Hillcrest Transitional Housing reluctantly announces that Cotton Sivils, Vice President of Development, has decided to hang up his hat and retire effective November 2021. He has served Hillcrest for over 18 years.
Sivils started with Hillcrest in 2003 after working 21 years at KCP&L. While at KCP&L, he helped manage the company’s community relations program. “At one point, I had to ask myself what I was meant to be doing with my life. I realized I am supposed to be making a difference in people’s lives, and connecting resources with needs.”
At the time of his hire, Sivils came onboard as the Associate Director of Eastern Jackson County. He managed a budget of $135,000 while serving eight families a year. The organization has since grown into a metropolitan-wide organization with an annual budget of $3 million and serving over 1,050 individuals each year.
He has accomplished much during his 18 years with the organization. One of the most enduring legacies of his leadership is the way Hillcrest chooses its residents and views its program.
“We’re giving a chance to someone who really wants to change and succeed,” he said. Hillcrest uses specific criteria for the individuals it helps, including whether or not they are employed, their willingness to attend life skills classes, a commitment to an all needs/no wants budget, and a desire to change their homeless circumstances for good.
In addition, Sivils developed the organization’s annual gala and auction event, built its volunteer and donor base, helped create an earned income stream through Hillcrest’s Lee’s Summit thrift store, and has been a champion for Hillcrest’s mission to solve homelessness in Kansas City.
“We see stunning results at Hillcrest,” he said. “Everything we do is designed to teach a skill, and by the end of the 90-day program our residents have to demonstrate they can use those skills in real life. In this way, Hillcrest doesn’t accomplish things for its residents. The residents accomplish things for themselves.”
When asked about what he’ll miss most about working at Hillcrest, he answers quickly. “My colleagues,” he said. “I’m just the guy who gets to talk about the amazing work the rest of our staff accomplishes.” Sivils will also miss working with the volunteers he has come to know and building relationships with supporters in the community. As for his retirement, he gleams a bit when asked how he’ll fill his time, which will include pursuing his musical interests (he’s a mean mandolin player), birdwatching, and hiking.
“The currency we deal in is hope,” he said. “I’ve been a part of something that really works. It’s transformative for the families we help, and we are changing the lives of people forever.”
Hillcrest has created a continuity plan for the position, with a new hire shadowing Sivils until his retirement later this year. A posting for the position will be available soon.