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Women reach new level of independence
new slt sunflower abilities
Leanda Ditus, left, and Iola Titsworth show pride in the Christmas tree in their new home. The women are the recipients of the Sunflower Diversified Services Focus on Abilities award. Sunflower serves people with developmental disabilities. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

Leanda Ditus and Iola Titsworth, who share their Great Bend home and their friendship, are now sharing the recognition of the Focus on Abilities award. Both women’s background includes institutionalization but now they are enjoying a place of their own.

Sunflower Diversified Services bestows the Focus on Abilities honor to those who strive to reach new levels of independence, while achieving goal after goal. The non-profit agency serves people with developmental disabilities.

"We are all so proud of Iola and Leanda’s success," said Ladeska "Decky" Makings, Sunflower’s chief operating officer. "It has been a long journey from a California institution to a group home to a home with one roommate for Iola. She couldn’t be happier now that she has reached her destination.

"Leanda has also been on the long journey from institutions to a life she chose," Makings continued. "She had lived alone since her husband died a few years ago but was eager for the company of a friend and roommate."

Ditus and Titsworth are in their 50s and work at Sunflower’s manufacturing plant. Makings noted they earn enough money to supplement their tax-supported benefits, which results in a better quality of life.

Both women expressed their appreciation for the award and for being able to make their own decisions.

"It feels real good," Titsworth said. "I love the peace and quiet, and living with Leanda. Now my family sees that I can do it and they are proud of me."

Ditus noted that she had started getting lonely and was ready to share a home with her friend.

"If you want something, you should try to get what you want," Ditus said. "If you try you can be happy like Iola and me."

The women’s success has also reinforced the commitment of Sunflower’s staff, Makings said.

"Once again, it is apparent that when we are determined to assist people in identifying and reaching their goals, amazing things are possible," Makings said. "At times we forget just how far those we serve have come.

"We are privileged to share in each small step but sometimes lose sight of the cumulative effect," she added. "Visiting with these two wonderful women and hearing the pride in their voices is a reminder for all of us."

Sunflower serves babies, toddlers and adults in Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush and Stafford counties.