The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

April 20, 2014

Andra Bryan Stefanoni: Mosaic pieces together purpose

PITTSBURG, Kan. — Today I want to tell you about a man named John — a man I never knew existed until last week. And yet he’s making a difference in my community.

He is an individual served by Mosaic of Southeast Kansas, which also, I learned, is making a difference.

I knew little of Mosaic until its community relations manager, Stephanie Webb, got in touch with me to invite me to a special luncheon called Partners in Progress.

She asked nicely, and as I had no other obligations during that hour, I said yes. I came away, as I’m sure the other hundred or more in the room did, a changed person.

The purpose of the event was to connect leaders in the Pittsburg area community with Mosaic and the individuals it serves.

Mosaic, I learned, serves 138 people with intellectual disabilities in Southeast Kansas, providing them with residential and day service, case management, employment coordination and supported living. It gives the individuals a voice, respect and the chance to pursue dreams.

Through businesses and industries in Coffeyville and Pittsburg, it also employs 160 staff members.

It’s also present in nine other states, represented by 36 agencies, and it has been in existence for 100 years.

The Southeast Kansas agency is in need of funding, however, as more than 20 families are on a waiting list for services. The luncheon kicked off a campaign to find donors to support such efforts.

To illustrate the impact Mosaic is making, Superintendent Ken Robertson of the Pittsburg parks department shared the story of John Elms.

John, now 62, moved to Pittsburg in 2001, when Ken was working on Jaycee Park trying to figure out how to remove rocks from the baseball field.

“It was my lucky day when John approached me,” Ken recalled.

John wanted to work, wanted a purpose. Ken gave him one.

John began looking for rocks, filling a 5-gallon bucket with them and dumping them off the field.

“He smiled like it was the best job in the world,” Ken said.

Working two hours each day, John completed the task in one week.

Ken hired him as a part-time worker soon after.

Now, John works five days a week, two to four hours a day, accompanied by a coach from Mosaic.

“He has a positive attitude, loyalty, a big smile and a willingness to do whatever it takes,” Ken said, prompting the superintendent to keep John on beyond the temporary seasonal status of other part-time employees.

John is thrilled to be earning his own paycheck, Ken said. He tucks it into his shirt pocket and takes it home to share excitedly with his family.

Thirteen years later, Ken said, John continues to be an inspiration to him and other parks department employees.

“We’re friends for life,” Ken said. “I can’t imagine a workday without him. How would the world be if everyone came to work with the same attitude as John?”

How, indeed?

FOLLOW ANDRA STEFANONI on Facebook at and on Twitter @AndraStefanoni.

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