Sunflower Diversified Services will hold a come-and-go retirement reception for long-time Executive Director Jim Johnson from 2 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 18, at Sunflower’s 1521 K-96 location. The public is invited to attend. Cookies, coffee and iced tea will be served.
Raised in Larned, one of five children, Johnson worked for the school district in high school to save money for higher education. After graduating from Larned High School in 1969, he earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and economics from Fort Hays State University in 1973 and was a member of Alpha Phi Omega, a service fraternity. It was there that he met his wife, Judy, while they were both students and they were married in 1972.
After college, Johnson intended to work for the state highway department while pursuing a higher engineering degree. While job hunting, he volunteered at the Horner B. Reed Training Center in Hays, a workshop for developmentally delayed adults, where Judy was employed. He was immediately offered a job as a supervisor, and found his passion helping other people. One of the first contracts he secured was with a new manufacturing company in Great Bend known as Fuller Brush, and his clients trimmed thousands and thousands of brush bristles. These relationships in Great Bend blossomed when Johnson accepted a position in 1974 in Judy’s hometown with the non-profit agency he has since spent a lifetime building. He became executive director of Sunflower in 1980.
One of Johnson’s first contributions to the industry was changing the stigma around developmental delays. Prior to the 1970s, people with developmental delays were hidden away, and some were placed in institutions. This started to change in the 1970s, when families wanted to include their children in social and community activities. A big part of the change was about creating independence for individuals. Employment, housing and activities were among the first projects Johnson worked to create.
Other programs he helped develop include the Early Education Center and Incredible Years Preschool, which emphasizes early intervention for children with developmental delays.
For more information about the reception, call 620-792-1325.