredible work ethic into it. Jon is the kind of leader you want to learn from. He will become the new face and voice of Sunflower.”