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Thelma Northcutt hits the trifecta with Sunflower Diversifieds help
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Thelma Northcutt is now able to operate the big balers controls at Sunflower Recycling from her wheelchair. Sunflower Diversified staff members helped make this happen. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

            It is not at all uncommon for a Sunflower Diversified Services client to reach a new milestone. But Thelma Northcutt has hit the trifecta in recent weeks, taking personal growth to the next level.

          Northcutt has fulfilled a long-time dream of living in her own apartment and added to her job responsibilities.

          Oh yeah, and she is engaged to be married. Ronnie Lewis, her fiancé, is a Sunflower client who has worked at Central Kansas Custom Upholstery in Great Bend for many years.

          Sunflower is a non-profit agency that serves infants, toddlers and adults with developmental disabilities and delays in Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush and Stafford counties.

          “It is difficult to know where to begin to illustrate Thelma’s progress,” said Ladeska “Decky” Makings, Sunflower’s chief operating officer. “For one thing, being productive is extremely important to Thelma and she wanted to operate the big baler at our recycling center. Our staff figured out a way.”

          Northcutt has cerebral palsy, which makes it difficult to control her arm movements. The staff re-configured a control mechanism and now she can work from her specially modified, electric wheelchair.

          “Thelma is willing to try any job and really wanted to be on the big-baler crew,” Makings said. “And since our staff is always willing to help people meet their goals, they made this happen.”

          Northcutt’s weekly routine includes performing her job-related tasks, and visiting Sunflower’s therapeutic and enrichment center on K-96. She receives physical and water therapies there.

          “These therapies allow Thelma to maintain her many abilities so she can continue to work,” Makings explained. “She wants the feeling of accomplishment that comes with earning a paycheck.”

          For a number of years, Northcutt chose to live with a roommate but recently moved into her own place. She signed the rental agreement, and the utilities are in her name for the first time.

          Northcutt’s fiancé also has moved to be closer to her, which is a comfort to both of them, Makings added.

          “Thelma’s progress is the perfect illustration of Sunflower’s philosophy of independence,” Makings said, noting no other area agency or business offers its range of services. “We believe every person has the right to be productive. We listen to and acknowledge what people are telling us. Then we offer all the support we can.

          “Sunflower also recognizes that with rights come responsibilities,” she added. “Sunflower individuals have the right to a job but they also have the responsibility to fulfill the duties of that job. Sunflower clients want what we all want – to live a full and happy life.”

          For more information about Sunflower’s services, call 620-792-1325.